Team is ‘role model’ for local students

Sophie McDonald
Sports Editor

Freshman outfielder Casey Castile high fives Murray Elementary students during their ‘Encourage Each Other’ campaign Tuesday.

Photos by Melissa Ruhlman/The News

You never know who is watching and how your actions can affect people, especially in a positive way. The Racer spftball team recently learned this lesson first hand.

While attending a softball game in the spring, Michael Conley Murray Elementary physical education teacher said he saw the Racers exemplify qualities he tries to bring out in his students.

“We’re always looking for ways to get our kids to be more positive with each other,” he said. “When I saw the Murray State softball team play last spring I noticed how they interacted with each other and all the positive affirmations they gave one another and began to think of how to replicate in the gym.”

This fall the school launched its “Encourage Each Other” campaign and invited the softball team into the classes not only to teach softball skills but to demonstrate positive interaction, Conley said.

“I tell the kids (the team) is here for two reason, one to show softball skills and also sharing with us the importance of teamwork, being positive with each other and why that matters,” he said. “The kids before might tease each other or laugh at each other and maybe not trying to be mean but often times will upset someone and now the kids are looking for ways to encourage each other rather than ridicule and tease.”

Murray State junior outfielder Alaina Zloty was one of the team members volunteering at Murray Elementary Tuesday. Zloty worked with the kindergarteners, first-graders and second-graders teaching them how to field the ball but during her time with the second-graders she had a uniquely special experience, she said.

“I worked with Braxton, he has Downs Syndrome,” she said. “He is so precious, he wore my glove and we threw the ball. He was so funny. He said he loved the game and he growled at me and told me to be quiet because he wanted to do it.”

Being asked to work with the elementary school means a lot to Zloty, who said being positive is everything when part of a team.

“If we didn’t have positive attitudes the team would just fall apart,” she said. “We’d just keep getting mad and if someone makes a mistake you might put blame on them and you don’t want to put blame on anyone – it’s a team, you want to work together and mesh well and a negative attitude is not going to help the team at all. Sometimes people can be selfish but when you put yourself to the side and think about the team it just makes you guys as a whole do so much better.

Zloty said having an encouraging attitude makes a difference in others whether you notice it or not.

“Being a positive teammate, high-fiving, being encouraging, saying positive things is really important to keep team spirit up, especially if you’re losing a game or feeling down or just someone is having a bad game and you need to pick them,” she said. “Just saying ‘good job’ could change how they act. I’m a believer in being positive and encouragement.”

Murray Elementary student Skylar Swalls said she enjoyed running the bases and fielding with the college players whose encouragement made her want to work harder.

“Encouraging each other is a thing we do here at Murray Elementary,” the second-grader said. “We have a huge chart in this gym and little charts in the classrooms that say things like ‘dynamite’ and ‘good job’, ‘great job’, ‘you’re getting better’, ‘you’ve got the hang of it’ and things like that. We’re giving high-fives, we’re encouraging each other, we’re cheering and it’s just a lot of fun.”

Fellow second-grader Joshua Eaton said the fielding clinic was review for him but, he is realizing the value of a positive attitude.

“I’ve always liked baseball but usually I don’t get enough encouragement so I kind of feel down some things but (encouragement) feels really good,” he said. “There is a program at my school that Mr. Conley started to encourage each other so now every time we’re practicing baseball or softball we’ll have a line and we’ll do high fives and things. When someone encourages me I just feel like I can do it.”

The “Encourage Each Other” campaign will continue with the elementary school throughout the year.

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