It wasn't Tennessee versus Kentucky or Connecticut in hoops, but it was close to it. University of Tennessee student-athletes, accompanied by volunteers from the University's Team Vols community service program, hosted some 300 young people from Knoxville area Boys and Girls Clubs as part of the celebration of National Student-Athlete Day on the UT campus.
Student-athletes from nearly all men's and women's sports were on hand to share their lifestyles and experiences on the field of competition, in the classroom and in the community with the youngsters. It was an event termed by its sponsors as "April Play Day." An overriding theme of the event was for Vol players, University students and youngsters from the local community to get to know and understand each other better.
"The whole purpose of this 'April Play Day' is to get the student-athletes involved in the local community and bridge the gap between the Athletics Department, the University and the Boys and Girls Clubs. It's really a collective effort," Champs/Lifeskills Coordinator Vincent Martin from the Men's Athletic Department Office of Student Life said. "We have positive interaction between the students, the student-athletes and the kids. There are lot of things being accomplished. It's a lot of fun. We hope some good things, like mentorships, will come out of this program today. It is a spectacular event."
There was a carnival-like atmosphere with numerous activities, such as face-painting, pin the tail on Smokey, Balloon wrapping and several positive message skits performed by student-athletes. There were also several races and games, including an alpine slide, high ball and bungee run. The latter event was a challenge to even the biggest of the Vol football players. It made for some exciting moments and some good-natured heckling among the players.
National Student-Athlete Day, as proclaimed by Pres. Clinton, honors student-athletes and the network of parents, coaches, teachers and school systems who make it possible for young people to strike a balance between academics and athletic achievement. In a letter written before last year's celebration, Clinton said, "A healthy balance between sports and academics is essential to ensuring that our students are prepared for the challenge of the future."
The day was established by the National Consortium for Academics and Sports and is co-sponsored by the NCAA.