Bowl week events continued for the fourth edition of the Bahamas Bowl as the organisers attempted to extend their community outreach and interaction between visiting players and locals.
Student athletes and spirit squads from both the Ohio University Bobcats and UAB Blazers participated in community-building exercises with aspiring youth football players on Wednesday.
First up, the contingent visited the Ranfurly Homes for Children, and in the second event on yesterday’s schedule, they hosted a Youth Football Leadership Clinic, in conjunction with USA Football, at the fields opposite the original Thomas A Robinson Stadium.
At the youth clinic, dozens of students from kindergarten to high school players took part in various drills by the USA Football staff players.
The camp facilitated dozens of aspiring football players between the ages of seven and 13. Players from both schools and USA Football staff demonstrated basic drills throughout the afternoon covering passing, catching, blocking and tackling. It proved to be a rewarding experience, not just for the participants but for the student athletes themselves. Timothy Alexander, motivational speaker and character coach for UAB, said he considers it an honour to be in the Bahamas and to interact with the players at the clinic. “It was very humbling and I loved that I got to share this experience with the kids. My mother introduced me to the game of football at five years old and just to be back out here showing my love and just having the ability to give them my knowledge people gave me, it has been very remarkable,” he said. “Just to see these kids happy and smiling and to be around athletes to give them the understanding that they can be anything they put their mind to, was a blessing to be in such an environment. It was emotional for me because I remember being that age and being around college athletes and to see even the little ladies having fun and playing with the guys it just really touched me and it was an honour to be here in the Bahamas but it was a greater honour to give back.”
Alexander, a former football player who was paralysed after a 2006 car accident, saw his inspirational story garner national attention when he was assisted out of his wheelchair to take the first steps on Legion Field and present the game ball to officials in UAB’s return to college football.
Bobcats senior linebacker and team captain, Quentin Poling, has participated in several bowl games before and said the participation with local student athletes is traditionally one of his favourite events of bowl week.
“It’s a fun time to come to a different counter and work with kids, asking them personal questions about their life was rewarding. Bowl games usually have these community outreach projects and they’re always one of my favourite things to do during the week,” he said. “There was a lot of energy and it was fun and exciting to be out here. To teach the kids that did not know has been even more fun. That was probably the best part about the day.”
Chris Maddox, USA Football representative and clinic coordinator, said similar clinics could be integral in bringing some of the country’s many talented athletes to American football.
“It was fun watching the kids run around and have a great time, they are getting to interact with and even tackle these guys and they had a blast doing it,” he said in previous editions of the clinic.
“There are a lot of good athletes here that play other sports, they’re just now learning to play American football. It can crossover and as the popularity of the sport develops your better athletes will gravitate towards it. These kids watch the Super Bowl but they don’t get to go out and play with their buddies afterward. This provides a connection and all helps the sport to grow.”
The active Bowl week schedule began with team arrivals and a welcome reception for their respective contingents on Monday. Tuesday, the players and staff had an opportunity to see the Thomas A Robinson Stadium and were treated to a Beach Bash at the Atlantis Resort. Today will feature media day and the final walkthroughs before Friday’s kickoff.
The matchup between the Blazers and Bobcats is scheduled for 12:30pm on December 22 broadcasted live on ESPN and ESPN Radio.