Nov. 26, 2014
By Brad Muller | More Features
The South Carolina men's tennis team is doing its part to change the face of men's health. The Gamecocks, led by Head Coach Josh Goffi, are taking part in the national campaign known as "Movember" held throughout the month of November to raise awareness and funds for men's health issues such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health issues.
"There is kind of a stigma with guys about getting checked," Goffi said. "I grew up in a household where my dad is Brazilian/Latin and a rough and tough guy, and that's how I was. We all believe we can't get sick. There's no time to get sick when you're the man of the family. The problem with that mentality is you don't go to the doctor, and that's the worst thing we can do. Cancer is becoming more and more of an epidemic, but a lot of times it can be stopped. We have to start taking time to go to the doctor."
Goffi came up with idea after a visiting family member showed up for a holiday dinner sporting a "massive handlebar mustache," which quickly became a conversation piece. Movember traces its origins back to 2003 in Australia and has since become a global movement where individuals grow mustaches throughout the month to attract attention to themselves as a conversation starter about these issues. Goffi had no problem in convincing the Gamecock student-athletes to participate.
"The older guys aren't as self-conscious because they're seniors," Goffi said. "They were saying things like `that sounds awesome, let's do it.' The other guys were wondering what they got themselves into. We do have some baby faces. Some of our freshmen and sophomores can't really grow facial hair, so they've got some peach fuzz on their upper lips and that's about it."
"Cancer is becoming more and more of an epidemic, but a lot of times it can be stopped. We have to start taking time to go to the doctor."
Because the Gamecocks are quite visible on campus with a few out-going personalities, it didn't take long after the razors were put away for the initiative to gain some momentum.
"By the second week, the guys were getting comments like `you look like Borat' and `you look like Luigi' and things like that," Goffi said. "It was great for them to be able to make fun of themselves a little bit, which is important for tennis players anyway to try to relax them, but they started striking up conversations and people are making donations."
The team set a goal of raising $1,000, but the greater importance was to get more people talking about the issue.
"We've had parents and friends and then friends of friends contribute," Goffi said. "In the years to come, we hope this will catch on so we can increase that goal."
Earlier this month, University of Tennessee sophomore tennis player Sean Karl died after battling Ewing's Sarcoma. While that is a rare type of tissue and bone cancer, the message still hits home for Goffi and the Gamecocks that cancer can affect anybody, even young and seemingly strong athletes, so it's worth it to get yourself checked regularly by a doctor.
In addition to growing facial hair, fake mustaches are worn by women and children at times or even "photoshopped" onto existing photos to spark a conversation. When it comes down to it, Movember has become a fun way to bring attention to a serious issue.
"Obviously it can do some team-building," Goffi said. "But our team is really into community service, and they want to be a force within in the community so this plays into that."
To make a donation through the South Carolina men's tennis Movember web site, visit http://moteam.co/gamecock-men-s-tennis.
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