Many people will assume that between sports and academics, student athletes at Kalamazoo College don’t have much time for anything else. However, one important factor within the sports culture at K is the betterment of the local community. Nearly all the teams on campus take part in volunteering somewhere in the Kalamazoo/Portage area to help out.
“Our athletes [at K] are some of our best leaders on campus. They realize it’s not just about them and they want to be leaders in the community and make it a better place,” says women’s basketball Coach Katie Miller. Coach Miller is also the faculty sponsor of K’s Athletic Leadership Council (ALC). The ALC is a group of upperclassmen K athletes that help the whole athletic department to get involved in volunteering in the local community. They do this by sponsoring or hosting several events a year where any member of any K athletic team can volunteer. These events include the polar plunge in the fall, the special Olympics basketball game in the winter and the special Olympics track meet in the spring.
Coach Miller says the number of athlete volunteers at those events has increased every year since she became faculty advisor to the ALC three years ago. This year’s special Olympics track meet will be Saturday from 8:30am to 1:00pm at Western Michigan’s track.
Outside of the ALC, the individual teams each have their own ways of helping to improve the community. For example, the baseball team volunteers at Bronson Children’s Hospital in the fall and spring. They also volunteer year round with Kalamazoo Public Schools to help with tutoring.
Similarly the men’s and women’s basketball teams both do their own volunteer work. The men’s team volunteers at Loaves and Fishes throughout the winter while the women’s team volunteers year round at Milwood Middle School.
Coach Miller says that many of her players now volunteer individually in the community because they enjoy helping out so much.
This attests to a common theme within the athletic culture at K; that even though coaches require volunteer work from the players, it’s not something the players see as a required task. Many players have even said that it’s something they really enjoy doing, whether it be helping out a kid with her math homework or serving concessions at the special Olympics track meet.
So there are high expectations across the board for K student athletes: work hard in the classroom, play hard on the field and still have time to give back to the community. K’s baseball coach Mike Ott says, “We like our [K’s] players to be ambassadors on the field and off it as well.”