More than one roster: Women’s basketball volunteers with local communities

Britney Dixon, Managing Editor

Whether it’s on a court or in the local communities, Head Coach Kelly Thompson is always leading her team to create strong bonds with groups outside of their team. From helping out at American Athletic Union tournaments, Women’s Basketball Coaches Association days of service and freshman move-in, their presence is noticeable.

This season, the team started by honoring late alumnus, Ryan Latoya Weekes. Weekes, a member of the class of 2012, played four years on the RWU women’s basketball team. She was diagnosed with cancer during her last semester and died in 2015.

On Oct. 13, the first annual Rebounds for Ryan tournament was held at Holy Name Junior/Senior High School in Worcester, Mass. — her alma mater. Those who donated were providing the Worcester community with financial support to youth pursuing their passions through basketball and academics. Forty-eight teams from three age categories competed in the tournament.

Most recently, Thompson’s athletes set out against the women’s volleyball team for an after-practice game of dodgeball.

“It just happened organically. Volleyball had just had kind of a tough loss and at the same time, we had just gone through two weeks of practice and my team was feeling a bit overwhelmed,” Thompson said. “It’s always good to take a step back and do something unexpected to remind everybody that this is fun.”

Thompson and volleyball Head Coach Danielle Soubliere planned the event as an opportunity to remind their teams that a bad practice or bad game isn’t a huge deal. It also taught the teams that they can always get advice from other athletes.

This tactic is not unusual for RWU teams. Men’s and women’s track and field frequently end practice with a game of capture the flag.

Given that 57 percent of the basketball roster never competed in a college season before, Thompson knew time needs to be reserved for the basics.

“It’s not just about coaching the skill-work. It’s about coaching time management and leadership and 50 million other things that come along with a college season,” Thompson said.

According to her, the challenge has been really fun.

Going forward this season, the end goal is the same as every season and the same as the other eight teams in the Commonwealth Coast Conference: Win the championship and land a spot in the NCAA tournament.

“If we come in wanting to get better every day, then we’re going to be there in the end when it counts,” Thompson said.

On Nov. 25 at 3 p.m., the Hawks will work with the community again as Mount Hope High School’s Special Olympics team gets honored and funds get raised for the Bristol-Warren Lunch Fund.

As far as building connections, Thompson hopes to organize practice activities, similar to dodgeball, with other teams such as men’s basketball and track and field.

Their first game is at home Tuesday, Nov. 6 against Wheaton College and before then, the team needs to work on handling ball pressure.

“For me, I want to challenge my kids,” Thompson said. “Even if we lose, you’re setting the standard higher and you’re teaching how to fight through adversity.”