E.A. Sports Today

Giving back

Miles College trio from Calhoun County, head coach drop off volleyball equipment in Jacksonville as way of giving back to community

Miles College volleyball coach Tiffany Hunter presents some gently used equipment to the Boys and Girls Clubs in Jacksonville Wednesday. On the cover, Hunter and Miles players (from left) Aniyah Robinson, Maiya Northard and Tatiyana Thomas share their experiences with the children of the club.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – When Aniyah Robinson and Tatiyana Thomas were growing up, they used to spend time at the Boys and Girls Clubs center in Glenwood Meadows playing and learning with equipment that sometimes had seen some better days.

The former Jacksonville High standouts returned Wednesday – along with Miles teammate Maiya Northard and second-year head coach Tiffany Hunter — to give something back to their community. It was their hope the volleyballs they donated to the center and the time they spent with the children there might inspire others to follow their dreams.

“I started off at this age picking up a ball, wondering how to play and do it, and as you can see I fell in love with it,” Robinson said. “It’s pretty good giving back to the community considering most of these kids don’t do anything but play with balls and they wear them out so easily.

“The stuff we had wasn’t the newest of the new but we made do because we were kids and we just wanted to play. So, giving back to have them get like-new stuff that they can try and use is a pretty good feeling. Hopefully it will inspire someone or help someone to allow it to become their new craft where they can excel and keep on pushing it throughout high school and eventually go to college and maybe even further with it.”

The balls they donated were just laying around the office, leftovers from the previous coaching staff. Hunter found them in a closet while doing inventory and instead of tossing them away she decided to play it forward.

“I did not want to throw them away because that was just waste and I felt like someone could use them,” Hunter said. “I wanted to give them to someone who could use them and could appreciate them. I know the sport of volleyball is growing and it can help a neighborhood come together.

“I think it’d be great to keep a tradition to help schools and organizations in the community where the girls are from.”

The three Calhoun County players are among eight new players coming into Hunter’s program this fall. The Lady Bears also have three players from Texas, Georgia, Tuscaloosa and Birmingham.

Thomas used to come to the center from the time she was 4 to 10 years old when her aunt worked there. She was glad to be giving back.

“I hope the kids enjoy what we brought to them and hopefully they’ll have more fun and more activities to do,” she said.

Northard didn’t play at the Glenwood Meadows center, but spent time at another community center growing up in Saks and appreciated when older players would visit them.

“I remember a few basketball players would come play with us and the older kids would come in; it meant a lot,” she said. “I don’t remember college (kids) coming, but I remember older kids coming and speaking to us and just giving us words of wisdom – and it goes a long way.

“I do remember them telling me it doesn’t matter how young you are, you can start working at what you want to do and as long as you work hard you can achieve any thing you want to do. I remember them telling me don’t let anybody tell you you can’t do something, because you can. That’s what really stuck with me.”

Despite coming into the job late in the spring last year, Hunter directed the program to a better season than the year before in her first year. The Lady Bears won nine matches, including their first over rival Kentucky State in six years and their first over a Division I program (Alcorn State) in school history.

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