Lessons in life and sports


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Every Monday, a group of Iowa athletes wake up early, ready to lead.

But rather than leading their respective sports teams during practice, they lead a classroom filled with lively fifth- and sixth-graders at Roosevelt Elementary, 611 Greenwood Drive.

According to the organization’s website, Hawkeye P.R.I.D.E. is a program that matches Iowa student-athletes with local elementary-school students in an effort to teach youngsters how to become better students.

The program’s acronym stands for perseverance, respect, integrity, determination, and equality — all lessons that can be taught from a sports perspective.

“I think sports have a lot of life lessons,” said program director Erica Clausen, who is a senior goalkeeper on the Iowa soccer team. “As an athlete, you are put in a lot of difficult positions in your life. I think as student-athletes, we embrace all of those five attributes of what we teach in P.R.I.D.E.”

A division of the Iowa Student Athlete Advisory Committee, the group began in 2002. Athletes from all sports are encouraged to volunteer.

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Soccer, softball, volleyball, track, and swimming and diving were all represented on Monday when players ventured to Roosevelt.

Clausen led the day’s session on equality, and teams of students were challenged to build the tallest structure out of different objects.

Sixth-grader Jessie Harder said the activity helped her understand the importance of equality and fairness, and her team learned to work together to complete its structure.

Senior softball player and volunteer Lindsey Digmann said that was exactly what te the goal of the program.

“Just being respectful toward each other and learning how to work together,” she said. “I think hearing some of our stories will give them the determination to be able to do whatever they want. Being able to take those things that you learn and bring them to the kids and show them that they can do it, even thought they’re only in fifth and sixth grade, I think that helps a lot.”

Volunteers followed the activity with an open discussion in which some Iowa athletes answered students’ questions.

Vicki Saunders, the teacher of the combined fifth- and sixth-grade classes, said she appreciates the volunteers’ time and energy.

“The program has been great on a couple of levels,” Saunders said. “It gives the kids a chance to interact with someone older besides just the regular teachers they see all the time. They have them up on a pedestal because of their sport.”

As aspiring teachers, both Clausen and Digmann receive important classroom experience through the organization. But it works both ways, they said.

“I love what I do and what I’m able to do in these classrooms,” Clausen said. “I walk away every day, and it puts a smile on my face, so I know I get a lot out of it. I also know the kids get a lot out of it.”

A member since her freshman year, Clausen said, she is satisfied with the effect the program has made on the students.

“For them to remember me and remember the activities we’ve done, I think it shows that this is a program that’s stuck with them. For these students to see that people in the community, especially student-athletes — some of which have large reputations — care about them. I think that is important to them.”

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