Members of the Crooksville High School football team and cheerleaders read to students at Crooksville Elementary School

For Crooksville Athletes, Fridays About More than Football

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For the Crooksville High School football team, game day starts in the classroom – the first-grade classroom, that is.

Each week, football players and cheerleaders head down the hallway to Crooksville Elementary School classrooms to read to young students.

Players, coaches, students and teachers all get something different out of it.

Senior running back Walker Harris said it’s part of being a role model for the young students.

“When I was that age, you’d see the football players walking around, you’re like, ‘I want to be in their shoes one day, I can’t wait,'” he said.

Harris said it’s important to show the children that while football is exciting, what happens in the classroom is more important.

Senior cheerleader Alanah Williams agreed.

“You hear the term student-athlete, so student needs to come first,” she said. “You need to show these kids that reading is important, that your education is important, and then the fun can come second.”

Williams also stressed the importance of the cheerleaders’ inclusion in the reading days. She said it’s important for young girls to have the same type of role models that young boys do.

Even beyond the role model aspect, senior linebacker Michael Baughman said the books each have strong morals, and actively teach the children life lessons.

This particular Friday, they read The Hog Mollies and Sloopy the Silver Snake, written by The 2nd and 7 Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Columbus, Ohio, which aims to promote literacy by donating books to children in need. Each student in the class received a copy of the book, which had a moral message of treating people with respect and sticking up for those who are bullied.

First-grade teacher Tomi Roberts said that while she enjoys the morals in the books and the short break from teaching, the most important aspect is the bonds built between players and her young students.

“It also gives them some type of personal connection,” she said. “They go to Friday-night football nights, so when they see their Friday night football heroes out there on the field, they can say oh, well, so-and-so was in my room today, they read to us, talked to us one-on-one, carried out a conversation.”

The group all agreed upon the importance of how this program gives back to the community.

“I know they look up to us; we want to make them proud,” Baughman said. “We play for the community on Friday nights.”