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What it Means to be a T.I.G.E.R!
By: Gavin Oliver
For Clemson student-athletes, being a Tiger means more than putting on a jersey, participating in competitions and attending class. Student-athletes are held to a higher standard with the watchful eyes of adoring youngsters frequently looking on. The duty of being a Tiger means giving back to the community that supports Clemson athletics and reciprocating the appreciation and love the community provides throughout the year. This is done in part by showing people what it means to “Be a T.I.G.E.R!”
“Being a Tiger means giving back to the community.”
Be a T.I.G.E.R! Field Day is one of the many community service events in which Clemson student-athletes take part. The Solid Orange Squad, a group of student-athlete volunteers, hosts the field day each year on the day of Clemson’s spring football game. Participating students learn the character education program of Teamwork, Integrity, Gratitude, Education and Respect, while spending the day with Clemson student-athletes and competing for prizes in both physical and non-physical activities. The Solid Orange Squad was created and once coordinated by former Director of Community Relations for the Athletic Department and former Clemson volleyball coach Linda White.
According to the official site of Clemson University Athletics, the SOS is the first and only Division I University organization to incorporate a focused character education program in all student-athlete personal appearances, service projects and community work.
Spotlight on Community Service
One member of SOS, senior rower Kerianne Pacheco, knows the weight she and other athletes bear as role models to children in the community. “It is important to teach kids about these traits so they can incorporate them into their lives and strive for the best in their futures,” Pacheco said. “As a Clemson student-athlete, children really look up to us for guidance, so it gives me pride that I can make a difference in their lives.” However, with players juggling schoolwork, numerous hours of practice, competitions and other team-related activities, it can be difficult to find time for community service events. Alexa Rand, graduate assistant for Student-Athlete Community Engagement, organizes the participation of student-athletes in community service as part of the university’s Student-Athlete Enrichment Program. In addition to having to work with the players’ schedules, some community groups request appearances by specific athletic teams, which makes coordination even more complex.
“The Student Athlete Enrichment Program is making a difference.”
As a former Clemson volleyball player who made three Academic All-ACC teams and lettered four times as a four-year starter, Rand understands the life of a student-athlete and tries to balance that with the needs of the community. Rand recalled one of her favorite displays of community service: a celebratory gathering of Boy Scouts in Jervey Gym, the indoor practice facility and rowing boathouse. “There were about 200 Boy Scouts who came, and we were just kind of honoring them and congratulating them on the work they’d done. We had football, volleyball, and rowing. It was this big event, and they got to go to all the different stations and hang out with them,” Rand said.
Due to a desire of student-athletes to participate in community service and Rand’s ability to coordinate the events, the Student-Athlete Enrichment Program is making a difference — and statistics show it. In fall 2014, after Rand occupied her position, many of Clemson’s 450 student-athletes came together to serve approximately 805 hours of service in the community and surrounding areas. “I started here in August,” Rand said, “and basically requests just started to come in, for anything from tours of athletic facilities or just reading to students at different elementary schools, stuff like that. I find athletes to do those events and send them out.” Numerous service opportunities are taken on by Tigers, including the Clemson football team’s help in building a house in Anderson for Habitat of Humanity, which was later continued by rowers, and the Women’s Tennis Team serving food to young people at the Collin’s Children Home in Seneca. Student-athletes are often the ones helping freshmen move into their dorms each year, as was the case of the Women’s Basketball team last August for new residents of Clemson House. In October, student-athletes from a number of sports spoke to students in the West End Zone of Clemson’s Memorial Stadium to emphasize the importance of education as a first priority. Student-athletes also participate in Real Men Read, an organization that encourages the reading of books to young male students. Integrating student-athletes from Clemson’s 15 sports teams into an ongoing community outreach initiative is a complex process, but the focus of the program and those involved is simple: collaboration, service and hard-work.
Rand and those in the office of Student-Athlete Community Engagement are bringing these goals to life.
Written By: Gavin Oliver
Gavin Oliver was a junior English major with a concentration in Writing and Publication Studies and a minor in Sports Communication. He also interned with a few sports media outlets in The (Seneca) Journal, IPTAY Athletic Media and Tiger Illustrated. He also worked in Strode Tower as a Student Assistant for the Business Support Services office of the College of Arts, Architecture and Humanities.