Richmond Recognized for Service

by James Sica

The University of Richmond Women’s Swimming and Diving Team has been named a College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) Community Service Team. The UR women earned the recognition for their work with the Youth Life Foundation of Richmond, an organization that develops leadership and life skills in children who live in at-risk communities.

 

The University of Richmond Women’s Swimming Team has a long-standing relationship with the Youth Life Foundation, having worked with them for over six years. Once a month during their season, the children from the organization come to campus and take swim lessons with the team for an hour.

 

Many of the children involved in the program come from low income neighborhoods where they would not have access to swim lessons or even a pool. The UR swim team’s work with them provides not only teaches the children a useful life skill, but is a great way for them to develop lasting, trusting relationships where the participants can be challenged and grow in a positive way.

 

Heather Goodlett, the founder and Executive Director of the Youth Life Foundation of Richmond, spoke to the impact that the team has on the children they work with: "The way the UR Swim and Dive team have adopted YLFR has been amazing! Many of our students are afraid of the water and have not had much experience with swimming or getting into a pool. The fact that you all show up and have almost a 1:1 student to swimmer ratio has really propelled our children to improve. Some have gotten over real fears...You are making a difference in their lives!"

 

While the impact the Richmond team has on the children in the organization is incredible, the student-athletes also gain valuable perspective from their experience working with the organization. Anna Fetter, a 2015 graduate of Richmond, remarked how the team’s work with the Youth Life Foundation “completely changed my experience at the University of Richmond.”

 

“Throughout my four years I worked with the same young girl, watching her cry for an hour on the side of the pool to four years later watching her swim a lap all on her own,” Fetter said. “I grew to love the program and got so attached to my little swim buddy that I asked to intern with them for my Jepson summer internship. That internship is the most rewarding memory of my entire UR career. I learned how to become a teacher, how to work with children every day, and how to deal with different social classes first hand. I built so much of a relationship with the kids that I asked Leahna if she and the kids would be able to come to my senior swim meet. About five minutes before the meet began Leahna and 13 children who we had watched grow for the last four years walked onto the pool deck carrying “Go Miss Anna” signs. Seeing everything that meant so much to me all in one place was incredible. Our partnership with YLFR is not only teaching these kids a life skill, but it teaches our team valuable life skills as well.”

Developing trusting, meaningful relationships is one of the missions of the Youth Life Foundation, and Head Coach Matt Barany explained that is what makes their partnership so special. "It's not just us popping into a short-term service project and leaving when our time is up,” he explained. “Our swimmers & divers deliver swim instruction over a series of Fridays. Relationships develop and the YLFR students get great role models. It's a win-win-win for the YLFR students, our athletes, and the university."

 

Case Western Recognized for Service

by James Sica

The Case Western Reserve Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Teams has been named a College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) Community Service Team. CWRU earned the recognition for their work during their winter training trip in South Florida, where they worked with a local nonprofit that helps provide food to those in the community who need it.

Feeding South Florida is the only Feeding America food bank that serves Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe Counties.There are over 785,040 food insecure individuals in South Florida, of which 25% are served by Feeding South Florida.

Selena Mufti, a junior Mechanical Engineering major on the team, noted how the service project was a way for the team to give back to a region that annually hosts so many college teams. “Every year countless teams go down there for training trips,” she commented. “...Taking a few hours out of our day to volunteer and give something back is the very least we can do as a thank you to the region for hosting us and so many other teams each winter.”

 

Mufti also noted how the service project gave the team some much needed perspective during one of the toughest training phases of the year. “As a team, not only is it a fun activity that makes for excellent team-building, but it also really gives us an opportunity to center ourselves and put things back in perspective. Being tired and sore is an integral part of any training trip, and people can sometimes get consumed in that, but the project really helps to remind us that there are much worse things than being tired and sore.”

 

Head Coach Doug Milliken reiterated that point, stating that the project, which they have done for the past three years, helps provide some perspective for his team. "We decided as a team it was important to give something back to the local community,” he said. “At CWRU, we are lucky to be at such a prestigious institution and we recognize there are others in need of help and we are happy to provide a helping hand in any way we can."

 

Charlotte VanDyken, the Volunteer Coordinator for the organization, noted the tremendous impact the team was able to have in a single afternoon: "The students did a wonderful job yesterday and sorted 23,245 pounds of food which in turn provided 19,520 meals to those in need! As you can see, this work is vital to our organization and we thank you and the students for contributing in this way."

 

Feeding South Florida is part of the wider organization Feeding America, which is the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief organization. Feeding America operates over 200 food banks throughout the United States and is ranked as the fourth largest domestic nonprofit that boasts  a 98% of donations remaining in the community.

While the Case Western swimmers are pushing themselves in the pool, they don’t limit their work ethic to just workouts. Mufti reflects that her favorite part of the project is learning how much her and her teammates accomplished throughout the afternoon. “A lot of people don’t realize the sheer amount of work 60 athletes can get done in an afternoon,” she said. “Hearing this kind of feedback each year lets us know that we are making a real impact in the community, which is what the project is all about.”

