May 23, 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."
This past Wednesday I was blessed and honored to have the opportunity to participate in a Team Prime Time Event with my fellow teammates Nick Crissman, Sean Sheller, Donovan Carter and Glenn Love. The Man Maker Wednesday started off with each one of us giving a brief introduction to the Palms Middle School students who are the mentors and coaches. Donovan Carter represented the football team quite well explaining to the students what it takes to become a successful student and to never give up in life. Following the introduction of the team, we all gathered in two lines and gave high fives to all the athletes that were participating that day.
After high fives an athlete by the name of Blake displayed his talents by singing a song that he created on his own which was intriguing. The name of it was 'Summertime.' When Blake was done, we all split up into different groups between basketball and soccer. Prior to walking over to the soccer field, I had at least a 15+minute conversation with two middle school kids named Keenan and Chris about the Greek Gods that was very impressive. Both in the seventh grade, these kids named each Greek God, what they were a God of, how Zeus became married and the story of Hercules; we definitely need a class at UCLA about Greek Gods because that stuff was interesting. Chris also stated how he aspires to go to Harvard on an academic scholarship; I'll work on recruiting him to come to UCLA when he gets a bit older.
On the soccer field my team had some great athletes, especially standouts such as Liam and William. Liam was our leading scoring with three goals, running up and down the field encouraging his teammates to compete and have fun. William, a fourth grader was very motivating and made sure I was participating and didn't hold back. During each time that my team had the possession of the ball, he would come up to me and say 'run like a real football player' and if I was slacking he would tell me 'that's not good enough run, run.'
My team also had great coaches such as Brittney and Jordon. Both are middle school kids that volunteered to come and be a part of Prime Time Games. I had a chance to talk to both of them and asked them the same question, 'What makes you want to be a part of Prime Time Games.' Brittney answered by saying "it makes me feel better about myself because I love to give back and help others and any chance I have to do that I'll take it." Jordon answered "it's what I want to do in life. I love helping people that aren't as fortunate as me because it makes me appreciate life more and I also feel better about myself for doing that." These are two great middle school kids that displayed great character and leadership to the other coaches during the soccer games.
Lastly, it was great to be back working with Prime Time games again. It was my third time being a part of the program and working with Peter Straus as well as our strength and conditioning Coach Mike Linn. Prime Time games it a great way for athletes to give back to the community and also be role models and leaders at the same time. I'm hoping that we inspire other college programs around the country to adopt Prime Time Games and make it an annual event at their schools. It gives you a different outlook on life that you won't see unless your a part of something such as Prime Time Games.