Every great basketball team can benefit from a sixth man—a talented, multifaceted player who comes off the bench with great energy and effort.
During the 2015-2016 season, the Saint Leo men’s and women’s basketball teams experienced a different sort of sixth man—a group from the local community who offered invaluable support and encouragement. Led by Lake Jovita residents and longtime Saint Leo fans Terry and Linda Spaight, couples and families in the surrounding areas—including Lake Jovita, Dade City, and Zephyrhills—rallied around the players and invited them into their homes.
It all started four years ago when the Spaights decided to have a season tip-off party for the men’s team. As the years followed, they learned—since the university Dining Hall is closed during the Christmas holidays—coaches were often responsible for making sure the players were fed while on break. With that knowledge, the couple began organizing team meals, and enthusiasm began to grow.
Joining in the effort was a group of snowbirds from Zephyrhills. These men and women, proudly donning their bright green and yellow sweatshirts, are known for cheering on the teams at home games. Hailing from Illinois, Maine, and other northern states, the snowbirds have quickly become an important part of the fan base.
Over the 2015 Christmas holidays, the teams were treated to a total of 22 meals. Along the way, players were partnered with couples and families and got to know them. They enjoyed food, played games, and bonded with these adoptive parents and grandparents. As an added bonus, the two teams—who often see one another only at practice and games or in the weight room—enjoyed spending time together in a family atmosphere. As Linda Spaight explained, “It was a wonderful way to connect the community with Saint Leo.” Her hope is that the momentum will continue to build and the community support will continue to grow in the years to come.
“I believe their support is irreplaceable, not only to Saint Leo athletics but to the entire community. They are truly our sixth man. It’s very comforting when I walk in the gym and see them there.”
—Coach Vince Alexander