2006 Student-Athlete Day -- A Big Hit For Miller Elementary
Warren L. Miller First Graders Enjoy An Afternoon With the "Big Kids"
First grade students tend to get overwhelmingly excited about field trips. Parents and teachers relish in the fact that their children and students will gain valuable experiences they can't receive in the classroom. First graders don't think this way. First graders are more excited about not having to sit in school all day than they are about whatever experiences they may get from a field trip. Mansfield University Student-Athletes set out to prove that field trips can be fun and provide rare experiences at the same time.
On Wednesday, April 5th, the first grade classes from Warren L. Miller Elementary School in Mansfield took one of these fun and educational field trips. They boarded the school buses and took the one mile trip to the top of Mansfield University's campus where they were greeted by dozens of Mountaineer student-athletes.
The Mansfield University Champs Life Skills Organization, Student Athlete Advisory Committee, and Sports Information Department hosted the first graders in recognition of National Student-Athlete Day.
Deb Rotella, who runs the Champs Life Skills program and acts as the faculty advisor for SAAC, views student-athlete day as a way for Collegiate Athletes to act as positive role models for the younger students. "We get a chance to emphasize to the children how important academics are -- not just how important athletics are. None of these student-athletes would be here if it weren't for academics," said Rotella.
She's right. Collegiate athletes become ineligible without maintaining a certain grade point average. The emphasis of student-athlete day is not merely on athletics, but falls on the importance of balancing academics with athletics. The children get the opportunity to see where positive academic standing could take them in the future by observing and interacting with Collegiate athletes all day.
Ideally, the events of the day are split up into different stations for all the different sports Mansfield has to offer, and spread out around the track and football field areas. Unfortunately, northern Pennsylvania was hit with another cold spell, dropping temperatures down to the mid 30's. With the abrupt change in weather, a last minute decision was made to move the stations inside.
Decker Gymnasium was split into six stations: Baseball and Softball, Soccer, Field Hockey, Basketball, Football, and a station devoted to good sportsmanship. The track and field stations remained outside on the track.
All sports were represented as student-athletes from each Mansfield sports team were on hand to run the stations and interact with the children.
Students would rotate through each station in small groups until they had covered every station, making sure that no one was left out of certain activities. Kool-Aid and fruit snacks were provided as a mid-morning snack as lunch was not served until over and hour after their regular lunch time.
In the soccer station, where six year old Molly had the most fun, Mansfield soccer players and head coach Tim Dempsey worked on dribbling drills, passing, and shooting while the Field Hockey station did the same thing, but with a little more difficulty. First graders can understand "hit the ball with the stick," but have a little more difficulty with "you can only use the flat side of the stick." Field Hockey players and head coach Diane Monkiewicz assisted the youngsters.
The Softball and Baseball stations gave kids a chance to dress up in all the catching equipment, run the bases, field ground balls, and take batting practice off of the tee.
While some kids were waddling around in full catchers gear, others were staggering back and forth in football shoulder pads and helmets. "One of the best parts of the day was getting to see the kids in the catcher's gear and the football uniforms," said first grade teacher Mrs. Dominick.
Along with wearing the equipment, Mansfield football players ran passing drills and line drills with the kids, teaching them about both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Seven year old J.P. wished he "could stay in the football station all day," while six year old Lydia agreed she "was having the most fun chasing the big football guys around the gym."
The women's basketball coaching staff and men's basketball standout Terrance Williams ran the basketball station where kids first learned basic dribbling and passing technique before shooting baskets over Williams head. For each basket Terrance couldn't stop, he had to do five push-ups.
In a sportsmanship station, children were forced to interact with one another to accomplish a common goal. Four or five children would sit in a circle with both hands placed on a hoop. The task: to stand up without anyone letting go of the hoop. The challenge: get four or five first graders to work together to accomplish this goal. To their credit, first graders may be smarter than we think, as nearly all the students accomplished this task with little or no problems.
A highlight of the day for most of the students were the track and field stations. Rotating to the track stations meant that the kids got to get all bundled up and go outside. While teachers and chaperones dreaded being in the cold, the kids jumped for joy at the chance to run around outside. Mansfield track athletes and head coach Mike Rohl took students through long jump and triple jump stations. "I'll tell you what, it's amazing how some of these young kids can perfect triple jump form after a two minute lesson," said coach Rohl. Seven year old Taite proved that even first graders can triple jump. High jumping, throwing events and sprinting were also parts of the track stations.
After two and a half hours of sports and educational activities, it was time for lunch. The kids were treated to a hot dog, a bag of chips, cookies, and a Gatorade; they were even kind enough to save some food for the teachers and student-athletes who had spent the day with them.
After a group photo and a few high fives, the students boarded their busses to go back to school, each receiving a goody-bag on their way out.
"It's rewarding for us to get a chance to spend some time with the younger kids. There's a part of all of us that isn't ready to grow up yet and spending time with them just brings it to the surface," said track and field captain Jon Holtz. He added, "I hope they get as much out of this day as we do. This is always one of the most memorable days of the year for us."
Below you can find more photos from the Fourth Annual Student-Athlete Day at Mansfield University.