It’s down to four! The NCAA Men’s Tournament final four teams will play this weekend and like everyone else, I’m excited about it. For me, it’s not just the fact that I really enjoy the sheer talent of the athletes and excitement of the games, I also relish the opportunity to get to know these teams better … The things they do outside of this sport that impacts their communities and beyond. Here is what I’ve been thrilled to learn about the good that each of the fantastic, final four teams have been a part of:
The Carolina Athletics Pen Pal program partners their student- athletes with local second to fifth grade students, giving them an opportunity to interact beyond occasional school visits. Guard, Nate Britt, shared basketball advice and built a special friendship through their letter writing. As the founder of the program, Zoe Skinner, stated “Carolina taught me about character. It’s what you do when nobody’s watching that is really a testament to who you are.”
South Carolina prides itself on its student-athlete involvement. Sophomore, PJ Dozier was recently recognized by the SEC as part of their Community Service team. From time spent at an area elementary school, to helping with the Special Olympics, to delivering meals to those in need, Dozier was active in the community throughout the season.
The men’s basketball team came out to support Camp Goodtimes, a camp to support local kids battling cancer. Through this experience, Zach Norvell was reminded of what it means to persevere. “Sometimes we get mad or get down over stuff, but for them to have the best spirit I’ve ever been around, it’s just crazy,” Norwell stated. “Because if anything, they have more to be mad about, but their spirit is amazing.”
The O Heroes program connects student athletes with youth in the community. After the team made one of their visits to Sacred Heart Medical Center, Dillion Brooks talked about the impact it had on him stating, “Seeing them showed us a different light. We should be giving more and helping families in that situation. It brought these families closer to our family.” Coach Dana Altman selected the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals as his charity in the ESPN Infinity Coaches Charity Challenge.
These student-athletes and coaches utilized the unique opportunity they have in their current roles to impact the lives of others. I’d say that regardless of the outcome of the tournament, when the last horn sounds, they should be really proud of the job they’ve done. Not only on court, but off court too!