COLUMBIA — It would be an understatement to say this season has been a struggle for the Missouri women’s basketball team, which, after Wednesday's 1-point overtime loss, is 1-12 in Big 12 Conference play this season.
Yet, with all the difficulties on the court, the Tigers can still count themselves successful with the way they have reached out to the community and become positive influences in the lives of others.
Missouri (11-15, 1-12 in the Big 12) at Nebraska (26-0, 13-0)
WHEN: 7:05 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Devaney Center, Lincoln, Neb.
RADIO: KWWC/90.5 FM
“All of them have done something,” Missouri coach Cindy Stein said. “It’s so hard to keep track of. They all have some sort of appreciation for every single aspect, whether it’s a charity organization, or some kids or going to the elementary schools and doing our youth clinics.”
The team has a long list of community organizations and activities in which they participate, including Meals on Wheels, Special Olympics, and D.A.R.E. The team often travels to elementary schools to read to the students. Missouri also has put on youth basketball clinics before several home games this season.
“I think it’s very important,” senior Amanda Hanneman said. “I mean especially for people that want to know we’re just not all about basketball. We do other things and we help the community. All the little things.”
The Tigers' community service offers rewards not only for those they help, but for the players as well.
“I think they’ve demonstrated every day, just how they talk to the younger kids that come to the games,” Stein said. “After games, the postgame autographs. Just the way they deal with kids for instance. And just fans in general. They’re very genuine in their appreciation. They just love when little kids come and talk to them. It shows in our clinics that we run.”
Bekah Mills, slated to be the starting point guard before tearing the ACL in her right knee on the first day of practice, has done extensive work as a volunteer. She takes part in Big Brothers Big Sisters, an organization that helps children reach their potential through relationships with volunteer mentors.
Mills said taking her little sister to the movies or to the swimming pool when the weather is warmer is important. Although it is a big time commitment, Mills said she believes it’s the right thing to do.
“Any little bit I can give back to somebody, I’m prepared to do that,” Mills said. “I had pretty good role models growing up. I had older siblings, and I know not everybody has that. I figured if I can make a little bit of a difference to somebody, it’s well worth it.”
Mills and Hanneman are also involved in the Student-Athlete Advisory Council, which serves as a medium between student-athletes and athletic department administrators and tries to improve interaction between administrators, the community and the athletes. The council is made up of two student-athletes from each athletic program at MU. One of the main functions of the group is to coordinate community service activities.
“They’re both very good leaders,” Stein said of Hanneman and Mills. “They’re both very influential on the team. They’re just such positive people. They’re good teammates. They really have a passion for people.”
Mills and Hanneman have helped coordinate activities such as picking up trash around the city and visiting the Harry S. Truman Memorial Hospital. Mills and Hanneman said they want to set an example for the younger children.
“We really like it when the kids come to the games,” Mills said. “We want to be good role models for them. That’s why we do some of the things we do. Just kind of get out there and let them see what we’re like off the court.”
Sophomore BreAnna Brock has worked with the Special Olympics for years, coordinating track meets and bowling activities. She started volunteering with the organization her freshman year in high school and has continued to do so when she has free time in the offseason.
“Some people may look at the Special Olympians that I've worked with as being fortunate that someone so called normal like myself gave time and worked with them,” Brock said. “But I beg to differ. I am the one that has been honored and truly blessed to work with them. They accept you for who you are and how you are, and they love freely with open arms and hearts. So I'm a better person every day for having been in their presence.”
Stein said she is proud of the people her players have become.
“That’s one of the biggest things ... that your players grow up and be really good, solid people," Stein said. "They should have a care to them, an appreciation for things and treat people well. Just to see them grow and mature into young adults is something that every coach loves to watch and appreciates.”
Stein said even though the season hasn’t gone the way she planned, her team will walk away with valuable life lessons.
“I’m extremely proud of them,” Stein said. “The inner strength they’ve shown this year is amazing. Not many teams have had to go through that. For whatever reason, we are. It’s one of those things that’s a great lesson in life — that sometimes life isn’t fair. You don’t want to be a quitter. You don’t want to ever give up. You want to continue to do things the right way. That’s one of the great lessons in life — learning how to get through the bad stuff.”