The MAAC Gives Back
Beyond the actual basketball games, the MAAC basketball championships in Springfield, Massachusetts include numerous community outreach programs designed to engage fans and non-fans alike. The MAAC Championships allow the MAAC to give back to the community in different ways. The league has programs that give elementary school students the opportunity to get to know what college sports are all about and give students the chance to experience MAAC basketball. Two programs that are intertwined with our MAAC Basketball Championships are MAAC Gives Back and Bus Brigade.
MAAC Gives Back is a community outreach program in its 17th season. This program allows MAAC student athletes to become pen pals with grade school students in Springfield, Mass, where this year’s championship is being held. Through the correspondence, the students receive the opportunity to personally know the MAAC student athletes on a personal level. The MAAC schools also send team gear, schedules, and posters to the elementary school for the classroom. This livens up the discussion held in the classroom.
Another component to the MAAC Gives Back program is the essay contest. The contest asked the participating students in the program to explain why sports and fitness are important to everyday life. The league received dozens of letters from participants and a committee chose the best written essay. This year’s winner, from Center School in Springfield, will be honored at the post season award show on March 1. Teachers are encouraged to use this program to educate the students about stats (as used in basketball) the location of schools (relative to geology discussions), and other related topics.
Another program is Bus Brigade which is a community outreach program that gives elementary school students a ticket to our Women’s basketball championship game and transportation to the game. The MAAC subsidizes the cost of the buses which allows elementary students to attend the game. The league funds this program because it believes that the MAAC student athletes are great examples of players who excelled on the playing court and in the classroom. As such, they serve as good role models for the students attending the game.
The league also provides students with goodie bags (items donated from our sponsors). The MAAC will also usually have a speaker come in and talk to the kids, and this year’s speaker is WWE wrestler David Otunga, who will speak to the kids about issues related to bullying. It is anticipated that over 1040 students will be participating in the program this year.
Community outreach programs are crucial because they show the commitment from the MAAC to the community that hosts the championships. These experiences will leave lasting impressions on students that hopefully have a positive impact on them for the rest of their lives. As a former student-athlete myself at Saint Peter’s College, I participated in these programs while playing basketball. I’ve witnessed young students hanging onto every word spoken as MAAC athletes or coaches would speak to them in the classroom. I also recall in my own life when Tammy Sutton Brown, a former Rutgers University standout, coming to my summer camp and talking to us about basketball the summer going into 5th grade. Her speech inspired me to be just like her, a 6’2 dominating force in the paint. Unfortunately that never happened because I was a point guard, but Tammy’s speech did motivate me to work harder on the court, in the classroom, and in everyday life. These programs have encouraged students in the past and I’m certain students attending this year’s programs will continue to be encouraged.