Athletes supporting athletes: ‘Golden games’ program encourages support between teams

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The Lehigh men's lacrosse team and its "date night" guests watch as the women's volleyball team plays vs. Lafayette Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016 at Grace Hall. The date night is one of the ways Lehigh's athletes support their fellow Mountain Hawks. (Courtesy of @LehighLacrosse)

The Lehigh men’s lacrosse team and its “date night” guests watch as the women’s volleyball team plays vs. Lafayette Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016 at Grace Hall. The date night is one of the ways Lehigh’s athletes support their fellow Mountain Hawks. (Courtesy of Lehigh men’s lacrosse Twitter account)

Despite busy practice and game schedules, student athletes are taking the time to support other athletic teams.

The Student Athlete Council has helped drive this internal support within the athletic community through its new “golden games” initiative.

The initiative allows each team to pick one game in its season and label it as a “golden game.” By doing so, it encourages everyone to attend that game in hopes the initial experience will encourage them to attend more games. The idea was first brought up by Student Athlete Council members Drew Longo and Christine Campbell and is now being implemented by many teams.

Co-presidents of the Student Athlete Council, Madeline Walsh and Matthew Bonshak, said the idea is to build and to continue to build school pride and support for student athletes. They added the idea of a golden game benefits student athletes on teams that don’t get as much support as others.

“(Field hockey’s golden game) was probably the most students I’ve ever seen at a (field hockey) game, but we want to make it a regular habit,” Walsh said. “So maybe now that they’ve seen a field hockey game, they’ll be more likely to go to other field hockey games. It’s just as important to support them as it is to support a team like football.”

Two Mountain Hawk squads that have set the example for supporting each other are the men’s lacrosse and volleyball teams.

For 10 years the men’s lacrosse team has been supporting their fellow teams at Lehigh, including volleyball, by organizing what it calls a “date night.” For a specific game in the fall, each player on the team invites a date to attend the game with him. Then, in the spring, the volleyball team reciprocates the support by having a men’s lacrosse date night or date day.

“The thought process is to support other sports on campus,” men’s lacrosse coach Kevin Cassese said. “If you think about it, we have 50 people between players and coaches, and if you add another person to that 50 you have 100 people that you are bringing to a volleyball match, soccer game or field hockey match.”

Cassese said the volleyball match is just one in many sporting events the team attends but is chosen especially because it’s held at Grace Hall, a central location on Lehigh’s campus. This fall the team had its volleyball date night Sept. 21 when Lehigh faced and defeated rival Lafayette.

“(The date night) is a way for us to do something other than play lacrosse,” Cassese said. “It’s a little bit of team building for us to get together in a different type of way but also to provide support from some of our fellow student athletes.”

Cassese said last year, the team walked straight off the field in full gear after practice to go to the men’s basketball Patriot League semifinal and final games.

He said he is not aware of any other coaches that are doing something similar but encourages school spirit in any form.

“I’ve heard so many people talk about how they don’t believe school spirit at Lehigh is very strong, and maybe this is one small way to show them that it is,” Cassese said. “Hopefully it catches fire and everyone starts doing it, and all of a sudden we now support each other with school spirit in bigger ways.”

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