University athletes are servant leaders


At Franciscan University, athletes take time out of their busy lives as college students and invest in the local community with their time and service.

Some universities have to worry about athletes doing drugs, getting in trouble with the law or not performing well in the classroom. Such is not the case for Franciscan University. Several of the university’s athletic teams have found programs that enable them to help others.

Among the programs some of the Baron athletic teams have participated in include basketball clinics for Steubenville youth, neighborhood cleanups and the Miracle League. The rugby team, for instance, came together to help with a cleanup of the Pleasant Heights and Labelle View neighborhoods. The team, along with members of the community and Franciscan Student Government, went all over the neighborhoods, cleaning the areas of trash and litter.

“It felt really good to be going out into the community to help,” said senior rugby team member Jack Scanlon. “I think that university students who live here on the hill sometimes forget about the rest of the city, but the city is a big part of the university, so it’s good to intermix the university and the city to do good.”

When Franciscan’s long-time assistant director of community relations, Anita Jackson, passed away earlier this year, the rugby team helped out with setting up and decorating for her memorial service, taking a huge load off the organizers’ backs.

“We receive so much support from the university, our families and others, that it was nice to be able to give back in this way,” said Dan Kramer, head rugby coach.

The Lady Barons softball team participated in the Miracle League, a softball league for children and adults with physical and mental handicaps. Softball head coach James Walker had heard about the Miracle League and decided to get involved with the league located in the Ohio Valley. The teams travel down and pair up with the players, helping them to run the bases and protecting them in the field.

According to Walker, the team was only required to help out twice, but many of the players continued to go back for more.

Freshman catcher Kayla Anderson said that as someone who hopes to coach someday, this was a great experience.

“It was a lot of fun to help coach the kids that might not have the full capabilities to play, and it was great to see the joy these kids had playing the game that I love so much,” said Anderson. “It made me really appreciate being able to still able to play this game.”

Junior Jordan Cunningham, team captain, said, “It was amazing that the kids we were helping impacted us just as much as we impacted them.”

Another team that has spent significant time giving back to the community is the men’s basket-ball team. Basketball’s Head Coach Joe Wallace has made serving others one of his biggest goals in his first year at Franciscan. One of the first things he worked on was putting on a couple basketball clinics for a local youth league.

“We have a chance here to mentor and guide some of these kids locally,” said Wallace.

The team worked with the local EDGE sports league to put on a series of basketball clinics for students in grades one through six. This came after a long day of three-hour practices and going to Mass, but Wallace said that the team’s members were “tremendous.”

“As a matter of fact, I think they had more fun than the kids,” Wallace said.

Senior guard Derrick David comes from a large family and said that this experience reminded him of being around his family. He added that, “It’s wonderful to be giving back and passing on my knowledge to these kids. Hopefully I’m helping to make these kids better as players and better as people.”

Several athletes and coaches remarked that their volunteering experiences gave them the joy of helping others while also causing the volunteers to appreciate the fact that they have the opportunity to play college sports. Freshman softball player Ashley Kondracki hopes that this can serve as a motivator for others to get involved.

“It does not take a lot of effort, time, or money to brighten someone’s day—and you never know, you might be the one receiving a blessing,” said Kondracki.

Wallace added that, “At the end of the day, it’s not the wins and losses that matter, but the way we can help others.”