NIU Athletics Department’s Challenge of Champions gets intense


Competition is a force that drives people to new levels of greatness, and there aren’t many who face the level of competition that NCAA student-athletes do.

What happens when you take away the helmets and pads, though? Does that competitive spirit subside?

For some people, the only thing that equals the drive to compete is the drive to help others and better themselves.

This is the idea behind the NIU Athletics Department’s Challenge of Champions, a program that seeks to develop champions in the classroom, on the field and in the community.

The program does this by facilitating community service opportunities for student-athletes. The program also provides them with valuable skill-building “Hour of Power” workshops, according to Monique Bernoudy, the associate athletic director of the CHAMPS/Life Skills program.

Incentive lies in a point system, in which the athletes gain points for their teams by taking part in community service activities and the workshops provided by the Athletics Department.

“What we said to them was ‘there’s almost nothing you can do in a positive manner [for which] you can’t gain points,'” Bernoudy said. “The different teams gain these points by doing things like community service and workshops we have.”

These workshops cover topics such as resume writing, life after sports and substance abuse.

At the end of every year, the teams with the most points are rewarded with everything from monetary prizes that go back to the team to a pizza party.

A slice of deep dish isn’t the real reason student-athletes accumulate as many as 5,000 hours of community service. According to sophomore sprinter Kaylee Walters, many of the athletes are just glad to be given the opportunity to help around their community.

“The system really creates an environment where we have these kinds of opportunities, and I know the student-athletes appreciate it,” Walters said. “With our busy schedules, [the Challenge

of Champions program] gives us a chance to participate where we otherwise couldn’t.”