By Robb Murray firstname.lastname@example.org
The Mankato Free Press
---- — MANKATO — Cole Hudspith sized up the hoop, gazed intently and took his shot ... and missed.
Undeterred, he corralled the rebound and refocused. He moved a little closer and, this time, left no doubt.
Mom smiled, the college girls went wild with high fives, and Cole was rewarded with: a fun-size Almond Joy.
The 4-year-old, dressed up as the caped crusader (sans mask) was one of the hundreds of kids whose parents decided a day hanging out with college athletes was better than hanging around the house. Team members from just about every sport at the university participated, helping the little ones play a variety of games. In most cases, a piece of candy was a reward for a job well done jumping hurdles, sinking a basket or throwing a baseball through a ring.
The event was sponsored by the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, a student-run group made up of representatives of each sport. The athletes were asked to attend, but none were forced. Dozens made the choice to be there, including large contingents from football, hockey, basketball, baseball, track and volleyball.
Kids were diggin' it. Everyone was in costume and most, like Cole, carried around plastic pumpkins or sacks to collect their goods. Or, in the case of Tommy Larson, to collect their booty.
Tommy came in full-on pirate regalia, and when it was his turn to make a basket in the corner of the gym where the MSU football team had set up camp, he needed a little help. So a player hoisted him up just high enough to nudge a ball through a hoop.
Once down, Tommy the pirate was all smiles.
"It's just so much fun," said Janet Larson, who came dressed as Cruella DeVille. "They like to do the sports, and I like that it's not just about candy."
That was the whole point, says Sydney Geisness, a member of the volleyball team and one of her team's two representatives to the Student Athlete Advisory Committee. It was the volleyball team giving all the kids high fives as they tossed balls into a giant ring, the same team that cheered on Cole after his amazing performance.
"Everyone loves seeing the little kids have fun," she said.
Geisness and several other athletes also said it helps their teams bond a little bit to take part in activities such as Trick or Treat with the Mavericks.