The question seemed simple enough, but it made Towson men's basketball coach Pat Skerry think. His wife asked him one night if the players on his team were registered to vote in the upcoming Presidential election.
Skerry wondered about it, and, when practice began in late September, began the process of making sure his Tigers would indeed be registered to vote in this historic event. Skerry sees this as a different kind of lesson Towson can teach its players.
"I just think that it's obviously a hot topic now," Skerry said. "There's no repercussions, but we're going to get them registered and educate them on at least the Presidential campaign and what the different candidates' platforms are [in the election]."
Skerry said while he wants players who can compete strongly on the court, he feels his job involves more than that.
This election between Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton might be the most contentious in American history, and it's certainly one people will be talking and reading about in the history books for years to come. Skerry wants his players to know what's going on and have the chance to take part in it.
"I'm quite sure we're not the only team or club or organization that is doing this," he said. "The one thing we do a really good job with in our athletic department is programming and activities and events to keep our student-athletes engaged in what's going on out in the world."
This election has drawn athletics and politics together -- two worlds that don't often intersect.
But the kneeling/sitting/protests of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and other athletes during the national anthem recently has drawn a firestorm of attention throughout the country, especially in the world of sports. It's opened a significant amount of discussion about life in the United States, with athletes in all sports giving their opinions in various ways.
The Washington Post wrote an article Sept. 30 about how the University of Virginia men's basketball team came together for a photo while expressing "unity against social injustice." Many players posted photographs of it, tweeting it out as "Kneel for Injustice, Kneel for Equality."
Skerry said he and his staff are very much aware of what's going on in the world, and they want their Tigers to grasp the importance of this election and what it means to take part.
"Clearly, it's an issue bigger than putting the ball in the basket," he said. "Any time you can get people that are going to be the future leaders of our country to be engaged, [it's good]. We just want to try to help them develop good habits. We're just trying to help educate them as far as what they're able to do."
Collegiate and professional athletes have an advantage in some way because they get chances to make their views heard and do things other students or people won't get the opportunity to do.
Skerry said the job of coaches and athletic staffs is not just to score points and come up with victories. They need to prepare these players for life after basketball, because one day, the games will stop.
"Athletes can be great leaders," he said. "We've got to win games; we've got to graduate guys and we've got to turn out productive members of society."
One small question from Skerry's wife set in motion something that can affect an entire college basketball team. It will give them a privilege they can use for the rest of their lives. And Skerry is happy he can now answer his wife's question.
"We're registering them," Skerry said. "As it gets closer down the stretch, we'll do a couple of things with them to provide them information. We've got really good guys. I think they're interested in what's going on in the world."
Issue 226: October 2016