Let’s head to Florence, SC. Lake City High School specifically. The athletic department of this high school recently received the Palmetto Gold distinction by the South Carolina High School League for overall sportsmanship and community service. The award was based upon the school’s student athletes, coaches and fans’ participation in multiple projects, including a citywide cleanup after Hurricane Matthew struck.
“We always push sportsmanship and community service at Lake City,” Lake City Athletic Director Matt Apicella said. “The hurricane came right around our homecoming, and it was amazing to see how everyone came together. The alumni and our students united to do a citywide cleanup for the community.”
The Lake City student-athletes and coaches have participated in numerous tasks throughout the year, including visiting senior centers, participating in food drives, wrapping presents to give to the Boys and Girls Club, going into the elementary school to mentor kids and working with children in the Lake City recreational leagues. “It’s just a statement to the kind of kids and coaches we have here,” Apicella said. “They’ve really grasped the opportunity to serve the community and to be role models.”
While Apicella has seen the difference that serving in the community can make in a student’s life, it also has been personally rewarding for him to see the kids taking the initiative. “One of the visions I had when I took over as the athletic director was to be more active in the community,” Apicella said. “It has been awesome to see the kids go all in with the initiatives. In the beginning, we were really begging athletes to come out and help, and we might have been lucky to get a handful. Now, when people call us for participation, we have to ask them the maximum number of kids we can bring.”
Many coaches and players can get caught up in results on the field, but Apicella said the focus for the Panthers is to be the best they can be and make the most of their time for the future. “Wins and losses are temporary,” Apicella said. “Teaching these kids how to serve and paying forward in the community is the most important thing in our athletic department, and that’s what makes a lasting impact. We feel that if we set the foundation of service, sportsmanship and mentoring that everything else will fall into place.”