Oct. 18, 2013
Field Day Photo Gallery
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Chants of "We love Willie! We love Willie!" echoed across Northwestern's football practice field as school children descended on Wildcats territory last Friday, Oct. 11, for the Athletics Department's Annual Field Day.
Christopher McEavi, Sydney Ollachatman and Heath Grossman, who all attend an after-school program at McGaw YMCA in Evanston, raced each other towards Willie the Wildcat at the sight of Northwestern's furry mascot on the practice field. The three kids were part of a group of 150 school children from McGaw YMCA and Fleetwood Jordain Community Center visiting the Wildcats for an hour-long session of play and sports.
For 16 years, Northwestern Athletics has opened its doors to neighboring children who may not have the same opportunity or access to Northwestern Athletics. Field Day has become a way for student-athletes representing Northwestern's 19 varsity sports to interact with young fans and share with them some of the intricacies of their individual sports up-close and personal, or just to relax and create fun games for the participants to play.
Anna Cassell, junior goalkeeper of the women's soccer team, who also serves as community outreach executive of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, was the prime mover of the activities. "Everybody is having fun and that's what matters," Cassell smiled as she helped Serenity Fortwright of Fleetwood Jordain pick out a smiley sticker. "It's a great opportunity for student-athletes to give back to the Evanston community and showcase the best aspects of Northwestern athletics," said Cassell.
Men's golf sophomore Scott Smith, with assistance from members of the golf and fencing teams, conducted a putting clinic in his station on the northwest corner of the field. Smith, towering over the kids at 6-foot-5, had to kneel on the turf to be eye level with the kids as he lined up putts, instructing the children on proper body position and how to grip the golf club.
Along with Smith, over 100 student-athletes teamed up with Northwestern's Community Relations, Academic Services and Student Athlete Advisory Committee in transforming the practice turf field into one recreational field. They set up various stations equipped with baseball bats, purple soccer balls, hula-hoops, tennis rackets and balls, field hockey sticks, golf clubs, football balls and padded shields and basketballs. The children were divided into several groups and took turns visiting each station.
Sonali Patel of the fencing team partnered with Kayla Simmons of McGaw YMCA Children's Center, as they navigated the various stations, stopping to rest a few times after a relay race to talk about cheerleading, with Simmons offering to teach Patel some of her cheerleading moves.
Like Simmons, each child had the chance to spend time with a Wildcat athletic team, getting the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of sports such as field hockey, basketball, golf and soccer.
Members of the field hockey team showed the children some of their skills, while the men's tennis team integrated the use of a tennis racket and balls for a relay race. Even injured tennis player Raleigh Smith, supported by crutches as he walked the practice field, could not pass up the opportunity to play with the kids, encouraging the participants in his relay team, "You're doing great! Keep going!"
The women's basketball team showed up in full force, helping the kids shoot baskets in a makeshift court on the southwest side of the practice field. The baseball team used their bats for a game of dizzy bat while members of the swimming and diving team traded their swimming caps and swimsuits with hula-hoops.
Freshmen linebackers on the football team Anthony Walker, Brett Walsh and Joshua Roberts teamed up to demonstrate fundamental blocking skills while holding a padded shield, and encouraging kids to "run with the ball and hit the shield as hard as you can."
Year after year, Field Day has turned into a marquee community outreach event for Northwestern Athletics, allowing student-athletes one of many ways to reach out to the community and inspire young children to be the best they can be at school, at home, and in their community.
Courtney Dumas, junior eppeist on the women's fencing team and Sports Performance Athlete of the Month, summed up Field Day's effect on both the visiting children and the student-athletes who came out to help. "We are one big team," she said.
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