Bisons Giving Back
Through One Minute Movement initiative, student-athletes strive to make an impact in the community
After wrapping up a presentation on bullying for a group of school-age kids, Alana Serhan reflects on the impact she’s made.
“It’s really interesting to how kids are evolving in the way they’re dealing with and handling bullying,” says Serhan, a fourth-year forward on the women’s Bison hockey team and former co-chair of the Bisons Against Bullying initiative.
“Although there is still a way to go, it’s great to see kids learning how to deal with bullying as well as learning how to stop it.”
For a large majority of Bisons, being a student-athlete is more than just performing on the court, rink or the field. It’s also about making a difference in the community.
Serhan goes into the fall semester as co-chair of the University of Manitoba Athletic Council (UMAC). It’s a body composed of Bison athletes for Bison athletes, giving every team a voice. The group tasks itself with organizing social activities and fundraisers for the sports programs. But its true essence lays in the service opportunity it provides for its athletes and the community it serves.
“A lot of the athletes don’t realize the influence they can have on kids,” says Ken Rooney, a middle-blocker for the men’s Bison volleyball team and Asper School of Business major. Rooney is a former UMAC co-chair.
“So many kids look up to us and say ‘you’re a Bison athlete? That’s so cool!’ We don’t necessarily see ourselves that way. We’re not in the NBA or NHL or anything. But to kids, it means something to them to have us around,” Rooney adds.
On any given week throughout the year, you can find Bisons in school-age classrooms around Winnipeg. Sometimes, they’re giving presentations and sharing personal anecdotes on bullying.
Other instances, through Bison Book Buddies, the student-athletes spend one-on-one time reading to kids, helping them with homework, or just being there as a person the youngsters can talk to.
Amir Ali, a former point guard for the Bison men’s basketball team and UMAC co-chair (who’s going into his first year in the UofM’s Max Rady College of Medicine), says that these types of community engagement activities help forge relationships and build self-confidence.
“Because they look up to us, we can use that influence as an opportunity to help kids with whatever they’re going through,” says Ali.
The window of time student-athletes have to make impact in the community is relatively small. It’s important, Ali says, to make the most of it.
“Let’s do this while we can, while we’re important,” adds Ali.
The Bisons’ community outreach goals aren’t limited to kids and classrooms. For the last 11 years, Bison student-athletes have swapped their jerseys for aprons to volunteer at Siloam Mission during the holiday season, providing support to the homeless shelter wherever it’s needed.
The blueprint for these types of initiatives can be summed up through UMAC’s One Minute Movement campaign. Rooney explains.
“If each member of the Bison sports family spent one minute for every hour they spend in sports, whether its playing or training in the gym, it will amount to 10 hours a year they can they can spend helping to change someone’s life.”
The moniker serves as a reminder of the importance of giving back, as well as letting new student-athletes know how relatively simple it is to give their time.
“In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a lot of time at all,” says Rooney. “But it makes a huge difference.”