Campus & Community

Making a Difference — Busy Crimson athletes find time to contribute to local community

4 min read
Members of Harvard’s football team share a laugh with local kids during the 1999 Sports Fest held at UMass-Boston. The annual sports and mentoring event is sponsored by the Boston Police Department Youth and Student Athlete Collaborative, of which Harvard is a member. Harvard will play host to this year’s Sports Fest on April 28, when 1,000 local children will converge on the athletic complex to take lessons from student-athletes and coaches from five area colleges. Courtesy of Sports Media Relations.

To many, the most remarkable element of Harvard’s extensive athletics program – and its high level of success – is that its athletes must be just as dedicated to excellence in academics as in competition. Competing in the Ivy League, and especially for Harvard, brings a dual responsibility for each member of Harvard’s 41 varsity teams.

It is all the more impressive, then, that despite the already exhausting demands on their time as both outstanding athletes and students, so many who wear the Crimson are also investing so much of themselves in a wide variety of community outreach programs.

These include efforts such as the Harvard Student Athlete Partnership and individual team programs such as Squash Busters and the Inner City Golf Program. There is also a citywide collaborative effort among the Boston Police Department and five local universities, Harvard, Northeastern, Boston University, Boston College, and UMass-Boston.

The Boston Police Department Youth and Student Athlete Collaborative works to bring local youth together with student-athletes and coaches for learning, mentoring and – most importantly – fun.

On April 28, Harvard will host Sports Fest, one of the largest outreach programs at the University. This daylong event, which takes place during the Boston Public Schools’ spring vacation, features coaching clinics and lunch for boys and girls involved with the Boston Police program. Last year, at UMass-Boston, more than 400 children participated in what was a great day for all involved.

This year, Harvard will also invite boys and girls from the Harvard Student Athlete Partnership. The goals of the Partnership include creating a comprehensive outreach program utilizing Harvard’s Department of Athletics facilities, coaches, student-athletes, and administrators. More than 60 student-athletes volunteer in classrooms, reading to children in an effort to get the students excited about learning and reading. Approximately 500 stu dents from the Partnership will join 500 students from the Police Program at Sports Fest.

Sports Fest is just one of several events held in conjunction with the Boston Police Program. Others include Boston Police Youth Day at Harvard Stadium and National Girls and Women in Sports Day. Both of these events involve Harvard players and coaches hosting local youth at the University.

In addition to these Department-wide efforts, individual teams are active in their own outreach programs.

Members of the men’s golf team participate in the winter component of the Inner City Golf Program, providing instruction from December through April to youth ages 10 to 15.

The Harvard tennis and squash teams are also active in mentoring programs for local students. The Squash Busters program involves teaching youth the game of squash, as well as providing academic support and life skills. The Tenacity program has similar goals, with men’s and women’s tennis players and coaches working to not only teach local youth the game of tennis, but to build sound values and enhance academic performance.

The Cambridge Jets are a local youth track team that partners with the Harvard women’s track team. There are about 16 girls on the Jets, ranging in ages from 8 to 14. The two teams cheer at each other’s meets and attend activities ranging from dinners to a trip to the Children’s Museum. Members of the women’s track team serve as mentors to their younger counterparts and teach them about the collegiate experience and life as a student-athlete – and of course how to be faster, higher, and stronger.

There are many other examples of Harvard teams reaching out to share their experiences and mentor local students. From football clinics to volleyball lessons, opportunities abound for Harvard’s student-athletes and local youth to work and learn together. To learn more about community outreach programs in the Athletic Department, check out the new link on the Harvard Athletics Web site at