JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (June 25, 2016) – On Saturday morning inside the Mountain State Health Alliance Athletics Center, kids ages 5-13 gathered along with their families for Family Field Day as part of the Niswonger Children's Hospital Classic.
Many children from the Johnson City area showed up and participated in learning new sports and perfecting their skills from ETSU student-athletes and coaches. Throughout the morning the children had the opportunity to rotate through six different stations, each a different sport represented.
At one of the stations the youngsters learned from the ETSU men's basketball squad on how to shoot the basketball and make free-throws along with perfecting the art of dribbling. Some kids also got the opportunity to sky above the rim and perform a slam dunk with some assistance from the basketball players. It's an experience that senior A.J. Merriweather loves to be apart of.
"Anytime you can give back to the community is a good feeling," said Merriweather. "I know that these kids and parents come to support us so anytime we can make an impact on their lives is a good day."
Station by station the kids went on Saturday morning as the youngsters went from learning the skills needed to be a volleyball player to properly stretching and jumping in the sand pit with multiple ETSU Track and Field athletes.
Athletes from the ETSU men's and women's soccer teams taught kids how to dribble, pass and shoot a soccer ball while giving the children a once in a lifetime experience by going head-to-head with the athletes in a friendly game. The competition was flowing at the soccer station which gives ETSU men's soccer sophomore Jeff George flashbacks of his youth days at camps and how he is now the one kids look up too.
"It's surreal to think," said George. "These kids really look up to us, so I just really wanted to show them how to have fun because that is why we play."
Along with having fun the ETSU athletes understand that they are role models for the kids a welcome the challenge of embracing that role.
"It's important to have the older athletes out here leading the way for the younger kids," said ETSU baseball junior Chris Cook. "As a role model, you just want to teach them to do the right things and make the right decisions."
Other stations around the mini-dome included ETSU Football players teaching kids on to kick field goals and jump over hurdles with some kids showing off their impressive touchdown dances. At the golf station, the youngsters perfected the mastery of concentration in order to sink a put on the mini-dome surface.
While the kids were at play, the parents got in on the fun with a free fitness group class taught by The Wellness Center instructors.
Family Field Day is part of the Niswonger Children's Hospital Classic, a 10-day series of events spread across Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. The Classic is presented by the Mountain State Foundation and is the children's hospital's biggest fundraiser.