Athletes concerned about security following attacks

From the athletes? travel plans to how individual?s personal emotions were affected, a panel of local and university officials tried to provide answers to the student-athletes and coaches at a meeting held in the Sun Dome on Wednesday evening.

A group of about 200 students gathered for the speech that lasted about an hour. South Florida?s athletes came to the event with many questions concerning mainly how the attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. would affect their traveling to respective events.

?I think it was a really valid experience for us to hear from all these people and it has never hurt us to take some advice,? Alessandra Domingos, a junior volleyball player, said. ?Especially as we are traveling a lot to be aware that the safety is there.?

The event gave student-athletes the opportunity to voice their concerns. At the same time, the panel was able to give important information about how to prepare for travel and how they, as role models, could encourage healing and calmness on campus while returning to normalcy.

?We want it to be a comfort for them. A lot of our teams are traveling right now,? Barbara Sparks-McGlinchey, senior associate athletics director said. ? One, we want them to learn what the new security rules are. And we want to make sure if they have any questions over this whole tragic incident that they?ll be able to voice those, or they will know who to go to and get some comfort.?

The panel included Mary Samuel Reid of Victim?s Advocacy, David Austell, director for International Student and Scholar Services, two officials from Tampa International Airport and Lt. William Pollock from the university police department. The discussion started with an invocation from David Lane, a local Baptist minister.

After each panelist spoke, the discussion was opened to the athletes? and coaches? questions. Most of those questions asked involved airline travel and security at USF sporting events.

?They are going to try to prepare us for if there is a next time,? Spencer Lee, a freshman basketball player, said. ?I guess we are just going to have to go on as a school and not be overpowered by it.?

After the discussion, many of the student-athletes stuck around to have private meetings with the speakers.

?I think the most feared thing was that we didn?t know what is going to happen in many aspects,? said Domingos.

Many of the speakers commented during their speeches that student-athletes have a responsibility on campus to be leaders, including within their relations with the many international students.

?I think wherever anyone who is an athlete goes in the school they are an ambassador at all times,? senior Matt Cavenaugh, a midfielder for the men?s soccer team said.

Many of the panelists told personal stories of where they were or whom they called when they heard of the tragedies. Some also pointed out the common bond that seemed to unite the country. The unity of a team was a reiterated analogy.

?I think it is always good to have something like athletics as an outlet to keep you focused on the task at hand, and that has definitely been good for my athletes,? John Hackworth, men?s soccer coach said.

Contact Jarrett Guthrieat