Bobcats making an impact in the community

The men's soccer team is one of many Bates athletics teams engaging with the Lewiston/Auburn community and beyond throughout the year. (Photo courtesy of Tyler Sheikh/Bates College)

LEWISTON, Maine -- The Bates College athletic teams have been hard at work on the field, on the court, and in the water, as well as in the classroom. At the very same time, the Bobcats and their coaching staffs have been involved in a number of different community engagement projects this semester, logging over 140 hours to date. 

The Bobcats have had a consistent presence in the local schools this fall. Both the softball and football teams have been a part of the lunch buddies program at Lewiston Middle School. The softball and baseball teams served as mentors at Montello Elementary and the men's lacrosse team partnered with Lewiston High School and worked at their concession stand at soccer games.

"This fall we went to Montello Elementary to help with recess and to play with the kids," sophomore baseball player Peter Schuldt said. "This is one of our favorite activities we do as a team because we have so much fun with the kids. It's really important to us because many members of the team had older people and athletes to look up to as children and if we can be a role model or an inspiration to the children then we have been successful."

Teams have also hosted a number of youth clinics to share their knowledge and skills with the younger generation. The squash team hosted a Rally Portland Squash Clinic in September and swim team has been teaching swim lessons. The women's and men's basketball teams also ran a clinic for elementary school students in the Auburn Boys and Girls Club, and field hockey held a clinic in late September.

"We have an obligation and responsibility to share our knowledge of the game with local players, especially local youth at PCS (Portland Community Squash), but it's also really fun for our coaches and students to meet kids who are so eager to learn the game and hone their skills," men's and women's squash head coach Pat Cosquer '97 said. "We have players of all abilities and from across the globe, so our influence and ability to affect change has the potential to be great. It's a wonderful feeling to be able to watch those kids who we help grow and develop their squash game, and to know that we played a small role, and seeing them at our matches cheering for Bates is what it's all about."

Both the squash and swim teams have volunteered at the local food pantry, and the men's soccer team has spent time helping out at a local shelter. The men's lacrosse team also continued their annual effort to donate gift cards for less fortunate Lewiston High School students. The squash, women's basketball and softball teams have visited with the elderly at nursing homes in the area sharing meals and partaking in holiday activities.

"Engaging with the community is an important part of being a student at Bates," women's basketball head coach Alison Montgomery said. "Civic engagement is central to the mission at Bates, and it is important that our student-athletes reflect that commitment. Being selfless and having perspective are values we discuss often within the context of our team. Giving back to the community is a reflection of those values, and is always a fun, rewarding, and humbling experience for our student-athletes."

"As a new coach I wanted to set up one or two recurring services the team could do," men's soccer head coach Tyler Sheikh said. "The meal preparation and service at one of Lewiston's shelters was a great way for the lads to help. Our students are part of the fabric of the Lewiston/Auburn area and through President Spencer's leadership Bates has really made an impact. Equally, our students are impacted by service to others."

The squash teams, the field hockey team, the women's soccer team, the women's basketball team, and the men's rowing team took on efforts to support the fight against cancer. The squash teams hosted a Vs. Cancer match against Trinity in December to highlight their efforts raising funds to fight pediatric brain cancer. The field hockey team had a NESCAC Play4theCure game in October, the women's soccer team held a Lace Up 4 Pediatric Cancer game against Colby where they wore gold laces to raise awareness, and the men's rowing team participated in Real Men Wear Pink with the American Cancer Society. In addition, the women's basketball team ran in the Dempsey Challenge in October to raise money for cancer research/awareness.

"I feel that we're all very fortunate to be able to be playing a great game in such a nurturing and supportive environment," Cosquer said. "We've all been given so much by Bates and by squash, and so I believe it's important to give back to both in whatever way we can, individually and collectively as a program."

The field hockey team also drew attention to additional important causes throughout their season with a Green Dot Game during Green Dot Week at Bates. The Green Dot mission fosters a safe community where social norms are transformed to show that violence is not tolerated and that everyone can play a part in violence prevention. Field hockey also held an American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Game after a week of fundraising to support the cause, and had an Operation Gratitude and Veterans support game where they collected donations for the organization.

The Bobcats will continue their efforts over the break and into next semester with more clinics including the alpine ski team's "Ski with a Bobcat" event and the softball team's annual clinic, along with a number of mentorship opportunities for local students on the horizon.