By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
If you want to take the time to give some time to support New Mexico athletics, there are a number of good reasons to do so.
The events are fun. The act of going gets you off the couch. You are supporting events, teams and deserving student-athletes that represent your community and your state.
And here’s another reason that you might not realize.
You are giving back to a group of outstanding citizens, who already have given a whole lot to their community and their state.
“We get amazing support from our community and it’s an honor and a responsibility to give back,” said Kit Vela, the University of New Mexico’s women’s soccer coach.
Said Jeremy Fishbein, the Lobo men’s soccer coach: “We don’t do community service just to clock hours. I believe individuals have an obligation to give back, not just to your community, but to humanity. You should want to be that type of person.
“You always want your athletes to do community service because of what they get out of it on a personal level and not because they have to do it,” said Fish. “I know the majority of our athletes do it for the right reasons.”
You can’t look into the heart of each Lobo coach, student-athlete and administrator to know the motivation behind community service. However, you can toss out the hours given and see the value of it.
The Lobos generated 7,804 hours of community service in the school year of 2012-13. In case you think that is a misprint, let’s toss out the number again: 7,804. You divide that number into 10-hour days and that’s 780.4 days – in about a 10-month span. That number hovers around 22,000 hours over the past three school years.
“What I’m proud about the most is that a lot of our players do things on their own and aren’t even trying to get attention for it,” said Fishbein. “They don’t even list their hours. They just do it because they get satisfaction out of it.”
Said Kurt Esser, a senior associate athletics director at UNM: “A lot of our student-athletes do more than what is listed. We do a significant amount, but we don’t do it just to make an impressive list. We’re proud of it, but besides helping our community, an important aspect is maybe inspiring other people to give back to the community.”
When you give more than 7,000 hours of volunteer service to your community and your state, you can’t help but form an impressive list. Here are some of the areas that benefited from UNM reaching out to the community that supports the Lobos:
The Heart Gallery of NM Foundation, United Way, Coaches vs Cancer, Special Olympics, American Heart Association, a variety of projects with APS and schools around the state, UNM Children’s Hospital, Carrie Tingley, St. Jude Children’s Hospital, the VA Hospital, a variety of organization that fight cancer, heart disease, hospital visits, Red Cross, programs that assist the elderly, programs to benefit youth sports or community centers, Rotary Club, Toys For Tots, Bible Study groups, Boys & Girls Club of America, March of Dimes, State Fair events, Down Syndrome, American Lung Association, Diabetes fundraisers, fundraisers for firefighters.
The list goes on and on, but Lobo student-athletes have even donated time to improve hiking trails, have held food and clothing drives and have helped build houses for the needy.
“You give back for multiple reasons,” said Vela. “One reason is keeping our humility. We need to remember and appreciate how fortunate we are to be on an athletic team. There are a lot of people who don’t have the opportunities that we have.
“There are a lot of people in our community that need help and we should be one of the groups providing support. You need to give before you get and giving is invaluable. Our athletes also need to remember that they are role models and people look up to them.”
As always, there has been a huge amount of community service dedicated to the youth of Albuquerque via time given to APS, youth groups, community centers and other schools and youth clubs around the state.
“It seems that each sport gravitates to certain areas and that’s only natural,” said Esser. “Kids always look up to the Lobos. “I think everyone who extends a helping hand to someone else ultimately realizes that they also are rewarded for the experience.”
Editor’s Note: Richard Stevens is a former award-winning Sports Columnist and Associate Sports Editor at The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.