Basketball players serve community
There are many things that go into being a successful basketball player. Endurance, accuracy, speed quickness, agility all these skills define a quality athlete.
But to be a successful member of Tonganoxie's boys basketball team requires more.
Coach Mike Webb said he felt that his players should leave his program not just better basketball players, but better people.
Which is why community service is a major part of the lettering process.
"Community service is just one extension of the basketball program," Webb said. "I want the kids to develop their characters in the right sort of way."
Webb said that there is no way to do that better than get them to give back to the community that supports them.
That's why, to earn a letter, a player must not only play 30 varsity quarters, but he must also complete the requisite community service, which Webb said amounted to participating in four of five projects.
On Dec. 28, the team held a free children's basketball clinic to increase public knowledge and support of the game.
On Jan. 25, the team visited Lawrence Memorial Hospital's pediatrics department and spent time talking with the young patients and giving them gifts, Webb said.
On Jan. 27, the team spent a Saturday morning working at the recycling center at the Leavenworth County Fairgrounds.
On Feb. 4, the team traveled to the Willie Gill Center in Kansas City, Kan., to work in a soup kitchen, preparing and serving food to the needy and homeless.
"The soup kitchen helped us realize how thankful we should be for what we have," said junior Kraig LaRosh.
LaRosh, a junior varsity player, doesn't participate for a letter. He said that most members of the team make it out to help, even if it's not required of them.
Its most recent project for the team was attending a junior high basketball team to show its support of the future.
Webb said the community service projects typically draw 90 percent participation.
"We really encourage the kids to give back to the community," Webb said.
He said that the team had four things that it considered important and that basketball was the last on the list.
He said that spiritual commitment, family and academics all came before the game. He said that community service falls mostly under the category of spiritual commitment.
"It helps us grow as individuals," said senior Matt Needham. "It also helps us come together as a basketball team."