Lyndonville, VT - In addition to competing on the pitch the Northern Vermont University-Lyndon men's soccer team has had a busy fall working with young people throughout the local area. Team members have regularly contributed their time, talents, and energy working with Lyndon Area Youth Soccer (LAYS), the Catamount Community Hours (CatCH) After School Program at St. Johnsbury School, and the St. Johnsbury School 3rd/4th Grade boys soccer team.
LAYS typically serves players from Lyndon, Burke, Sutton, Newark, Kirby, Sheffield, Wheelock, and East Haven, but accepts players from anywhere. The program serves about 230 children a year. Approximately 80 of those children participate in the 3rd through 6th grade program that travels to play teams in other towns, while 150 children are involved in the Pre-K to 2nd grade program that runs at the Lyndon Town School fields on six Saturday mornings in the fall from 9:00am to 10:00am starting the weekend after Labor Day.
For the last five years the Lyndon men's soccer team has joined the Saturday morning program whenever they are not traveling away for games. They have both supported parent coaches, and lead the coaching efforts for the young players of LAYS.
Elly Barksdale, a member of the LAYS board of directors, commented "It is wonderful to see the relationships that form over the course of a few weeks, and for some of these young men and children now, over the last few years. The Lyndon team has inspired our Pre-K through 2nd graders and the greater community with their service, skill, kindness, energy and generosity, hopefully setting the president for these youngsters that when they grow older they will give back to their community, be it through soccer, or by some other means."
CatCH began in 2015 and is now in its fourth year. The program served 174 1st through 5th graders in 2017-2018. CatCH targets a high needs population, as 108 out of 174 participants received free or reduced price lunch. The Program works to provide an inclusive, enriching, after school experience for students and families, in a safe supportive environment.
Program offerings include Physical Activity, Health & Wellness, STEM, Arts & Music, Nature & Outdoor Life, Academic Supports, and beyond. Fun Friday! Physical Activties are supported by the St. Johnsbury School staff and Community Partners. Typically 50 students are enrolled in Fun Fridays.
CatCH began its collaboration with the Lyndon men's soccer team in 2015. The team comes to the school throughout the school year and leads and engages in a number of outside and inside recreational activties including soccer, capture the flag, team building games, tag, and so on.
Sarah Willey, CatCH After School Program Director, remarked "These young men have built positive connections and have been strong role models for our St J kids. This collaboration has become a valued part of the CatCH program. The first question I am asked every Friday afternoon by our CatCH students is, "when are the soccer players coming?". We hope that we can continue this partnership with the Lyndon men's soccer team for years to come."
The St. Johnsbury School 3rd/4th Grade team is run through the St. Johnsbury Recreation Department. Hornet head coach Rob Carey, assistant Jason Marks, and Hornet players frequently volunteer their time to teach the youngsters the finer points of the game.
Carey places a premium on his team's involvement in the community. "The men's soccer team is involved in a variety of community service projects. The generalized purpose is to create a symbiotic relationship with our community. Our student athletes are given an opportunity to help give back to the surrounding communities, while also becoming part of something bigger than themselves. The work they do is positively impactful and beneficial to the local youth. They are seen as role models, leaders and community members."
Senior captain Nolan Matthews (Massapequa, NY) shared his thoughts. "As a team, community service gives us the opportunity to give back to the community and get to know some of the kids by spending our time playing games with them at their after school programs and coaching them on Saturday mornings. What community service means to me is the fact I get to spend my time getting to know some of the kids that come to our games and being a positive role model for the ones that look up to me and the team."
Senior captain Abukar Hassan (South Burlington, VT) added "What our community service means to me is that we get the chance to make a difference in these kids live by providing a positive outlet where kids can spend their free time after being in the classroom for such a long time. We're helping our community's future by helping them participate in such activities that will help them with plenty of life skills and lessons. We also help them increase social bonds and meaningful connections while serving as their positive role models and leaders. This also means everything to our team because we look forward to brightening these kids day. The countless love and support we get from these kids are what keeps us going. I always leave there with a smile on my face."
The Hornets return to action this weekend when they travel to Maine Maritime Academy for a North Atlantic Conference matchup. Game time is 6:30 pm on Saturday. The next home contest is on Wednesday, October 3rd, when NVU-Johnson visits Varsity Field for a 3:30 pm start.