Sophomore wide receiver Cody Latimer slid to a halt at midfield and groaned in defeat.
Two young girls and a boy celebrated their tug-of-war victory as Latimer endured the laughs from his teammates.
“You just lost to two girls!” a blond boy with glasses yelled in Latimer’s direction.
“No, no,” Latimer said as his teammates laughed harder. “I slipped.”
For the fourth consecutive year, two bus loads of children from the Boys and Girls Club of Bloomington paid a visit to Memorial Stadium for a day of games, fun and a little bit of football.
Mark Deal, assistant athletic director for alumni relations, said the activity takes place on the football field with the team, but very little football is played.
“It’s a fun day,” Deal said. “We’re not trying to teach football or anything like that. We’ll do a few football things, but we’re not trying to teach football. We’re trying to have fun.”
The children, usually between the ages of 6 and 12, arrived at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday. They were each paired with an IU football player and moved between eight stations.
Brenda Salvo, program director of the Boys and Girls Club of Ellettsville, Ind., said anticipation of the event begins long before the visit to the stadium.
“We have only a handful of kids who get to come every year, but they love it every single time,” Salvo said. “We have kids who ask about it all summer long.”
Each station involved a different activity. Tug-of-war was on the large, painted outline of Indiana at midfield, while children raced to put on football pads just yards away. At the 5-yard line, youngsters practiced their tackling form.
The idea for organizing the Boys and Girls Club visit came from former IU Coach Bill Lynch, Deal said.
The team was already involved in the community, but Lynch felt the need to invite the children to the field for a day during the summer when there were no games to imminently prepare for and no organized practices.
Salvo, who attended for the first time on Wednesday, said the athletes’ character is very important to the club.
“Clearly you can’t be a college athlete and not have good character, especially at a Big Ten school,” Salvo said. “They just don’t tolerate that. They don’t recruit people who aren’t good citizens first.”
Senior defensive tackle Nick Sliger said the day helps the participants get a little taste of life as a college football player.
“They want to come out and see what we do every day, running out here at Memorial Stadium,” Sliger said. “I think it’s great that they get to meet players, and hopefully they come back on Saturdays and watch us play.”
The players pay visits to the Boys and Girls Club periodically, but Deal said this event is the biggest of the year for the IU football team and the club.
It is also one of the most fun events.
“I’ve been doing this for four years, and I don’t know who has more fun — the 6- to 12-year-old kids or our players,” Deal said. “It’s awesome. I think our players have just as much fun as the kids do, which is really neat to see.”