Meetings. Class. Lifting weights. Practice. Study hall. And that just scratches the surface for the average college athlete. Professional players still have meetings, weights, and practice, but with more free time outside of that, they have more choices as to what to do with their day.
All of that combined with trying to keep some semblance of a social life makes it seem like 24 hours is not nearly enough for a day.
So where does community service fit into the equation? Is it as important to the athletes as television makes it out to be or is it simply a requirement that they put their heads down and just do?
The National Basketball Association has NBA Cares, which is defined on their website as “the league’s global community outreach initiative that addresses important social issues such as education, youth and family development, and health and wellness.”
Service organizations in other professional leagues include MLB community for Major League Baseball, W.O.R.K.S. Community Service Program for Major League Soccer, the United Way and Play 60 for the National Football League among others.
Players like LeBron James, Derrick Rose and plenty others that give time at the NBA level.
“What I do with basketball only lasts during the season, but the hope we do with the [James Family] Foundation goes non-stop,” James said in a July 2006 interview when he accepted the NBA Community Assist Award for that month. “We want to keep building hopes and dreams in the lives of children and families.”
James work for his annual “Bike-a-thon” in his hometown is just one thing he does for the community. His highly-scrutinized one-hour television program “The Decision” raised $2 million for various Boys & Girls Clubs across the country.
Whether or not the work that he and countless other players do within the various communities across the country is genuine remains to be seen, but some are skeptical. Faruq Basir, a co-host of “Stats and Stilettos” on WVON Radio in Chicago, believes that who you don’t hear about might be the ones that truly want to do it.
“The guys that are doing it on the sly are real,” Basir said, mentioning that a good amount of foundations for athletes are still making money so it is hard to tell who really wants to do it and who does it for show. “Guys who are pumping it up are who you have to watch out for.”
With as many players that do community service, Thaisa Gee, Basir’s co-host on their show, believes that starting with community service at a younger age may lead to more wanting to do it the older they become.
“I think they should start in high school,” Gee said about community service. “If you start in high school where you give back and you pull somebody up from where they are and maybe show them something they wouldn’t have necessarily been exposed to, by the time they’re in college and you’re giving back to high school kids you’re on a whole different level because you’re a college athlete.”
Where the issue of being genuine or not can come in actually may start in high school. In the state of Florida, Broward County Public Schools require 50 community service hours to be completed in order to graduate.
Basir said that at the pro level, it’s the least that athletes could do.
“I think it’s big considering the amount of money athletes make,” he said. “It’s like a little reciprocation for them to come to a school or some place to speak. Let the public know that they’re appreciated for putting money in their pockets.”
At the college level, the situation is a bit different because they are not getting paid in contracts, but rather in a scholarship to play sports.
So should the community service be a requirement of the scholarship? And if so, does that take away from the “volunteer” aspect of community service?
DePaul University’s website says that, “DePaul student-athletes participate in a number of community service activities.” They range from Misericordia Candy Days to organ donation drives, volunteering at soup kitchens and meeting with children at Children’s Memorial Hospital.
Taylor Pikes, a fifth-year senior on the DePaul women’s basketball team stresses that it community service is important to her.
“I think it’s always a good thing to give back based off of what we’re given at DePaul,” she said. “It’s always good to give back.”
When interviewing the four seniors on DePaul’s women’s basketball team, the other three deferred to Pikes, a clear sign to her dedication to service. She also said that she doesn’t see it as something that she’s forced to do.
“I feel like it’s more of something I want to do because it’s not required every day. I feel like it’s something we like to do, so why not do it?” Pikes said.
Dave Corzine, Assistant to the Athletic Director for Community Outreach at DePaul, among his other thoughts, doesn’t feel that community service should be required at schools.
“I think any time you have to require people to do community service it kind of defeats the mission and attitude they should being to it the whole point of community service to to develop an mentality that you want to get out and help other people” Says Corzine.
Other schools are very committed when it comes to community service. The University of Minnesota-Duluth says on their athletic website that, “the university means more than just academics and sports. It’s about learning some of life’s lessons, such as it is always better to give than to receive.”
UMD also goes on to say that that, “community service work has been a focal point of Bulldog athletics since its inception.”
Community service and “volunteering” will remain a controversial topic as long as motives are in question.
Even if it is for good and the communities end up beneficial regardless.