Rowan football players visit Pleasant Valley School

Players discuss the importance of balancing academics with athletics

Rowan football players teach Pleasant Valley the importance of being a good student while also playing a sport.

March is a month of basketball for many.

At Pleasant Valley School, it is a time for reading.

March 2 is National Read Across America Day, but Pleasant Valley decided to use the day as a kick-off for a month filled with everything literary.

Judging by the gleeful cheers flooding out of the Pleasant Valley auditorium at 8 a.m., the event was quite substantial.

Kate Linnehan, Pleasant Valley teacher, and Kathy Lewin, school librarian, decided to mix athletics and reading together to get the bookish month started — they invited members of the Rowan University football team to speak with students about balancing academics with athletics, and working hard on and off the field.

To be successful in school and athletics, students must understand and practice good time management. Linnehan and Lewin thought the best way to get this message across was to allow Pleasant Valley pupils to hear from student athletes themselves.

“This resonates really well with our student population because they’re at an age when they really begin to take ownership of their learning, and those are skills they’re really working hard on as they figure that out,” Linnehan said.

The Rowan footballers speaking included Brandon Williams, Eric Morrison, Anthony Diorio, Kevin Stokes, Travelle Curry, Marcedius Jameson and Nick Elskamp. Jay Accorsi, Rowan head coach, emceed the event.

Pleasant Valley students eagerly awaiting to ask the college football players their own questions.

The day began with Justin Arabia, Rowan’s assistant football coach and Harrison Township School District physical education teacher, joining the players to read aloud a book by Audrey Vernick, a New Jersey children’s’ author.

During the panel discussion, the players discussed how they handle the balance of school and football and gave examples of times when they had to work exceptionally hard at something, and how they worked through the struggle.

“It was also great for our students to hear that it’s OK to struggle in school. A few of the athletes mentioned subjects that were difficult for them and how a certain teacher or coach helped them persevere. These are things we as educators tell our students all the time, but hearing it from these student-athletes can make a huge impact,” Linnehan said.

Then the grade schoolers got the chance to ask their own questions.

The young ones asked questions such as, “What other sports did you play as kids?” “When you were growing up, who was your favorite player?” and, of course, “How happy were you when the Eagles won the Super Bowl?” a question that was met with much applause.

One student asked the players why they picked Rowan. The answers, though a mixture, touched on Rowan as being a place where they could succeed as both students and athletes.

After each question and answer, the students clapped for one another and seemed to soak up the lessons from the players.

“I think it is important for [children] to have role models, and it is certainly important for them to understand the importance of academics and the importance of balancing your time,” Accorsi said.

The head coach also stated events when his players speak with young students are just as important for the college players as they are for the young kids.

“Honestly, our players get just as much if not more out of doing this than probably the young students do because [college students] remember back when what they were like and how they got to where they are now,” he said. “Anytime we can mix our players with anybody in the community anywhere, it is really important for them to do that.”

Marcedius Jameson and Kevin Stokes hand out goodies for the kids after the event.

Throughout the rest of March, students will participate in more reading and book-related activities.

On March 19, Audrey Vernick will visit the school to speak with the students and autograph books. In preparation, the students are reading many of Vernick’s books and learning about the genres of realistic fiction and nonfiction picture books.

Pleasant Valley begins “March Madness, Tournament of Books” on March 5. School staff members will fill out “sweet sixteen” book brackets on that day and each week students will vote for their favorite books to move onto the “elite 8,” “the final 4” and then the winner.