BILLINGS — It's that time of year again, as the Montana State Billings women's basketball team was in action Tuesday against Montana Tech in its fourth annual Elementary School Game, where four of the local elementary schools in Billings packed Alterowitz Gymnasium to support the Yellowjackets.
It’s an opportunity for kids to skip some school and support some of the best women’s athletes in the community.
“First of all, I was a teacher and a high school coach for 17 years including 10 in Billings, so the schools are important to me in a sense of community," MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin said. "Those principals, I all have a personal relationship of some type with them. To have their students here, it's a special day."
Prior to Tuesday's game against Montana Tech, the Yellowjacket women visited the four elementary schools in attendance. The message was similar to the ones we all heard growing up, but it carries a little more weight coming from a local student-athlete.
“We talk about that a lot, and the players did a great job reiterating that if they want to play sports or do other things, they have to work hard, even in elementary school. That's just so important, so we really appreciate that the players emphasize that message," Newman Elementary principal Joe Walsh said.
"The value of homework, being a good teammate — hearing our players tell them how well they get along and how much they care about each other are good things," Woodin said. "Just doing your best. Sometimes you don't have a good day, and those strong messages — which are good for all of us — but when you get those when you're young that can help."
Today’s event is also one of the most raucous crowd the Jackets will have all season long. Students from Newman, Boulder, Elysian and Meadowlark packed Alterowitz, and there was definitely a buzz in the building.
“It’s really powerful that coach Woodin and his team, the players, they come up and we have a big assembly and celebration. We play a little lightning, they high-five the girls and they get to meet them," Walsh said. "On top of that, they get to come up here and spend an afternoon watching them play. It's truly a wonderful opportunity for them to see what's out there in our community, to support our community, so we really enjoy it."
Not a bad way to spend a school day. Oh, and the MSUB women? They’re GNAC preseason favorites and beat Montana Tech by 30 points, 84-54.