Field hockey and lacrosse teams launch innovative pen-pal program
Whether they participate in service projects, Greek life, campus clubs, music, drama or student government, Centre student-athletes are multi-talented, both on and off the field. This year, the women’s lacrosse and field hockey teams are using their talents in a particularly unique way by starting a pen-pal program with local 5th grade girls.
Jenelle Anthony, women’s field hockey head coach, explains that she first got the idea for the program from “You Go Girl,” an initiative run by USA Field Hockey designed to grow the popularity of the game throughout the country.
“I wanted to do something that both promoted women’s athletics and coupled it with a great college education,” she explains. “Combining education and athletics in female role models was something I really wanted to do.”
Both the field hockey and lacrosse teams have communicated with local elementary schools to start a pen-pal program. Thus far, Jennie Rogers has signed on, with other schools still working out the details. The lacrosse team will send this semester’s letters since they are in the off-season, and field-hockey will take over in the spring when the lacrosse season begins in earnest.
For Anthony, the program is an important lesson for her athletes to learn about being ambassadors for something bigger than themselves.
“When you’re an athlete, you’re not only representing yourself but also your team and your school,” she says. “The name on the front of the jersey is a lot more important than the one on the back.”
Anthony also cites how the program will solidify the team’s bonds.
“I’m all about team bonding,” she explains, “and a lot of that happens off the field.”
Julie Beer, women’s lacrosse head coach, is also excited about the mutually beneficial nature of this community program.
“With people like Miley Cyrus in the world, young women today have terrible role models,” she says. “This is an opportunity for our girls to do something really good for young people in the community.”
Beer sees the program as an important step in her athletes’ development as confident, self-aware individuals.
“These girls are in a unique position where they can be a little more high-profile on campus because they’re an athlete,” she explains. “This program gives them the chance to stand up and take responsibility for that, to own that role-model identity.”
An important benefit of the program is increased awareness about both field hockey and lacrosse, which are fairly limited sports in Kentucky.
Though the two sports have experienced massive growth in recent years, both in Division III sports and in Kentucky’s geographic area, there is still much work to be done to raise awareness about these sports and get girls interested in them.
This interest will initially be sparked through letters to local children, who will be invited to the October 5th field hockey game, where they can see the game in action, meet their pen-pals and tour campus. There will also be an exhibition and free clinic for the students.
The clinic is what lacrosse player Emily Madden ’15 is most looking forward to.
“Lacrosse is a difficult sport to explain in person, let alone in a letter,” she says. “I’m looking forward to the hands-on stuff, where we can show our pen-pals how to play the game.”
Madden is also looking forward to introducing local children to the power of sports.
“I just restarted a mentoring program at Toliver,” she explains. “Sports helped me a lot when I was younger, and I want other people to have that, too. Your team is like a second family for you when you’re injured or going through something.”
Though the pen-pal program may be a creative way to promote lesser-known women’s sports, above all, it provides strong female role models that embody focus and dedication, both to athletics and academics.
Says Beer, “This program gets the athletes outside of themselves a bit; instead of focusing on ourselves, we can focus on what the sport does for other people, what opportunities it provides not only for us who are playing, but for the young women who are watching us play.”
By Mariel Smith