Men's Soccer Takes Time to Give Back During Off Season
DAHLONEGA, Ga. – This spring, while the University of North Georgia men's soccer program has continued to focus on preparing for next season, the Saints have also spent time away from the pitch to give back to the community with a couple initiatives.
Last month, several members of the team made their way to Lumpkin Elementary School on March 1 where they participated in Read Across America. This was the sixth year the UNG men read to children at Lumpkin Elementary, but it was just as fun as ever for the players and children.
According to head coach Pat Parris, some of the players who don't typically deal with butterflies in the stomach at game-time can be a little nervous when going up against the tongue twisters offered up by Dr. Seus and other children's authors.
"Most of our veterans are always eager to read to the kids and share with them that reading is very important and necessary in our lives," said Parris. "The new members on the team are very nervous to read the riveting tongue twisters to the little ones, but normally after their first read our new players become very comfortable and are eager to read more. We often find ourselves smiling and laughing after this experience. At the end of the day it was a fun experience for all!"
Parris went on to say, "The kids are in awe every year when they get to meet a college soccer player, especially for the kids that currently play soccer. For my players, they get enjoyment from seeing their smiles and their engaging questions about the books. The children are also always intrigued by the international players' accents and want to know where they are from and how they ended up here in Dahlonega. - those questions definitely put a smile and their faces."
Rising junior midfielder Alex Mohammed was one of the players to read to the kids and can see how important it is. "Read across America is a great program to enlighten kids' imaginations and educate everyone while interacting with elementary school kids around the nation," Mohammed said. "It is a great experience for both the kids and athletes!"
Rising senior goalkeeper Kristopher Alonzo had this to say about his experience with Read Across America, "North Georgia soccer strives to become not only great soccer players but also to become men of character. With reading across America, our goal is to motivate and influence as many children as possible. Being seen as role models for the kids, we provide them with information about life and information about college and it's importance. I believe that reading is a major role in succeeding and that is why we go read to the children. Reading across America not only helps the children and gives them some off time from their studies but it also develops us as men of character."
The Saints did not stop there with their community service. A couple weeks later, on Saturday, March 16, the Saint men traveled to a scrimmage in Gainesville, Ga. to support the LSA Soccer Club at the Allen Creek Complex. While there, the Saints participated with several other schools in an event with penalty kicks to give children the chance to interact with collegiate players.
The event asked children to go out on the soccer pitch and participate in penalty kicks on the collegiate goal keepers. Alonzo once again participated and interacted with the children.
"Having kids take penalties kicks on a collegiate goalkeeper is something every soccer player wants as a child," Alonzo said. "They view us as role models and see us as something they aspire to be. To be able to talk to the kids and tell them a bit about the hard work necessary to get to the next level was great. The smiles they received after a goal was more rewarding then anything words can describe. It was a great experience for the north Georgia goalkeepers."
Above: Graduating senior Juan Hurtado, a native of Colombia, reads to children at Lumpkin Elementary School
Above: Mikki Bozickovic, a redshirt senior from Bosnia, reads during Read Across America at Lumpkin Elementary.
Above: Redshirt sophomore Malte Krapp, a native of Germany, reads to children at Lumpkin Elementary.
Above: Ben Tayi, a redshirt senior from the Ivory Coast, reads to children during Read Across America.
All Three Below: Kristopher Alonzo attempts to make saves against children from Gainesville during a scrimmage.