Kevin Alston, Darrius Barnes, Shalrie Joseph, Tim Murray and Chris Tierney enjoy their day jobs and are probably a bit too old to pick up a new sport professionally. Good luck telling them that.
Just a few weeks after their season ended and during a time when few would question them if they declined a request to do something team-related, the five Revolution players volunteered their time to join players from the New England Patriots to “Celebrate Volunteerism.” The Patriots’ year-long campaign promotes the legacy of the late Myra Kraft, wife of Investor/Operator Robert Kraft, who passed away this summer after a life of philanthropy and service to others.
Just try to picture it. Five professionally soccer players and several professional football players trying to pick up a new sport with just a few minutes of instruction – this after a lifetime of perfecting their own sport. After the brief introductory period, the players then have to face youngsters who play these sports – squash and lacrosse – regularly through after-school programs for inner-city children.
On the courts of Squash Busters in downtown Boston, Joseph is learning how to play lacrosse, while Barnes puts on his goggles and picks up a squash racket alongside kids from several local non-profits: Squash Busters, Metro Lacrosse and Special Olympics of Massachusetts.
Chris Tierney knows the rules to squash – his father himself a world doubles squash champion – and others are turning to him in a desperate plea for a simplified rules explanation as the pros wrap their minds around new sports being played on a court of almost one-sixth the size of a soccer field.
Alston takes pointers from a Squash Busters volunteer on a different kind of service into the box. Elementary lacrosse instruction is happening on other courts, and Murray, a goalkeeper by trade, is learning how to use his hands to catch a much smaller ball, with a stick, from Metro Lacrosse coaches.
Minutes later, the players are sweating. The teens are laughing, but the pros are intense and want to excel in the new games. They’re find themselves struggling to beat kids that play the respective sports recreationally almost daily through these programs.
Without the volunteers - and kids at heart – who donate their time as mentors and role models to kids, odds are you wouldn’t have seen the Revs’ crew strolling out of the gym practicing slow-motion serves and footwork as you did, as if they were youngsters modeling an instant replay of their idols.
“This was a great opportunity to get out there in the community and appreciate those who give their time and energy to teach kids about the importance of playing a sport, whichever one it is,” said Tierney. “Hard work and dedication is important - any professional will tell you that – but all of our childhood coaches and volunteers helped make us who we are as players today. They instilled the concept of teamwork and reminded us to always have fun.”
Tierney continued, “It’s the least we can to do give back and hopefully provide a little fun in the process – even if it was at our expense.”