Students, sports, service: Athletes balance school work, team commitments, community service


Red Rage selling candy and pins for hurricane relief. Photo submitted by Emily Olson

Allison Nick, Staff Reporter

With volunteers being extremely sought after, student athletes across the country are being called on by their coaches and their community to serve. But for students working to balance academics and athletics, volunteer work may be too much to handle.

“They need to take care of their school work first,” said Athletic Director Troy Parola emphasizing the student in “student-athlete. “‘Student-athlete.’ So school first, athlete second.”

Although he said he does not believe that student athletes should be required to complete community service, he stated that it is still encouraged.

“I don’t want to say it’s mandatory, but I feel it’s an important part of being part of an athletic program,” said Parola.

Completing community service, though its main purpose is to benefit the community, also creates a positive impression of each individual, the team and MHS as a whole.

“Being an athlete, you’re supposed to be representing the community, so appearing at community service events would make the whole athletic community look good, too,” said senior varsity dance team captain Emily Olson.

The MHS athletic community has been involved in various local, national and global service activities. Various sports teams have participated in events, such as Feed My Starving Children, where they pack meals for children in less fortunate areas of the world, and Adopt-A-Family, where they provide a local family in need with gifts to make their holidays a little brighter.

The outreach from MHS has even gone beyond the Village of Mundelein with Red Rage Hurricane Relief earlier this year. The school, athletes and non-athletes alike, worked to gain donations to help those affected by the severe hurricanes in Texas.

Larry Calhoun, varsity football coach, said he encourages this type of community outreach, though he agrees with Parola that the term “requirement” is too much.

“If it’s compulsory, then it kind of takes away the reason that you do that,” said Calhoun, who sees community service as a lesson for his players rather than an obligation.

As athletes are volunteering, they learn that they can place the same energy and dedication they bring to their studies and to their sport also to their community.

“They work hard, but they get a lot of benefits from that hard work, and so what I want them to do is learn that that’s a blessing not an entitlement,” said Calhoun. “I want them to learn that, in gratification for that blessing, to reach out and try to pay that forward.”