By Zach D'Amico
Over 50 Saint Vincent College football players participated in the 35th annual Sports Friendship Day on March 24.
Head coach Aaron Smetanka encouraged his players to volunteer in joining more than 150 participants with special needs, intellectual disabilities and physical limitations for a day of sports activities, karaoke, arts and crafts and more.
Smetanka was hired as head coach of the Bearcats football team on Dec. 5 and has already began implementing a new philosophy for the program. The team has since adopted a new motto: “Rise Together.”
“It’s in everything we do: academically, athletically, spiritually, socially and in the community. If you want to be part of this team going forward, it’s those five things you have to fit that mold of the team aspect on everything we do,” he said.
Smetanka graduated from Saint Vincent College in 2011. He was a first team All-President’s Athletic Conference selection from 2010-11 and is the Bearcat’s all-time leader in passing yards (4,117), attempts (536), completions (331), and touchdown passes (31).
He transferred to Saint Vincent with two years of eligibility and was a Sports Friendship Day volunteer in both years. He said that he was given the idea for his team to participate at the beginning of the semester; and for Smetanka, it was a no brainer.
“I thought that [Sports Friendship Day] was something that was great. I thought that we as players got a lot out of it…I said [to my players], ‘You guys have got to be a part of this. You have to give back to others who may not have the opportunity to play football or any sport competitively,” Smetanka said.
During team meetings the week after the event, Smetanka said that his players responded with high regards after having volunteered.
Smetanka replaces head coach Dr. Don Dolciato who was at the helm of the program since 2014. During that span, the Bearcats accumulated a 15-25 record. The team finished with a 1-9 record this past season.
Smetanka commented on his responsibility to the players and the college as the newly-appointed head coach.
“I’m not somebody who’s going to put up with guys that are doing the wrong thing off the field. If they want to be disciplined, we’re going to discipline them the right way. If they have continued occurrences like that then they won’t be part of this team. That’s for doing things wrong on campus, in the community, or if they’re not representing their school or community the right way…It’s not just football and what you’re doing with x’s and o’s. It’s how are you treating others on a day to day basis,” he said.