Immersed in academic study as well as athletics, Michigans women student athletes for years have still found time to volunteer in the community outside the Universityhosting Special Olympics teams, collecting and packing food baskets and participating in bucket drives. But until this year, they volunteered as individuals or part of a specific team of women athletes.
Beginning this fall, the student athletes and their coaches will be more organized in their community outreach efforts says Margaret J. Bradley-Doppes, associate athletic director of womens athletics. In addition to their individual volunteer work, women athletes and coaches will combine their efforts in such activities as hosting Special Olympians, staffing a booth at Festifall this month and visiting junior high and high schools to promote participation in sports. Women from all 10 U-M athletic programs will work together.
We are now getting into an arena in which student-athletes are seen as role models, almost as celebrities, Bradley-Doppes says. When they volunteer their time, it is well worth it. The women talk to 7th- through 12th-grade students about the self-discipline and the commitment they have made to sports, and about the rewards of being involved in athletics.
It is very rewarding to both the students and to the athletes, Bradley-Doppes says. In our post-season meetings, when we asked what the most rewarding experiences of the year had been, without exception the high points were when we worked on projects and not a particular game when we scored wellalthough those were important, too.
Bradley-Doppes estimates that about 25 members of the coaching staff and 100125 women athletesmore than halfwill be involved in the outreach program this year.
The response has been very positive, she says. Community outreach helps make up the whole experience of athletics. Its not just competing, shooting a basket, but it is the entire growth experience socially, emotionally and spiritually.