WEST MILTON — Coaching high school sports is more than teaching kids about fundamentals and techniques. It is about instilling values, service, and commitment.
At Milton-Union High School, soccer coaches Todd Winchester and Andy Grudich set the bar high for the players, not only on the field, but off.
Two years ago, Winchester took his boys’ team to the House of Bread, a non-profit community kitchen in Dayton that serves hot nutritious meals to anyone in need, for a day of volunteering. The team returned to spend a day serving meals last year.
This season, the senior boys’ and girls’ teams wanted to do more. They decided to hold a food drive in addition to their annual day of volunteering. The Bulldogs athletes were told that two items in short supply were pasta products and peanut butter.
Players rallied to begin collecting food items, setting a goal of 250 items. As of Sunday, the count was 620 items and growing. Coaches Winchester and Grudich are confident that their players can exceed 750 food items by Friday, when they will deliver their donations to the House of Bread.
“Giving back to the community. People helping people,” said Winchester as he watched his players stack boxes and bags of food. “The kids have really latched on to that.” The boys’ coach emphasized that team goals are to promote the sport and promote their community, while giving back to the community.
Senior girls player Kristen Dickison said, “It means a lot seeing everyone come together,” when asked about what the food drive and volunteering means to players.
“Kind of a culture shock” was how senior Tyler Ezerski described his first visit to House of Bread. The protective umbrella of living in a Miami County community was brought down temporarily as the players came face to face with the reality of homelessness and a type of life to which they had never been exposed.
Players were touched in such a way that seniors have asked to meet with incoming freshmen to encourage them to continue what they hope will become a longstanding tradition at Milton-Union of volunteering and giving back to the community. “Just keep on going,” Ezerski said. “Because we feel it’s the right thing to do.”
Donations will be accepted by Milton-Union boys’ and girls’ soccer through the end of this week. Monetary donations as well as peanut butter and pasta products can be dropped off at the Milton-Union athletic office. Checks can be made payable to House of Bread.