McCollum's Column: Serving and winning for local college athletes

Some efforts among athletes and coaches at Hendrix and the University of Central Arkansas in the last few days shines a light on an aspect of the college experience not often illuminated.

There are things more important than the scoreboard. Sometimes winning is not reflected in points. Sports is a great teacher of community. Community takes on vibrancy and power when put into action.

During the Southern Athletic Association’s softball and track and field championships at Hendrix last weekend, athletes collected $2,000 for Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

One of the SAA’s initiatives is to support children’s hospitals in the area of its member schools. When a school hosts an SAA championship event, athletes and coaches man donation stations at the gate. The $2,000 came from small donations placed in a jar.

A couple of weeks ago, seven Hendrix athletes, representing several sports, visited ACH. They were Kati Broberg (women’s basketball), Dynica Greer (women’s lacrosse), Julia Lefler (women’s tennis), Hope Resor (softball), Jared Lincoln (football/track & field), Travus McMahon (football/track) and Hank Aldous (men’s basketball).

“It was so heartwarming to see our student-athletes visiting with the patients of ACH,” said Jennifer McCracken, Hendrix Director of Recreational Sports & Special Events. “I could tell by their sweet smiles that the kids enjoyed being out of their hospital room spending time with our student-athletes. Everyone’s face had an ear-to-ear smile.”

In the aftermath of the tornado destruction that hit Mayflower and Vilonia, Dr. Brad Teague, UCA’s athletic director, sent out an email to all athletes, coaches and staff, asking for volunteers to help with cleanup efforts.

During exam week, he immediately got 150 volunteers, representing all sports. “It may end up being more, depending on exam schedules,” Teague said.

The baseball team, with a big conference series approaching this weekend, was lending their efforts to debris cleanup in Mayflower on Monday.

Another wave of athletes from various teams concentrated primarily on clearing areas of Mayflower on Tuesday. In addition to the athletes, male and female, there were several coaches and staff.

Another wave from UCA will be deployed Wednesday to Vilonia.

“We’ll go whereever they send us,” Teague said.

The initial reaction from the athletes and coaches echoes what everyone has said. The scope of the devastation is unbelievable.

Teague and his staff put an emphasis on UCA athletes helping and give back to the community.

“We want to be a part of our community beyond the playing field and the fact that we had this many responses so quickly during exam week to our plea shows that they are getting it,” he said.

We’re fortunate in our community to have coaches and athletic officials who “get it” and lead by example.

Athletes have seen much of what really constitutes loss.

But those they have served have gained and so have the servers.

(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or david.mccollum@thecabin.net. Follow him on Twitter @dmaclcd.)

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