Harrisonburg, Va., April 24, 2012-
Members of the James Madison men's soccer team were able to share their passion for soccer with the students at Skyline Middle School last week when they hosted an event for students to learn soccer techniques and skills.
Sophomore midfielder/defender Karel Manrau, redshirt sophomore defender Gene Daniels and redshirt freshman defender Daniel Simpson participated in the second year of this event with head coach Tom Martin. "The athletic department's diversity committee formed a relationship with the middle school and with the RAOS program," explained Daniels. RAOS is an after school program at Skyline that involves fifth and sixth grade students playing sports and spending time on academic work.
The students in the program were asked which sport they would like to play after school and soccer was the overwhelming decision. The athletics diversity committee approached the soccer team about partnering with the event and Daniels worked with Coach Foley to coordinate the event at Skyline and pair 20-25 middle school students with the soccer players. The participating students are a mix of students from last year's group and new additions.
"My favorite part of working with the middle school students is being able to be an instrumental part in keeping them involved in the right types of activities," said Daniels. "Although they are only in fifth and sixth grade, the harsh reality of today is that without an involvement in extracurricular activities, some-maybe even most- of these kids would be traveling down the wrong path." Daniels is thankful for the opportunity to develop the students' interest in soccer while also getting them involved in beneficial after school activities.
Manrau explained, "Me and my teammates met the kids at the soccer field and we had some drills to give them the basic techniques to be a decent soccer player." The athletes worked with the students on juggling, passing and dribbling with the soccer ball and after the skills training, played a scrimmage game. The athletes prefer to work with the students in small enough groups that the students all receive personal attention, while also striving to make sure that students were not standing around with nothing to do during the event. Working with smaller groups also allows the athletes and students time to form relationships.
"Personally, when we are given an opportunity to participate in community service with the team, I have trouble saying no," explained Daniels. "I think back to when I was younger and remember the envy and admiration that I felt for college aged or professional athletes and realize that it is now my duty to be there and provide hope and assistance to this younger generation."
Manrau also enjoyed the opportunity to share his love for soccer with the middle school students and watch their excitement when they celebrated scoring a goal in the scrimmage. "JMU and Harrisonburg give us so much joy and satisfaction that we have to do something back for the community," shared Manrau. "Harrisonburg is going to by my home for four years and I believe it would be selfish for me to not be involved in such events."