“Ace’s Girls” Program Takes Flight at Stonehill

"Ace's Girls" Photo Album

Skyhawks teach life and volleyball skills to area youth; gain valuable experience in the process

Mary-Kate Catton instructs an "Ace's Girls" student while head coach
Lauren Amundson looks on.

EASTON, Mass. (July 16, 2012) – Several months ago, Stonehill College head volleyball coach Lauren Amundson assembled the framework – a rough idea mostly – for a service learning project for her squad called Ace's Girls. The goal was to put together a program where females, ages eight through 12, would meet once a week on Sunday to discuss physical and mental well-being topics such as nutrition and peer pressure. The second hour involved introducing the girls to the fundamental skills of volleyball. What the program morphed into was a dual learning experience for both the Skyhawks volleyball team and the girls who attended it as well.

"It was incredible how much we learned from the small group of eight to 12 year olds," said Sydney Maxey (Hutto, Texas/Hutto), a Northeast-10 Conference first team selection. "We wanted to help the girls with volleyball, most definitely, but mostly just help them with the confidence that comes from being involved in a team and cooperative atmosphere. We are just hoping something will stick with them from the Ace's Girls program."

For Theresa Orsinger's daughter, Sarah, the experiences she had while attending the program have not only 'stuck' they have resonated.

"My daughter has never been too interested in sports, particularly team sports. I think the program showed her how being part of a team can be a fun and rewarding experience and that the benefits extend beyond the sport itself," said Orsinger.  "She's also more aware of, and interested in, the college experience as a whole. I am hoping Sarah will be open to trying additional sports, and can draw from, as needed, the discussions that occurred during the speaker portion of the program."

Amundson booked several speakers throughout the seven week program which spanned from March 11 to April 29, including Katie Conover (Stonehill College head women's lacrosse coach), Amy Resnick (Associate Commissioner of the NE-10), Trisha Brown (Stonehill College head women's basketball coach) and Cindy MacDonald (Associate Director of Athletics at Stonehill), among others.

Each guest speaker discussed a different topic to the group of girls in attendance, although, a few seemed to stand out.

"One of the most meaningful aspects of this program for me was with Cindy MacDonald's activity on gratitude," said Jessica Frankowski (Unionville, Conn./Farmington), a rising junior who finished third on the team in digs per set last season. "Cindy had the girls create thank you cards for anyone in their life that the girls really appreciated. This included anyone in the world: teachers, peers, parents, coaches, etc. When one very shy Ace's Girl, Shannon, gave her thank you card to another Ace's Girl, Lexi, she explained how she was thankful for Lexi's support and friendship."

"It was warming knowing that the girls could acknowledge individuals they may have just met, and were able to present this to the whole program."

MacDonald wanted to make sure that everyone involved in the Ace's Girls program had not lost the sense of what it means to say the two simple words most people don't utter enough now a days: 'Thank you.'

"I honestly feel that in this day and age the words 'thank you' are not said as much as they should be. We have lost a little bit of the humility in thanking people and being thankful for what we have," said MacDonald. "Part of my presentation was based on that while the project had each of the girls design their own thank you cards to give to people who may have impacted their lives or just to show gratitude to others. Everyone made at least two-to-three cards and delivered most of them only a week later."

MacDonald went on to highlight why a program like Ace's Girls is so beneficial to the group of children it served for seven weeks.

"It was a great opportunity to have female collegiate athletes engaging with these girls, elementary and middle school girls, in a leadership role is sometimes far in few between," said MacDonald. "Ace's Girls is a perfect opportunity to have these girls look up to our well-round female student-athletes."

"Kids are great, they are like sponges. Kids want to learn and it was very refreshing," said MacDonald.

The Ace's Girls weren't the only ones soaking up useful information.

"We joked every week that our team was probably getting more out of Ace's Girls than the girls really were," said Maxey, partially laughing. "The speakers, who we were so fortunate to have be a part of the program, were great for the girls but really inspirational for us too, ironically enough. In particular after Trish Brown's visit, we just couldn't stop thinking about passion and how to use that for our team."

Brown spoke about passion while Conover discussed self-esteem and Resnick talked about the importance of being active. Liza Talusan (Director of Intercultural Affairs at Stonehill) brought up the discussion of 'who am I?' to the girls while Pauline Dobrowski (Associate Vice President for Student Affairs) and Kelly Treseler (Dean of Students and Residence Director) taught the Ace's Girls group about teamwork and collaboration.

Lina Macedo (Assistant Director of Student Activities for Campus Programs) and MaryAnne Cappelleri (Campus Minister for Community Service and Partnerships) closed out the last two weeks of the program discussing attitude/sportsmanship and standing up for yourself and others.

From left to right: Stonehill volleyball players Emily Iverson, Mary
and Kirsten Arvidson pose for a photo with some "Ace's Girls"

"Ace's Girls exceeded my expectations, and I believe it will continue to do so. When we were in the planning stages, we didn't know what to expect. We had this rough frame of an idea, and then the people involved really gave it life," said Amundson. "My players were interactive and funny – allowing the kids to feel comfortable getting involved. We were able to cover some really important life skills, and I think my team gives a great real-life example of many of them. Our speakers were dynamic and engaging, and they really made the program what it was. I am so grateful to all of them for their contribution."

The effects the program had on Amundson's players were also quite clear.

"This has been a really fun experience for my team. It was really fun watching my players connect with the younger girls," said Amundson. "I believe they are all role models, and to see them in action was incredibly rewarding. I think they'll be able to look at the game in a different way. I think this is a reminder of why we love volleyball, and how lucky we are to have it in our lives."

Amundson continued.

"I did also hear some comments from the team about discovering new ways to teach a skill, or needing to rephrase some of our fundamental keys to help an eight year old understand. The classroom workshops were extremely insightful for my team – most of our topics apply to women of all ages," said Amundson. "Self-esteem, passion, gratitude, sportsmanship and teamwork, these are all things I try to instill in them every day. As they move beyond Stonehill, I hope that if they go on to coach, they can teach those same values to a younger generation of volleyball players."

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