Coker Athletics: more than just a game

Coker College softball players sponsored a family for Christmas in 2017 rather than having a traditional team gift exchange.
Photo Contributed.

By Melissa Rollins, Editor,

Student-athletes at Coker College are making a difference, one community service project at a time. In the last semester alone, they have logged nearly 6,000 community service hours completely smashing the goal of 5,000 hours for the entire school year.

Coker is currently listed 19th among all Division II schools for the number of community service hours.

“Community is important and we always want to give back,” said Jenn Bell, Associate Athletic Director for Internal Operations at Coker. “It starts at the top with Dr. Griffin, our Director of Athletics. She wants us to be involved. It also starts with the Division II model of a well-rounded student who is focused on athletics and academics; service-minded students.”

Bell said that she grew up in a small college town where the school was insular and she doesn’t want Coker to be that way or for local people to see them that way.

“We do our best to get out there,” Bell said. “How are people going to know who we are if we stay on our campus and never get out? We branch out all over from Carolina’s Kids and pumpkin delivery for a local church, to going to the local elementary schools to read with students. We are forming mentor programs with some of the students this year.”
Bell said that currently student-athletes have committed to visiting students at two local schools.

“We have about 30 or so athletes who are going over to South Side and spending about an hour a week with those students to give them a figure, a role model, someone that they can look up to and aspire to be,” Bell said. “We do have a lot of great role models among our student athletes. The men’s basketball team has really stepped up with that. We also have someone who started that program at West Hartsville Elementary and she has gotten a lot of interest there.”

Even though student-athletes often have busy schedules between classes, practices and games, Bell said it is important that they also look beyond their college years.

“It is important for them to be a well-rounded person when they leave here with their degree,” Bell said. “Doing well in athletics and giving back to the community, that shapes who they are when they leave here; we want to do all we can to give them as many opportunities as possible. They see a lot and they learn a lot.”

Organizations that are the recipients of Coker volunteer hours benefit from the help but the act of volunteering also helps strengthen the teams, Bell said.

“It really is fun for them and it is a lot of team building experience,” Bell said. “The coaches have been really good about pushing them and getting that team to have the right attitude about it too.”

A central system called Helper Helper allows the athletes and teams, and the athletic department as a whole, to keep track of the hours that students are completing.

“Students can log on and put in their hours and then their coaches or I can look at them and can validate the hours,” Bell said. “It is really easy because students can log on with the app and put things in and I can also send them notifications. It has been a great system because it is all right here whereas before there were spreadsheets or a picture with people trying to tell us what they did.”

Bell said that she is proud of the work students put in not just in Hartsville but also back in their home communities and abroad.

“Students can speak loudly with their actions,” Bell said.

One organization close to the team’s heart is Make-A-Wish. During the games Saturday Jan. 27, the teams will be celebrating local Make-A-Wish child Aidyn Prescott with a team signing ceremony and a visit from the local fire department. The games begin at 2 p.m

Author: Duane Childers

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