By Cady Inabinett, Managing editor of content
Montevallo’s men’s and women’s soccer teams aided in water distribution efforts in Jackson, Miss. while in the area in September for games against Mississippi College. The teams’ efforts are in response to the on-going water shortage crisis throughout the state.
Water shortage issues in Jackson began in late August, as Pearl River flooding led to low water pressure throughout the city. This occurred on top of a boil-water notice that had been issued in July after the Mississippi Department of Health found that the city’s water could cause digestive health problems.
Bruce Dietterle, Head Coach of the Montevallo Men’s Soccer Team, said he learned about the issue after seeing posts on social media and reading news articles about the situation, inspiring him to find a way to help out.
“It kind of dawned on me like, hey, we’re going that way. Sucks to not have water,” he said.
Dietterle then collaborated with Jake Wyman, Head Coach of the Montevallo Women’s Soccer Team, and a Montevallo women’s soccer team alum, Michaila Franklin, who lives in the area. Wyman said Franklin was able to connect the teams with a local church, Fresh Start Christian Church, and Pastor T.D. Jakes, bishop of Dallas-based megachurch The Potter’s House, to aid in water distribution efforts.
The team brought over 15 cases of water, according to Dietterle, but the team contributed in labor as well—working to unload cases of water off a semi-truck and load them into the cars of people in need.
Both coaches emphasized the importance volunteering had on broadening their teams’ perspectives. Wyman said, “I believe it’s important for them to understand that they are in a position of privilege. And that, I think, was eye-opening for our players—that they see so many people in need and they have things so good in the position they are as college student athletes.”
Dietterle shared a similar sentiment, saying that the experience allowed players to become more cognizant of the world around them.
“The reality is that a lot of our players become myopic in just looking at soccer and they don’t realize that we are student athletes, and we are—or they are—student athletes and there is a bigger world out there,” he said.
Dietterle pointed out that this extended to himself and Wyman as well, saying, “We get, as coaches, stuck in it as well in season because we kind of get blinders on and all you worry about is the next game, the next practice and it’s good for the guys and even us to take a step back and go, man, there’s more to the world than sports.”
Volunteering also brough the men’s and women’s teams closer together according to Dieterle.
“I mean, you saw our guys giving water to the girls to put in cars. You see these little 135 pound girls carrying giant cases of water and then right behind them is this 6’4” guy doing the same thing. It creates a good unity for just Montevallo athletics,” he said.
Seth Acton, who plays left back on the men’s team, described the experience as humbling.
“I feel like it’s one of those things you always know about, like world hunger and stuff, but you don’t really know what it’s like until you get in that situation, and you see these people lined up for hours and hours just for basic necessities,” he said.
Acton pointed out that he felt more appreciative of his own day-to-day life because of his experience volunteering, saying, “As students we get caught-up in our day-to-day lives with school, soccer, work and we feel like we can’t tackle that stress but we don’t understand how grateful we should be for the basic necessities we have every day.”
Acton also expressed a desire to continue to help the Jackson community, saying, “When we had to shut it off and we saw there were still more people lined up, I felt good about myself and what we did but it definitely felt like we could’ve done more.”
Bailey Raphelt, a midfielder and wingback on the women’s team, is from Brandon, Miss.—a town that lies just east of Jackson. Raphelt said the proximity to her hometown made her feel shocked, but also made the work the teams did feel more personal to her.
“It’s just you don’t really realize, I feel like,” Raphelt said, “And it puts in a new perspective that that’s next door. Like, that’s just down the street that these people are having to go without basic needs like water.”
Dietterle also expressed a desire to draw attention to the on-going, systemic nature of Jackson’s water crisis.
“The story here is that we helped, but the real story is why it was such a disaster,” he remarked.
Dietterle went on to emphasize the role class divides played in exasperating the issue, saying, “The part that I was kind of sad about was that it wasn’t the affluent part of Jackson that was affected. It was the opposite. And too often that these things are striking the poverty side of areas because they are not taken care of because the money’s not there.”
“Putting a Band-aid on a wound is really what it comes down to,” Dietterle concluded about the teams’ work.
Cady Inabinett is the editor in chief of The Alabamian. She’s majoring in English and double-minoring in political science and peace and justice studies. She enjoys reading, watching movies, caring for houseplants and generally just being pretentious in her free time.