May 13, 2011
On Wednesdays, members of the football team, along with UCLA Head Athletic Performance Coach Mike Linn, visit Palms Middle School to participate in The Prime Time Games. The Prime Time Games is a full-inclusion sports program wherein at-risk middle school students from the Team Prime Time After School Program coach, mentor and play alongside young athletes with special needs, including autism and Down syndrome.
"This sports mentorship program brings together low income and special needs students, and provides a unique experience for our athletes," said Linn. "Different than most community service opportunities, this after-school program allows mentor-to-mentor interaction as well as an inclusive environment for the special needs participants.
"The goal at UCLA has always been to build the complete student-athlete; in the classroom, on the field and in the community. This is especially true with football, where player development should be as much about building character as it is improving physical abilities."
Almost a year ago from today, June 2010 to be exact, I was one of many UCLA athletes that were privileged to participate in a program called "Team Primetime" which was held on our campus. It was a great opportunity to meet with middle school and high school kids to not only be a role model in their lives, but to learn valuable lessons from them as well.
On Wednesday May 11th I was lucky enough to join teammates Glenn Love, Jay Barlow, Casey Griffiths and Nate Chandler at Palms Middle School to be a part of this program again. We were introduced to the middle school kids (coaches) who were excited to ask us questions about our sport and school, and then they told us what sports they wanted to play in college and what they wanted to major in. It was a great feeling to see how motivated they were to go to college, and coincidentally, the word of the week was confidence.
As the athletes arrived, we formed a cheer line and clapped them on as they ran down the line with high-fives and smiles everywhere. Then it was on to the basketball game. Both the coaches and the athletes were excited to play. What stood out to me the most is that these were mostly middle school kids that didn't care about winning or losing, missing shots, or who scored. They were able to compete and have fun without worrying about anything else. These kids helped me realize that I also need to enjoy and have fun with what I do because as student-athletes we forget about the aspect of what we do.
I was reunited with one of my athletes from June of last year by the name of Blake Roten, a kid that's the same height as me and very intelligent. It was a wonderful feeling to see how excited he was to see me after he finally recognized me from last year. He showed me a notebook full of comics that he drew up and talked about his favorite show, Family Guy. It helped me realize how important it is to these kids to see us and interact with us. I learned that we play a huge role in these kids' lives because by just giving them a high five or talking with them gives them a highlight to their day which is something that should never be taken for granted.
I look forward to working with these kids in the future and I am a firm believer that Team Primetime is beneficial for everyone who is blessed with an opportunity to be a part of it.