Organizations partner to honor student athlete community service

Collegiate basketball players will be recognized for their community service this spring thanks to an endeavor by three organizations, and Tamika Catchings heads an elite group of current and former players on the selection panel.

The Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) and Allstate Insurance Company have created a Good Works Team(c) on both the women’s and men’s side. Ten athletes who have made outstanding contributions in civic involvement, and by volunteering, will be named to each team on Feb. 26.

Each team will consist of five Division I basketball players and five from Divisions II and III, and NAIA. The effort mirrors the one by Allstate five years ago with college football.

Catchings – a WNBA champion and MVP for the Indiana Fever – will serve on the Allstate WBCA Good Works Team(c) voting panel. So will the Los Angeles Sparks’ Alana Beard, former coaching greats Marsha Sharp and Nell Fortner, Penn State Coach Coquese Washington, and former players-turned-broadcasters Carolyn Peck and LaChina Robinson.

Collegiate athletic departments will nominate athletes for the team, and panel members select the winners. Team members will complete a community project in Atlanta, the site of the men’s Final Four, and New Orleans, the site of the women’s Final Four, where they will also be recognized at the WBCA Convention.

“The WBCA is excited to partner with Allstate to recognize the great works our student-athletes are engaged in throughout their communities,” said Beth Bass, CEO of the WBCA. “We hope that the student-athletes honored with this award will serve as a model and inspiration to future generations seeking ways to give back.”

Fortner said athletes performing community service has become the norm and not the exception.

“It’s not unusual for a team to be involved in some way,” she said. “Especially the last ten years, the emphasis for coaches has been on teaching student athletes the value of community service and giving them the opportunity to give back. Athletic departments have hired staff towards that end.”

Catchings, a star at Tennessee under Pat Summitt, said her coach always emphasized giving back to the community. Today she heads her own non-profit organization, Catch the Stars. Catchings called her involvement with the Good Works Team(c) an exciting honor.

“Being part of a group that recognizes these young women’s impact on and off the court is exciting,” she said. “Once the team is selected, we panel members can interact with the team. It will be a fun time.”

Beard, who played at Duke, understands the value of performing community service. She and her team were involved in numerous community service projects, but one in particular still stands out in her mind.

“The most memorable of them was our work done with the Ronald McDonald House,” Beard said. “Taking time to be a positive light to those going through a difficult time with their health by playing games, cooking and just being a bright spot in their lives, was priceless.”

Beard said community service puts life into perspective for athletes.

Robinson brings a different view to the panel. She was raised in a single-parent home, and was the beneficiary of community service from time to time.

“I really believe in giving back, and to serve on this panel is truly an honor,” Robinson said.

Tamika Catchings heads the Allstate WBCA Good Works Team(c), which recognizes collegiate basketball players for their community service – photo by the Indiana Fever