Kicking and digging: soccer and volleyball unite for the cause

By Jamie Macpherson

Last Friday, students at Macalester piled into bleachers both in the stadium and in the new gymnasium to watch the women’s soccer team beat St. Benedict 1-0, and the volleyball team take two out of three games against Bethel. But these were not ordinary games; in association with the Student Athletic Advisory Committee, the teams were participating in Breast Cancer Awareness Month, raising money for the Kick Cancer and Dig Pink foundations, (soccer and volleyball respectively). For one night, the women suited up in pink uniforms donated by Diadora, Soccer Express and Steichen’s to take on their opponents. The soccer team played with pink balls donated by Select. Mac fans enjoyed raffles, charity contests, and at the volleyball game, a special performance by Mac’s own hip hop team, Bodacious.

“It was a really big event,” Stephanie Schleuder, Head Coach for Women’s Volleyball said. “I was really pleased with the way it turned out.”

$2,261 in all were raised for both foundations. Donations were accepted in a variety of ways. Women’s soccer held a halftime charity event, and had a table set up near the concessions stand. In addition to the money raised at their game, the volleyball team used a website set up by Dig Pink so that out-of-town parents could also donate.

“We thought [Dig Pink] was a great idea,” said Sonia Muzikarova ’09, a member of the volleyball team. “You can use athletes to create immediate means to raise money because it involves a collective of people, versus an individual.”

“This went above and beyond just raising money,” Liz Hormann ’09, one of the women’s soccer captains said. “Every time you looked down and saw us wearing the pink uniform; you knew we were representing the cause.”

The seniors on the team had a personal connection to the event, Hormann explained, because they had known Leaney’s wife prior to being diagnosed. She also served as the team’s bookkeeper. “A lot of people know that story,” Hormann said. “This cause was important to us, to raise money in her name.”

Mac’s participation in Breast Cancer Awareness Month in part comes from a desire from the Athletic Department to be an active member of the Macalester community.

“One of the school’s mission statements is community involvement,” Leaney said. “I feel that every now and then, that means you have to do something. There’s a little responsibility in that we’re more fortunate by getting a private education.”

“As women and as a women’s team, breast cancer awareness is a very important cause in general to us, even despite the personal aspect,” Hormann said. “We were able to do something besides stick out a poster and [ask for money].”

For the volleyball team, participating in Dig Pink was empowering because it meant they were a part of something bigger than themselves.

“It’s highly symbolic,” Muzikarova said of wearing the pink uniform. “It marks the particular game as being played in the name of something . some kind of higher purpose. I just thought it was great that on the same day many teams were participating in the same idea, in the same symbols.”

“At halftime, [Leaney] told us to go out there and play hard and play for the cause,” Grace King ’09 co-captain of the soccer team said. Because of an injury, King watched the game from the sidelines. She said she felt that wearing the pink gave the team a little extra inspiration in their win against St. Bens. “I give a lot of credit to the organizers, and am so thankful, and I wish I could’ve played.

In addition to the victory against St. Bens, the Kick Cancer event was a very personal night for Leaney. Because the game took place only a week away from the anniversary of his wife’s death, he brought a picture of his wife to the game. “I did ask everybody if it was okay,” he said. “I just wanted to personalize it.”

Events like this, as well as the basketball team’s Cancer Awareness Week and the “Lose the Shoes” soccer campaign last spring, raise the issue of an athlete’s role in a community. What is expected of them as contributing members of society? Is it to play hard and win often, or is there more at stake?

“I sometimes feel the athletes are asked to be role models,” Leaney said. “There’s a debate on whether they should be. We try to be the best that we can be, and entwined with that is a little responsibility.”

This also begs the question, what is a spectator’s role in charity games? According to Muzikarova, a fan has two options: either taking a passive route by sitting back and calling it a publicity stunt, or taking a more active role and pitching in.

“It’s up to sports fans to decide whether they want to perceive [charitable events] as manipulation, or a communication tool,” she said. “Clearly, if they’re communicating something you don’t like, you can just leave.”

Hormann agreed. “If you look at our game, I’m sure people came without knowing this was going on,” she said. “But by going they were exposed to [the cause] and can
give a donation.”

Mac Athletics and SAAC chose to support the Dig Pink/Kick Cancer foundations because of the universal significance of the disease, as well as its devastating effects on women in their prime.

The event also held personal meaning for SAAC chair, Marie Goodwin ’10, whose aunt is a breast cancer survivor. “You definitely know the money you raise won’t help that one person you know,” she said. “But you hope it will help someone that somebody else knows.”

“There’s virtually no person that hasn’t been touched by breast cancer,” Schleuder pointed out. “John’s wife, and my sister, both lost their lives, and several of our players have relatives who have had breast cancer-luckily all survivors.”

With such an enthusiastic reaction to the event, both from the students as well as the outside community, Schleuder believes that this will not be a one-time deal.

“I think this is something we look forward to continuing,” she said. “Hopefully this will be the first of many.