Giving life lessons on and off the field
by Staff Writer
HUNTERSVILLE – With their unique give-and-take philosophy, the Lake Norman Sports Academy truly is a “new kind of youth sports program”, as stated by their website. The academy teaches boys the fundamentals of football, basketball and conditioning, but they’re most proud of the lessons taught off the playing field.
The coaches and administrators at the academy are volunteers and want to show their boys the value of helping others.
“We’ve made a commitment to the boys,” said Gavin McIntyre, community service director at the academy. “We’re going to provide instruction and workouts for them to develop their skills as an athlete, but for every four workouts they receive, we would like them to give back one service.”
The academy has established a partnership with several nonprofit organizations, including Second Harvest Food Bank, Crisis Assistance Ministry and Society of St. Andrews, for the boys to perform their community service.
Recently, the boys helped out Angels and Sparrows Soup Kitchen in Huntersville.
Originally hoping they could help serve food, the boys were surprised to find out that they would be doing some manual labor to touch up the grounds outside.
For two hours the boys– ages 8 to 17- weeded flowerbeds, built new ones and even planted a new rose bush above the picnic area. A Huntersville company donated the landscaping design, and Metrolina Greenhouse in Huntersville chipped in the plants.
Abe Van Wingerden, who has two sons participating in the program, said all the boys jumped right into the work: “no long faces” or “bad attitudes.” And while the boys worked hard, they still managed to have a little bit of fun.
“While we were working, we’d take some turns riding in the wheelbarrow,” said Kyle Madigan, one of the youngest at 10. “Instead of using the wheelbarrow to take the dirt away, sometimes we’d scoop a bunch of dirt in our shirts and take it to the pile that way. It was kind of fun.”
McIntyre and Van Wingerden said it’s important to teach the younger generation the importance of giving back.
“Nothing makes me more proud as a coach and father than to see these kids, and my two sons, get involved like this,” Van Wingerden said. “The skill sets they are learning on the athletic field are great, but what they are learning as part of the community outreach portion of the Lake Norman Sports Academy is more valuable to me.”
Van Wingerden’s 14-year-old son, Noah, said he enjoyed the feeling of giving back, even if it meant giving up a Saturday.
“I felt worn out … It was hard work,” Noah said. “But I was proud of myself and our group for having done something for the community.”
The boys’ outreach didn’t just stay at the soup kitchen however. They also brought it home to their parents.
“I think it’s great that the academy created all these weekend opportunities for kids and families to get involved in,” Karen Madigan, Kyle’s mother, said. “While serving others is still important to us, we found it harder and harder to make it a priority. I’m grateful they have basically ‘paved the way’ for us to show up jump in, and help.”
Want to know more?
The Lake Norman Sports Academy has plans for several more community service projects this month. Find more information about the group and how to get involved at its website, www.LNSAcademy.com.