By Jess Perkins
This year marks the first community service competition that the Student Athlete Advisory Committee is holding for the student athletes. Athletes will compete to see which team gets the most community service hours, which involves cleaning up campus and reading to kids. Points are kept for how many hours each team performs community service on campus. By the end of the competition, whichever team has the most points will be recognized by the Malone Sports Awards at the end of the school year. They will be given a community service award, along with T-shirts. The co-advisors of the committee and the competition are Bill Eddins, head coach of the women’s golf team, and Kathryn Bzdafka, head coach of the softball team. The coaches and student athletes also work with Physical Plant, which is headed by Russ Thorn, to organize what needs to be done on campus. The competition consists of ways for student athletes to perform community service on campus, such as raking leaves, weeding, trimming the plant life and stick removal. Cleanup includes all dorm hall areas, the courtyards, classroom buildings, East Campus, the cafeteria, and the sidewalks. Each team is assigned tasks and the team’s representatives coordinate with their teammates to find times they can complete their community service hours. Due to COVID-19, the student athletes cannot go out and perform community services for others outside of campus. Despite this, their initiatives are not only helpful for students and campus, but are also helpful to the Physical Plant workers. The athletes are also involved in Second and Seven, a nationwide program that allows athletes from all over the country to read books to children in second-grade. Usually, they would go to surrounding schools and read to second graders face-to-face, but to adapt to COVID-19, the stories are being read aloud by team members and sent as a video recording. Athletes that participate in the competition wear their uniforms or Malone attire while they read. Then, that recording will be uploaded and sent to schools throughout the country through the program. “We’re collectively raising the standard at Malone,” Bzdafka said. According to Eddins and Bzdafka, there is a great turnout for those participating in the program, and this is a good representation of Malone to the outside community. “The competition is between each team, but ultimately the winner is Malone,” Eddins said. This is the first time that the committee has done anything like this. One goal is for student athletes to take ownership. They are trying to promote servant leadership, which is part of what Malone represents. Abby Reynolds, a senior on the swimming and diving team, is the co-president of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee. She states that the attitudes of the students are receptive to the community service. Since most of the sports teams’ seasons haven’t started yet due to COVID-19, they have more free time to participate. Although all Malone teams are participating in the competition, the only fall sports having a regular season are men’s and women’s golf and cross country. The other sports’ seasons are moved to the spring, but practices and scrimmages are happening this semester. Winter sports like swimming and basketball are scheduled, but practices and matches are still uncertain. “With high contact sports… it’s easier for COVID-19 to go from player to player,” Reynolds said. The current swim team practices are optional. Swimmers are required to wear masks until they start swimming, and they need to be separated and start on different sides of the pool in order to be as socially distanced as possible. “[The competition aims to] give back and take care of the campus community,” Eddins said. Even with these blows to team morale, the overall reception of the community service competition has been positive. Amid the playful competition and uncertain times, they are providing brightness and hope on campus and in the Canton community.