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Thursday, Aug 18, 2022

Middlebury Panthers Coach Aspiring Young Athletes

Every Monday this past April, the Middlebury men’s and women’s lacrosse teams have hosted local youth at lacrosse clinics. Guided by head women’s lacrosse coach Kate Livesay and her staff, student athletes on both teams have taught dozens of kids in the Panther Lacrosse Clinic.

Coach Livesay, who grew up in Middlebury, took over the program upon her return to Middlebury in 2014 after having spent time coaching at Trinity College. Livesay has partnered with the Town of Middlebury’s Parks and Recreation Department, locally known as the “Rec Park,” to promote the clinics. Both Middlebury and non-Middlebury residents from first through third grade are eligible to play, and the participation fee is donated to the Rec Park’s scholarship fund for low-income youth to participate in similar programming.

According to Livesay, the program hopes to foster a positive relationship between the local community and lacrosse, which, in Middlebury, begins as an organized sport in the third grade. “We really want it to be a positive experience and a great first exposure to lacrosse,” she said, adding that “lacrosse is a hard sport for little kids.”

Each week, a group of about six  players from each college team has joined the aspiring young athletes inside Virtue Field House. The student participants  vary weekly and all of their efforts are voluntary, but Livesay sees their roles as vital and is extremely grateful for their participation. “It’s really important that the kids have a college counterpart to look up to,” she said. 

While Livesay secures the space and equipment, the players are the ones leading kids through passing and catching, dodging and shooting drills. “It is awesome to watch them grow and improve over the years, always with a smile on their face,” said captain Sara DiCenso ’19, who has coached the clinic during each of her four years with the program.

Describing varsity practice at the college as a challenging and tiring two hours, Livesay said the program helps to remind her athletes that “practice is fun and should be a learning process,” and provides her players with, “a nice time to have a little perspective on your own experience.” DiCenso agreed with Livesay, contending the program is refreshing and even relieves a bit of her team’s stress.

The Middlebury College baseball team has also hosted young athletes on Monday afternoons this April for a similar clinic. On the other end of the field house, inside the batting cages and across the indoor track, members of the team have pitched, batted and fielded balls with local kids.

The baseball team had hosted intermittent clinics in the past, but this spring they developed a weekly program with the Middlebury Area Little League, which provides a competitive youth baseball experience for families in Addison County.

Middlebury College Baseball Coach Mike Leonard echoed Livesay’s opinions on the role of the clinics in community building and program enhancement. “Our partnership with youth baseball in the area has been something I have worked hard to foster and I think it’s been a great program for both the youth players involved but also for the members of our team,” Leonard said. “The Middlebury College baseball players have done an outstanding job working with the youth players and have embraced their role as mentors as well as coaches.” 

Patty Ross, the Athletic Department’s coordinator for student-athlete engagement, shared the praise Leonard had for his players. Ross works with the Center for Community Engagement to involve student-athletes in countless hours of community service programming, and described their dedication to volunteering both in and out of season.

Ross highlighted the breadth of stand-out efforts teams take in their community engagement, mentioning in particular all the teams’ continued dedication to hosting community suppers on Friday nights. On these teams’ given night, they are responsible for purchasing all the groceries, cooking and serving a free supper to local Middlebury residents. For many guests, community suppers are their one hot meal of the week.  

By dedicating their time to bridging the college and town communities, these Middlebury teams and coaches are hoping to foster positive relationships between aspiring athletes and their sports — and to enhance their own as well.