A few weeks ago, Sampson Community College reunited one of its former athletes with his old jersey which had been on display in the foundation office until the presentation… The gesture was not only to honor Charles Williams, former SCC basketball player but to bridge the gap between the past glory and what is hoped to be future glory for sports at SCC. Williams pointed out how important sports can be to students.
Now, another former SCC Vikings athlete who now works with athletes at Duke University, expressed the same sentiment in a recent interview. “Sports are important for many different reasons,” said Aldo Plata, former SCC Vikings basketball player. “Sports teach life lessons. They provide an atmosphere of teamwork and a chance to achieve the same goal. It provides a structure and teaches participants how to handle adversity and various personalities. It helps emotionally and in learning to make decisions.”
Plata, the son of migrant workers who traveled between Florida and Clinton at a very young age to work and help provide for his family, decided in the late 90’s to make Clinton his home and was eventually hired by Bill Fulton to work at Hog Slat, where his stepfather was a welder.
“I originally worked in the metal fabrication department,” says Plata. “But after finding out I could speak two languages, Mr. Fulton and Safety Director Lamont Thornton decided I could better help Hog Slat by filling a larger role, so I was promoted to the safety team.” As a part of his new role, Plata was required to be obtain an Emergency Medical Technician certification and that is how he was first introduced to SCC.
PHOTO: Plata has been involved in sports and academics with SCC, UNCW, East Tennessee State and Duke University.
“I just know that the main reason Aldo was so attracted to SCC was the basketball team, no joke,” says Fulton, who had served as the Human Resources Director at Hog Slat. “He loved basketball! While he was there, he played for the college but something else happened along the way. Aldo was bit by the ‘academic bug’ and the rest is history.”
Though Plata had never played a minute of high school basketball because there was never any time while working around his farming duties, he spent a couple years playing for the SCC Vikings in the early 2000s before transferring to UNC-Wilmington to further his studies. As he did, sports became an even bigger part of his life as well.
Plata attended the University of North Carolina at Wilmington where is he earning his Bachelor of Arts in Athletic Training degree in 2003. Later, he earned his Master of Arts in Sports Management degree in 2006 from East Tennessee State University where he worked primarily with the women’s soccer and men’s basketball teams.
Plata, who heard that Sampson Community College had launched the Develop the East project in part to support recreational sports, says he would be adamantly supportive of SCC reviving its sports history. “The bottom line is this,” he says. “Sports unite communities. This is true. Look no further than just up the road at Clinton High School and its football program. Look at the support the community has for sports programs in Sampson County.”
After working for almost a decade at UNC-Wilmington as the baseball athletic trainer, Plata became the athletic trainer for the Duke University baseball team. Currently, at Duke he works to decrease the frequency of injuries within the baseball team by reviewing each player’s biomechanical dysfunctions and developing preventative corrective exercises for each of an individual student-athlete to perform daily.
Charles Williams, the former SCC Vikings basketball player who was honored by SCC last month at the college stressed the importance of sports to students and those who play and those who watch the game. “If we can make this happen again, that would be awesome,” said Williams. “The talent is there. It just has to be nurtured.” Plata agrees. “This gives people something to hold onto,” he says. “A rally point to unite.” To contribute to the project or for more information about Develop the East, visit http://www.sampsoncc.edu/foundation/develop-the-east.