Dec. 21, 2000
Tis the season to be … helpful.
Since Head Coach Sue Semrau’s arrival in 1997, the Florida State women’s basketball team has made community service a priority. This season, the Seminoles have taken that commitment to “The Next Level” and beyond the comfort of the city of Tallahassee. While continuing to serve the Tallahassee community, the Seminoles now also extend a helping to the communities in which they travel to for competition.
“Anytime we can do something to help people when we’re on the road, it sinks in a little deeper than even when we are in our own community,” Semrau said. “It’s not only important when we are in Tallahassee, but anywhere you go, there’s a need. What I see as a result is a bunch of players who are very excited about giving back. I think it’s a culture that not only women’s basketball, but Florida State athletics, has started and one that’s really meeting a need for people who are out there and it turns out to be a lot of fun.”
On their trip to New York in mid-December, the Seminoles paid a visit to an elementary school in Harlem. The squad met with the third grade class in the school’s gym and provided about two hours of entertainment.
“This was great,” Lee Shapiro, the principal of PS207 said. “It gave the kids an opportunity to see real live people working as a team, achieving, staying in school, following a dream and coming here and caring about them and taking time to see them. It was just a great experience for them and it doesn’t happen very often.”
The group of approximately 60 children had the opportunity to watch the players do some shooting drills. Since the rims were a little lower than what the players were used to, there was some dunking going on – much to the delight of the young spectators. Then the coaches picked about 10 kids to do a little shooting themselves.
“I had fun,” Taylor, a youngster from Harlem said. “I like all of the basketball players because I think they’re nice. My favorite part was when they did their shooting.”
After opening up with the basketball drills, each member of the team introduced herself by saying her name, where she is from and what she wants to be when she grows up. The kids listened attentively and shrieked with delight when junior April Traylor said she wanted to someday play for the New York Mystics. Then they divided the kids into three groups and the Seminoles had a question and answer session and played games. One group got especially good at doing the Florida State war chant.
“They are a very integrated team and I love that,” Shapiro said. “They look like they really like each other and seem like bright girls with great futures. Whether they win or they lose on the court, in my eyes, they’re already winners.”
The Seminoles were winners on the court in New York, beating St. Francis by a score of 73-65 and Fordham, 73-52.
FSU’s practice of community service on the road this season all started on a road trip to Orlando in November which was successful in many ways for the Seminoles on the court and off. Not only did they upend Central Florida 68-37 in a game televised on Sunshine Network, but upon arriving in Orlando, the Noles spent time with children at the Boys and Girls Club at the Coalition for the Homeless. The ages of the children ranged from seven to 16 and as sophomore Shinikki Whiting explained, it wasn’t all about basketball, but about real life.
“We all went there with the mentality that these kids were homeless and didn’t have anywhere to go,” Whiting said. “But actually, these were good kids who wanted to do something different than being on the streets, doing drugs and getting in trouble.
“While we were there, we talked to them about the importance of school and working hard at whatever you do. They were very attentive and all of them had awesome personalities. I think they appreciated it, but even if they didn’t, I appreciated it. I really wasn’t in the mood to be bothered with but as soon as I went in there, those kids, they made me laugh and they made my day a lot better. It made me really appreciate what I have.”
The Tribe also took time in December to help out at home. While the Christmas season is full of hustle and bustle for many, the Seminoles donated a Friday night of their time for “Parents Night Out.” From 6-9:00 p.m., on December 8th, the Noles watched members of the “Courtside Kids,” women’s basketball’s kids club, giving their parents a few hours to “catch up.”
“It gave us a chance to get acquainted with and get to know the Courtside Kids on a personal basis,” sophomore Lauren Bradley said.
All the activities took place in the Moore Athletic Center, where the kids played games in the gym, in the locker room and ate snacks in the cafeteria.
“We played games like Twister and the N’Sync board game and we played video games, ate candy and had pizza,” sophomore Katelyn Vujas said. “They seemed to have a great time. They were clinging to us everywhere we went which was cool.”
But it wasn’t just fun for the kids. The Seminoles had a good time being kids themselves while at the same time, helping others.
“It was just fun to play with the kids and give the parents some time,” senior Brooke Wyckoff said. “I think they had fun just playing around. It was great for them to see us out of our basketball games and as real people.”
Real people and good people.