Feb. 4, 2011
Each Wednesday throughout the winter quarter, members of the football team, along with UCLA Head Athletic Performance Coach Mike Linn will 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."
On Wednesday my teammates Johnathan Franklin, Connor Bradford, Isaiah Bowens, Phillip Ruhl, and I had the great opportunity to visit Palms Middle School and work with Team Prime Time and Coach Mike Linn.
The day first started off with introductions of my teammates and I to the student coaches and Johnathan Franklin giving a small speech to the kids. He opened it up by asking the kids questions The answers that the student coaches gave in return were what really surprised me the most. One student said 'I have learned a lot from this program. I love giving back to the kids and I really appreciate everything that I have a lot more now.' This is what this program is all about. Soon after, the athletes arrived at the door, and we formed two long lines that they ran through as they entered the gym. Many of the kids immediately recognized Johnathan and I from the previous days we had spent time with them. It was amazing to see the excitement on their faces when they saw us.
The team that I coached was the Clippers and we played the Magic. The Magic were very well coached by Johnathan but we had two secret weapons. The first goes by the name of Jack. Jack was a player that I connected with immediately because he did not want to shoot the ball out of fear that he would miss. I convinced him to take turns shooting with me and low and behold he was lights out. Jack ended up being the leading scorer of the game, making 11 straight shots, each one as exciting as the last. Our second secret weapon was Casey. Every time Casey shot the ball it was from at least half court! While you might be thinking this is crazy, it is not at all. Casey easily has the best half court shot I have ever seen in my life. He made five shots from this distance. I was so impressed I tried to make a shot from his favorite spot and didn't even hit the backboard. I'm afraid my two secret weapons are not a secret anymore. Not only did all the kids show a great amount of skill but also showed a great amount of sportsmanship as well.
The day spent with the coaches and athletes could not have gone any better. It was great to see the relationships that the middle school students have built with these athletes. They do an amazing job working with the kids making the games as great as possible for them. While my teammates and I went to Palms Middle School to teach and mentor both groups of kids I can honestly say that I might have learned the most from the whole experience. I have worked with Team Prime Time about four times now and every time I walk away with new friends. I cannot wait until I have another opportunity to go back and work with kids. It is truly a special experience for everyone involved.