The Elon women’s basketball team hosted elementary students from Alamance Burlington School System during Education Day as they took on the University of Richmond and set a new attendance record.
The sound of nearly 2,500 elementary students cheering for the Elon women’s basketball team on Education Day made for a very loud and energetic experience. A renewed partnership with Alamance-Burlington School System, Education Day offered an exciting morning for local students and also led to a new school attendance record with 3, 087 filling the stands to cheer on the Phoenix.
“The atmosphere was great,” said center Evonna McGill, the team’s third leading scorer. “Of course, it’s an earlier game, but having everyone cheering for us and going for us felt really good.”
Head Coach Charlotte Smith shared the team’s familiarity with loud crowds during away games. “We’ve been in these types of atmospheres, so I know how electrifying and energizing it can be, and I know the impact it has on the students,” Smith said. “I’ve been really excited since the idea was proposed.”
The buzz in the arena was just that electrifying and energizing. Included in the frenzied crowd was third-grader Adeline Caulder from Andrews Elementary School. She enjoyed the players coming to her classroom earlier in the week leading up to Education Day because she plays basketball too. During the game, she loved when the Phoenix scored, and she saved her loudest cheers for the Phoenix putting the ball in the basket.
Education Day is an experience for local elementary teachers, too. Andrea Perue teaches at Andrews Elementary and plans to use the experience in her teaching material. “To me, this is education,” she said. “We are emphasizing the fun in learning.
“Overall, this is positive energy, I love to see them enjoying themselves, and I know it will be inspiring,” she said “In fact, I will be using this to talk about teamwork and collaboration in the classroom.”
Leading up to seeing the Phoenix take on the University of Richmond Spiders, Elon women’s basketball players visited different schools, with the student-athletes answering questions about their experiences at the university, from the classroom to the court. They even showed them a few moves.
Maya Johnson, a senior studying business marketing, visited Altamahaw-Ossipee Elementary School and spoke with fifth-grade students. “I wish I had college students talk to me when I was their age,” Johnson said. “It was nice to talk to them about how important education is.”
Jason Chandler, senior associate director of athletics for external operations, organized the event that was discontinued about 10 years ago. “The important thing about Education Day is getting kids on campus, learning more about college life and initiating interest in attending college.” Chandler said.
“We are cultivating the value of doing well in school and furthering your education,” he continued. “After these one-on-one experiences with our student-athletes at their school, discussing the importance of college, we get to bring the students here to see it in reality.”
Chandler had experience planning an Education Day game when he was previously at Old Dominion University, and had an interest in reviving it at Elon given the history of the event at the university. In 2011, Karen Barefoot was named the head coach of women’s basketball at ODU after three seasons with Elon. Her final season was the best in the program’s division-I history. At ODU, with Chandler’s assistance, she implemented the annual Education Day game after experiencing it at Elon from 2008 through 2011. Elon’s first Education Day game took place in 2005 in Alumni Gym against Longwood University.
“I hope we can continue hosting an Education Day game because we will eventually see the students that attended this game attend Elon University,” Chandler said, “This is the beginning stages of that.”
First-year guard Chloe Williams started the game against Richmond and posted 10 points, three rebounds and two assists. “I loved it, even in warm-ups they were yelling for us,” Williams said about the student support. “I think it really pumped us up.”
Williams said visiting the schools and spending time with the students before game day provided a truly interactive experience. “We have to keep doing this every year,” Williams said.