NORFOLK, Va. - Months ago, Old Dominion football coach Ricky Rahne was approached by his players with a request.
"They said coach, we love going to the elementary schools and reading and things like that, but we want to make a little bit more of an impact, and so we set up this whole program."
The Monarchs have paired up with Blair Middle School to create a mentorship program. It allows Blair football players, many of whom have hopes of playing at the college level, to connect with ODU players on a weekly basis.
"This is the goal you want to achieve," Justin Smith, Dean of Students at Blair Middle School, explained to his students. "You want to play football, you want to be a student athlete? Well I’m gonna pair you with a student athlete who’s actually doing it."
"It’s a lot of similar stories with our kids," Blair Middle School principal Patrick Doyle said about the circumstances both the Monarchs and Clippers have faced during the pandemic. "Stuck at home, our seasons have been canceled so they don’t have that outlet of football right now. There's a lot of commonalities amongst these groups right now, and it's a perfect fit and perfect opportunity."
Because of the pandemic, the weekly sessions have taken place on Zoom, where Blair has the goal of helping the ids improve academic performance while integrating social and emotional learning.
"I get to talk with people that are older than me, something like my big brothers, and it’s just a cool experience on letting them know how I've been feeling and letting them know who I am," one Blair student said about being mentored by the Monarchs.
"I think it’s been a really cool experience," ODU offensive lineman Isaac Weaver said. "It's something I haven’t really ever gotten the chance to do before, getting to see different perspectives, stuff like that, getting to see how these guys are growing up and how it’s a lot different. It gives me a new perspective on life."
While Rahne's goal of building sustained success at ODU has been put on hold a year because of the pandemic, the success of future generations of football players is something the Monarchs can encourage right now.
"Overall, I’m excited about where that’s going, and where that’s gonna go here on in the future," Rahne said.