Bob Vlahakis

An Opportunity for College Sports to Seize the Day

by Bob Vlahakis February 24, 2009 in Lacrosse

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In these troubled economic times,  with scandals on Wall Street and substance abuse once again rearing its ugly head in major league baseball, Americans are yearning for some pure, honest, loyal heroes to emerge. There is an opportunity for college sports to seize the day.  Sparked by President Obama’s call for young Americans to come forward and give of themselves, the playing field is wide open for senior student-athletes in collegiate sports to step up to this challenge across the country.
With the expansion of ESPNU and CBS College Sports Network, collegiate sports now come into our living rooms on a daily basis from September to May. And college lacrosse, the fastest growing sport in America, has exploded during the past few years.
There is nothing more exciting to watch than an athlete’s true passion for the game in the heat of battle, but it is behind the scenes where we must go to learn about the amazing stories going on in the lives of these kids.
I had the opportunity three years ago to travel with the Dickinson College Lacrosse Team to New Orleans for an unbelievable week during which they did back breaking work re-building a church and instilling hope, simply by their kindness and generosity, to the devastated community of Placquemines Parish, Louisiana.  By altering one week of their lives, forty-four young men created a lifetime of memories for many people displaced by Hurricane Katrina. These student-athletes slept in a huge FEMA Tent, along with several hundred other people, after they had turned down a fun trip to England at the last minute to provide help to those less fortunate. The decision to do so was voted on by the senior captains, a tremendous show of maturity and compassion, and a wonderful display of helping others in need.
Little by little, searching behind the scenes, I have discovered countless other stories and activities being pursued by lacrosse players throughout the country - from actively helping and supporting our troops, to giving of their time to befriend children suffering from cancer, to feeding the homeless.
These stories yearn to be told and the student-athletes involved deserve to be recognized for their work - although they all do it simply for the satisfaction of helping others. We need to pick up the newspaper every day and read about athletes doing good for others. It is only then that it will become contagious, and will also become the norm . . . there really is so much good being done on campuses throughout the country, and we ought to hear more about it.
What more as a nation do we want than a true student-athlete who does well in the classroom, helps others in time of need, gives selflessly of his/her time without asking for anything in return, and represents a university in a positive way, all while competing at the highest level of sports?
The President has put forth the challenge, (that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task), and he’s got some great college students prepared to go along with him, leading our nation back to the high values (hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism)) we once stood for. 
This current generation of student-athletes who understand the 4 C’s -  Classroom, Community, Character, Competition,  has the potential to be the generation that restores America back to its humanitarian role, respected by all countries throughout the world.