 

 

Adopt-A-Team Heads to Atlanta

By Doug Lennox

MLB Spring Training. MLS Regular Season. NBA Playoffs. NHL Playoffs. March Madness. College World Series. There is a lot to look forward to in the world of sports right now. One event that should be on everyone’s radar is the NCAA Swim Championships, which takes place on back-to-back weekends: Women compete March 16-19 and Men compete March 23-26. Yes, these two meets are fast. Yes, they are exciting. And, now they are setting a good example for other sports entities, too!

As part of the new Adopt-A-Team Program, ten generous NCAA Division I programs have volunteered their time and energy to get to know and work with a local Atlanta classroom. Throughout the year they have written letters, sent cool gear and video chatted to develop a relationship. As part of their NCAA experience, these ten college teams will actually visit their “adopted” classroom to meet their pen pals! And, with your help, we aim to bring as many classrooms of students to the Georgia Tech Natatorium to watch some of the fastest swimming in the world, and witness how the top teams function as one unit.

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  • Centennial Academy – Local Atlanta Grade School
  • University of Alabama
  • University of Georgia
  • Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech)
  • Louisiana State University
  • Penn State University
  • Purdue University
  • University of Southern California
  • University of Texas
  • Tulane University
  • West Virginia University

For more inspiration to support this program, listen to what some of the coaches and grade school teachers had to say about the project:

What motivated you and your team to participate in this pilot program?

Dave Salo, USC: We are always eager to participate in programs that we think can positively impact young kids. The Swim-Mersion Project was presented as a way to get local Atlanta kids interested in swimming, and to have the experience for our student-athletes at NCAA’s be more than just about competing. This is a chance to give back to the local Atlanta community for hosting such a great event.

Dennis Pursley, Alabama: As we all know, swimming offers a character building experience for the participants that is second to none. Still, swimming has a relatively low public profile outside of the Olympic year. We feel obligated to do everything we can to help spread the good news about what swimming offers young people, as well as celebrate the remarkable achievements of our athletes.

Katie Robinson, Tulane: Our team looks out for meaningful ways to serve and make a difference in the lives of others. The Swim-Mersion project seems like a good way for us to inspire young students through our sport, and be inspired ourselves through a genuine connection.

What goals do you hope to accomplish with the students of Atlanta through this project?

Katie Robinson, Tulane: Swimming and diving teams are not always given the attention they deserve given the amount of time and effort they give day in and day out. The Swim-Mersion Project helps recognize our team, university and our entire sport. In the process, we hope to accomplish a sense of excitement around our sport and university as we explore and new connections with the youth in Atlanta.

Catherine Vogt, USC: We hope to educate elementary students about all the opportunities across the country – it is proven that kids need positive role models and by showing these students that our swimmers and divers go to school, live across the country, are from all over the world but come together to study and swim at the highest level..it can be fun too!

Coach Ryan Mohamed, Centennial Academy: I would like to expose my students to a sport that they may not realize is an NCAA sport. Sure they know swimming is a sport, but they may not know they can get a scholarship for swimming. I also want to expose our kids to what a college student-athlete might endure in college.

Why is this project important to your team and the students of Atlanta?

Tim Murphy, Penn State: The project is important to our team because we are always looking for ways to give back and make connections. I think that this program not only gives us the opportunity to introduce Penn State Swimming to kids, but it also gives us the opportunity to create a positive experience for the kids of the Swim-Mersion Project that could impact them on a greater scale.

Dave Salo, USC: Our team is involved in several community projects that impact disadvantaged youth, most of whom are students of color. This is a program that I think our athletes will see as valuable to the local kids participating. We have seen first hand how our learn-to-swim program in a disadvantaged community in Los Angeles has such a huge impact on young kids and their families. We think this can have a positive impact on the kids in Atlanta as well as their extended family as they see their kids engaged and interested in their adopted college team.

Carol Capitani, Texas: We are very fortunate to be a part of a Division I collegiate program that puts excellence in academics and athletics at the forefront of everything we do.  With this in mind, it is always important to give back, whether to our local community, the communities in our home states, or to the communities in which we compete.

Why is college swimming important to the larger community, beyond college campuses?

Dennis Pursley, Alabama: Our athletes are exceptionally positive role models. Society could benefit from seeing the example set by our student-athletes, and how swimming fosters the development of traditional values and attributes that are essential to productivity and prosperity in our culture.

Carol Capitani, Texas: College swimming imparts many lessons that will last a lifetime, like hard work, dedication, resilience, etc., and the people who learn how to thrive while competing in a collegiate setting will prepare themselves to find success in their future endeavors.

Coach Ryan Mohamed, Centennial Academy: It is important to the community because it exposes our children to something new. Competitive swimming is not just going to the local pool and racing a friend from one end to the other. There is technique. It’s an art. There’s a strategy.



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