From the outside looking in, it’s easy to view college sports with a sense of triviality. In the grand scheme of things, what does it matter who wins any given game from week to week, or even any league championship from one year to the next?
Of course, there exists unseen values and lessons embedded within the college sports lifestyle – communication skills, camaraderie, perseverance, work ethic, success and failure, to name a few – but there are much bigger things taking place outside of the workouts, practices, and games themselves.
Countless organizations from America’s colleges and universities engage in community outreach, volunteering, and fundraising efforts for social inadequacies, disease, and other decent causes. This past Saturday, the men and women of Colby College lacrosse teamed up and participated in the Dempsey Challenge 5K in Lewiston, Maine for the second consecutive year. This event, sponsored by actor Patrick Dempsey, raises money to help find cures for various types of cancer, and each member of Colby lacrosse is tasked with raising $150 in donations for this cause.
The departure from Waterville comes before sunrise with delirious attitudes and a light rain. Though after a few minutes on the road, cups of coffee and morning light brighten the day as well as the players’ moods. The hour-long drive goes quickly, and as the teams near Lewiston, the rain dies out completely. Upon arrival to this charming Maine city, Colby’s athletes make their way to the field where registration is located. Other participants flock to this area as well where white tents are set up housing food and beverage, vendor items, a stage, and other fair-like attractions for post-run festivities. But first there is a 5K to complete.
Runners convene at the starting line in a massive crowd, and after a few words from promoters (including Patrick Dempsey himself), begin their trek to the finish. With supporters lining the 3.1-mile route and cheering the participants on, it’s not hard to find motivation. The course winds through residential areas of the town, over two beautiful bridges, and up a final stretch lined with posters honoring those fighting cancer as well as those who have lost their lives to the terrible affliction. However, despite the solemnity induced by this final leg of the race, an air of hope and happiness resides over the grounds surrounding the finish line. After completion of the run, participants are able to rejoice in the prospect of a brighter future while they enjoy a beer and a hearty breakfast under the splendid Maine sky.
Not only is this a team bonding opportunity, but it allows the college athletes to demonstrate their ability to contribute to something bigger than themselves and outside the realm of sports. And while there will always exist those who do not see the importance of college athletics, Colby’s participation in the Dempsey Challenge is one tangible way to prove the positive, real-world effects of sports.