Athletes drawn to Adopt-a-School program

One-year-old program still expanding as WolfPack athletes help out in local schools

The WolfPack men's volleyball team signing autographs for visiting school kids. (TRU Athletics)

The WolfPack men’s volleyball team signing autographs for visiting school kids. (TRU Athletics)

The WolfPack’s involvement with the Adopt-a-School program was a factor for some athletes, like Douglas Groenendijk and Sam Taylor-Parks, in deciding to come to TRU. Both Groenendijk and Taylor-Parks are passionate about mentoring youth and want to bring that into their sport.

The program offers WolfPack players the chance to help out with PE classes, read with students and generally help out however they can.

“I remember older kids coming to my school and teaching me how to play different sports and I just loved it,” Groenendijk said. “It helps so much having a mentor, especially to look up to and try to become better than them.”

Groenendijk, who helped assist youth teams during high school, volunteers alongside Matt Lofgren at Juniper Elementary, where they teach the fundamentals of volleyball to a team of Grades 4 to 7 students. Groenendijk said the main thing that sticks out to him about the program is how happy it makes the kids.

Taylor-Parks, a recruit for next season, has been involved in coaching middle school, high school and beach volleyball teams and is excited to continue working with youths. He is also looking forward to more community involvement.

“When I was down at the tournament that TRU had a couple weeks ago, there were probably 1,500 people there and I just think that’s so cool that the community actually comes out and watches them,” he said. “I think it would be fun to get involved with the community and really get known in Kamloops.”

Jake Schmidt, assistant coach of men’s volleyball and principal of Pacific Way Elementary, believes the program is also bringing kids to the sport.

“The kids that are getting to know some of the athletes come out to the games. They just love it when the players come by. They know them by name and they want to hangout with them and talk to them and you can just see that they want to follow in their footsteps,” he said.

The Adopt-a-School program was started last year by men’s volleyball head coach Pat Hennelly and involved eight elementary schools. This year it added two more schools to the list.

“The big expansion has been adding the women’s volleyball team. We have a bigger roster by five athletes and women’s volleyball has 17 players so it is going to add up to more visits,” Hennelly said.

Through the program both men and women volleyball players visit different elementary schools once or twice a week until December. The players help the kids with everything from volleyball to math, depending on what the teacher needs.

“What we’re going to trying to do this year is mix it up. I try to make it focus more on the academics but the players and the kids also like it to be an intramural activity at the lunch hour or to help out with some of the P.E. classes,” Schmidt said.

“The kids all know who the WolfPack [players] are. They’re just amazed that these big guys are here to help them and when they actually kneel down and help them with the activity they’re doing, it’s just the biggest thrill.”

Schmidt and Hennelly are working on expanding the program and hope to see growth continue in the sport and in the WolfPack.