NORMAN, Okla. -- When a pebble is tossed into a pool of water, a ripple begins at the point of entry, soon to be followed by other ripples that continue through the water. The cause of the ripple is at one point while the effect of the ripples may be felt well beyond the center point. For Sooner basketball coach Sherri Coale, getting her student-athletes involved in community service creates an effect like that pebble.
“Community service is important because it sets a trend for the players after they leave the University of Oklahoma,” Coale explained. “I want them to find something that they can reach out to when they get settled in a community of their own and to make an impact like we do now. This is what I call the ripple effect.”
While not unique on the Norman campus among Sooner sports teams, all of whom give back to the community through service projects, the women’s basketball team is undoubtedly the most active sport in community service this year. Current and past projects have included Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Children’s Miracle Network, City Sites Tour, Cleveland County Aging Services, Coaches vs. Cancer, Habitat for Humanity, Norman Regional Hospital, Norman Special Olympics, Children’s Hospital in Oklahoma City, United Way, Meals on Wheels, middle school Bible Study, elementary school visits and the Special Spectators program for terminally ill children as well as numerous other appearances.
“I like to make an impact on the community,” senior Britney Brown said. “I know that the kids look up to us and we like to set a good example.”
One of the unique programs the Sooners are involved with is called Special Spectators. This program allows terminally ill children to come to a basketball game and hang out with the players and coaches. Earlier this season, three girls from the Jimmy Everest Cancer Center in Oklahoma City came to the OU vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff game in December.
“Interacting with young people is very important and it benefits both of us,” Brown said.
The three girls were introduced to all the players and coaches and took pictures with the team. They went to warmup with the team and even got to hear Coach Coale’s pre-game speech in the locker room.
“Most coaches might think of this as a distraction, but Coach Coale wanted the girls to feel like a part of the team,” Annette Moran, OU’s coordinator of the CHAMPS Life Skills program said.
After the game, the girls went with the team into the locker room for the post-game awards. Coach Coale gave awards to the top players of the game and the three girls for their own special reasons.
“Every playeron the basketball team is charismatic and outgoing,” Moran added. “You can see it on and off of the court.”
The women’s basketball team also worked alongside a family to help build them a house with Habitat for Humanity. Everyone on the team had a role, even though some were better than others.
“It was hard work, but it was cool to work right with the people who were going to be living in the house,” Brown said.
“Sometimes, the team leaders are not the leaders in community service,” Coale explained. “And certainly, your most talented players are not always the most talented with a hammer and nail.”
The players go to an elementary school at least once a week to work, read and just hang out with the kids. Brown said this is probably where they get the best stories, but both Brown and her coach believe they get the most out of visiting Children’s Hospital.
“Children’s Hospital is always the most moving,” Coale continued. “Seeing the needs of the children is right there in front of you.”
“Going to the hospital is, I think, the most influential to our team,” Brown said. “We all look forward to it and being there really hits hard, both for the team and the children.”
The Sooner Athletics Department created the CHAMPS Life Skills Competition three years ago. This competition is designed to strengthen the student-athlete in the five commitment areas of CHAMPS (challenging athlete’s minds for personal success) -- academics, athletics, personal development, career development and community service. The teams at OU, known to enjoy a spirited competition, compete in this program and ultimately, everyone wins, according to Moran.
The women’s basketball team was the first team to win the CHAMPS Life Skills Competition. Most of their points were produced from their outstanding work in the community. This is the third year for the competition and Brown and her teammates are planning to place high again.
“They are the most outgoing team I work with,” Moran said. “They have consistently stayed enthusiastic and hardworking with all work they do in the community.”
"No matter what type of community service we do, we end up feeling like we got so much out of it,” Coale added. It’s like that pebble you really don’t know how far reaching the effect is."