ODU Student-Athletes Volunteer at Community Center's BullyProof Program

July 21, 2010
By ODU Athletics
ODU Sports

July 21, 2010

NORFOLK, Va. -- Three members of Old Dominion University's football team cut an imposing figure, surrounded by neighborhood kids less than a quarter their size, at the summer camp program being run by the Lamberts Point Community Center.

The student-athletes - Brandon Carr, Devon Simmons and Charles Walls -- made a guest appearance Tuesday, July 20, during a special BullyProof program, which was offered as part of the 10-week summer camp at the Norfolk community center near campus.

The summer program is being assisted by ODU students who mentor children during sessions.

On this day, despite their size, the "mentoring" involved the football players ending up flat on their backs on the mat as volunteer subjects for a very active demonstration by Rener Gracie. A jiu-jitsu grandmaster, Gracie is the co-creator of the BullyProof program, which was designed to empower kids to fight bullying and build self-esteem through sports.

Gracie, who was in Norfolk for a seminar to train police officers, was excited to visit the community center. Norfolk is the first city in the country to offer BullyProof as a free public program. It's being run, entirely by volunteers, every Tuesday morning as part of the 10-week summer program.

While Gracie showed the campers how a smaller person can use leverage to get a larger person (presumably a bully) off of him or her, Carr talked about the value of playing sports and how that helped him over the years avoid being the target of bullies.

"I think (a program like BullyProof) is a good thing. Bullying is out there," Carr said. "Being in sports is a good thing to help you feel a part of something, and gain self-confidence."

ODU's new assistant basketball coach, Lonnie Blow, also attended Tuesday's session. Despite where he is now, the long-time coach said that he was bullied when he was younger. "But it stopped when I got into sports," Blow said. "I think athletics is so good for kids' self-esteem, to make them realize that they're a lot tougher than they thought."

Sports, Blow said, also helps kids with the mental aspect of life, getting them to focus on accomplishing goals and working to overcome adversity.

BullyProof relies on a lot of the same tenets. During his demonstration, Gracie sought advice from the student campers on how to break a hold he had placed on one of the co-instructors. Hands shot into the air enthusiastically.

Norfolk City Council member Dr. Theresa Whibley, who attended the demonstration, said she is thrilled that BullyProof is being offered for free at the community center. "The city recognizes this is a great program. We're really hoping to look at this long-term."