IN THE COMMUNITY
Collegians Bond with Tweens
IT IS NOT UNCOMON FOR A COLLEGIATE ATHLETIC TEAM TO DO A SERVICE PROJECT IN THE OFF-SEASON TO BENEFIT ITS LOCAL COMMUNITY. In some situations, the student-athletes end up gaining just as much as the group they serve.
For Lauren Amundson, Head Coach at Stonehill College, this is exactly what happened when she created Ace's Girls, a program that paired her players with a group of 20 young girls, ages eight through 12, every Sunday for seven weeks last spring. Through speakers and playing volleyball, the young women and tweens together learned life lessons and bonded in a special way.
To get her new program off the ground, Amundson reached out to contacts both on and off campus. She asked inspirational women to be speakers and had coaches at local schools recruit young girls to participate. "I even drove around to the area elementary schools and handed out flyers," says Amundson.
The two-hour sessions were split into two parts, with the first half spent in a classroom setting covering topic ranging from physical and mental health to teamwork. Katie Conover, Head Women's Lacrosse Coach at Stonehill, kicked off the session with a discussion on self-esteem. Amy Resnick, Associate Commissioner of the Northeast-10 Conference, spoke on the importance of being active. Administrators from Stonehill discussed knowing who you are, teamwork, sportsmanship, and sticking up for yourself. And the Ace's Girls made thank you cards for someone they really appreciated after Associate Director of Athletics Cindy MacDonald discussed the importance of gratitude.
"The speakers catered to the younger age group and it was very interactive," says Amundson. "We did skits and other things to keep the Ace's Girls interested."
Even though the discussions were geared to a younger age group, they also inspired the Stonehill athletes. "So many of the lessons that we talked about apply to females of all ages," says Amundson. "One that my players said really hit home was a talk on doing everything with passion and conviction by our Head Women's Coach, Trisha Brown. I got to see them refresh their love for volleyball and remind themselves why they're so lucky to do what they're doing."
The second hour took place in the gym, where the Stonehill players shared volleyball instructions with their younger counterparts. The team explained the rules of volleyball and taught the tweens basic skills like bumping, setting, and digging. As each week progressed, the drills became more advanced.
Amundson hopes the impact of strong female leadership from both the speakers and her team stays with the Ace's Girls as they get older. "It was a way to set an example," she says. "These young girls look up to the older girls so much because they model the traits of a confident female. They saw that you don't have to be covered in makeup or wearing a dress or being mean to someone to be successful."
Positive feedback from the initial year has Amundson looking to expand both the scope and the number of participants in the program next spring. "I have talked to Stonehill coaches about exposing the Ace's Girls to other sports. Maybe we'll do volleyball for two weeks, basketball for two weeks, then another sport, and so on," Amundson says. "One of the goals is to teach girls the importance of being active, so introducing the Ace's Girls to many more sports could work well.
"But honestly, I think the classroom sessions are the most crucial," she continues. "Teaching the girls lessons about confidence, being a good teammate, what you get out of sports, how to make new friends, and how important it is to try new things is what Ace's Girls is all about."