The Voice: Badgers keep finding time to give back

The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgThere is classroom work and study table. There are position meetings, team meetings, video sessions and practices. There is travel, which can include long flights and bus rides.

Then there are the games, with packed arenas, stadiums, and perhaps up to a few million more fans viewing every play.

A college athlete signs up for all of this. So do the coaches.

Yet, at the University of Wisconsin, the 800 or so student-athletes and coaches make time to give back to the community. For the past several years, it was thought to be a safe guess that UW student-athletes donated some 1,500 hours a year to community service projects.

Turns out the number was more than double that.

Last year, Badgers players and coaches engaged in more than 3,600 hours of community service, ranging from hospital visits and trips to schools to promote reading to projects such as Habitat for Humanity.

"It's really remarkable, with all of their busy schedules, with classes, practices, games and so on, that they make the time to do all of this," UW Associate Athletic Director for External Relations Justin Doherty said.

Yet they do it eagerly.

"Our student-athletes are just amazing with the kids," says Doherty. "The hospital visits, with reading. They have become kids themselves again."

Now the process of connecting with UW Athletics is easier. The department recently launched a new platform called "Badgers Give Back." The goal is to better serve fans and the Madison community.

Organizations can make a request online via the "Badgers Give Back" page at UWBadgers.com.

"It (the request) goes through compliance," explains Doherty. "It goes through our community relations coordinator (Kayla Gross). The process is easy now. We feel good about it, and we feel good that we can communicate what we do."

Coaches spend countless hours trying to figure out how to win the next game. Nobody understands that any better than UW Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez. Yet, he knows the importance of reaching out to the community, and he wants every team on campus to embrace the concept.

"We've tried to take this to our players. We have to give back, too," Alvarez said. "It is not just about our fans giving to us. It is about us giving back to the community. All of our student-athletes buy into that. We know we are an important part of this city, and we want to make sure we give back."

And they have. And they will continue to give back.

In recent years, certain stories have gained a fair amount of attention, such as former Badgers quarterback Scott Tolzien's relationship with a young man who has battled cancer.

While he played basketball at Wisconsin, Michael Flowers also became friends with a young man going through a rough stretch.

Those are just two examples of countless stories where a fan can see a student-athlete away from the athletic arena.

I can tell you from personal experience that the athletes and the coaches enjoy using their platform accordingly, and often are very touched by the people they meet.

During the games it is easy to get excited when the Badgers win, or frustrated win they lose. But it is good to know that there is a lot more to UW student-athletes than where their teams are in the conference standings or national polls.

With the "Badgers Give Back" initiative, it now is a more efficient process for those efforts to continue.
ON WISCONSIN