BERKELEY – Wally Haas, the chairman of the board of Coaching Corps, said he has great admiration for Cal student-athletes because they deviate from their crammed schedules to participate in College Sports Day.
As it turns out, it is time the student-athletes seek out to fit into their busy routines.
Cal hosted the seventh annual College Sports Day last Sunday at Haas Pavilion, and 110 student-athletes showed up to teach underserved kids the skills and rules of their sport and have a little fun in the process. College Sports Day is put on by Coaching Corps, whose mission is to recruit and train college athletes and other community members to become volunteer coaches, mentors and role models for girls and boys in under-resourced communities.
For Cal’s student-athletes, it appears they got just as much out of College Sports Day as the kids they were supposedly helping, if not more.
“As athletes, we kind of just stick to our routine,” said sophomore Taylor James of the women’s crew team. “We have practice, we have class. We just kind of have our heads down getting through it. But when we have opportunities like this to interact with kids in the community, it really shows us that there’s a whole other side of things that we’re not seeing, and that we can really affect people and have a positive impact.”
The 17 Cal sports represented spread out across the Haas Pavilion floor and set up drills for the kids to go through. Participants could do blocking drills with Cal linemen, work on their tumbling with the gymnastics teams or score a goal in soccer, among a variety of other things. Approximately 100 kids attended the event.
“At first, we had this one kid who was going through the drills. He was kind of timid and kind of shy,” Cal wide receiver Jack Austin said. “But the more and more he went through it and the more he got to know us, it was really cool to see him light up and do a touchdown dance and have fun with it. It was really rewarding for me and all of the other football players who are here just to see the look on that kid’s face.”
Not only were some of Cal’s sports programs at the event, but Cal’s spirit squad and even Oski made an appearance. This was the second College Sports Day the campus hosted during this academic year. A fall event took place at Kabam Field at California Memorial Stadium.
“For the student-athletes, it’s a good chance for them to give back and connect with the kids in this community,” said event coordinator Megan Psyllos, who works in Cal’s student-athlete affairs office. “It actually does mean quite a bit to them because they want to share and they want to help the kids in this community that need it. Sports is the perfect way to do it. They’re excited to share their sport and introduce it to someone else.”
Haas said the genesis of Coaching Corps came when the Haas Family owned the Oakland A’s baseball organization, and they saw the power sports can have on children and the discrepancy in resources between the suburbs and under-served neighborhoods. They determined one solution was to recruit more young volunteer coaches and place them in after school programs or have them participate in events like College Sports Day.
“I get so heartened by the whole thing,” Haas said. “I appreciate that the student-athletes at Cal are really busy people with the demands of school and their sport. For them to give a couple hours back is really pretty inspiring. It’s really meaningful and appreciated. I think they get something from watching the look on the kids’ faces. I know the kids will never forget this memory.”