Kansas City, MO: The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) created the Buffalo Funds Five Star Champions of Character Award to recognize one team in every sport based upon their documented display of exemplary character and sportsmanship during practice, competition, on campus, and in the community. This year, the winner of the Buffalo Funds Five Star Champions of Character Award for Division II Women’s Basketball is the Alice Lloyd College Lady Eagles coached by John Mills.
The Champions of Character Program is geared toward teaching student-athletes about the positive impact that they can have on others by demonstrating 5 Core Values. These values are: Integrity, Respect, Responsibility, Sportsmanship, and Servant Leadership.
Kristin Knopik Gillette, the NAIA Director of Champions of Character, stated “What made the winning teams standout was the depth to which they incorporate the five core values into so many facets of their lives. We often talk about how one athlete of character changes a team, one team of character changes a school, one school of character changes a community, and one community of character changes the culture of sport.”
The NAIA has 145 Division II women’s squads across the country, so for ALC to be selected as the award winner is quite an accomplishment.
The Lady Eagles organized several programs with important messages this year including a Breast Cancer Awareness Program and an Anti-Bulling Program. They also assisted fellow Alice Lloyd students in several other programs as well.
Director of Athletics Gary D. Stepp was quite ecstatic with his schools award. “I can’t say how honored our school is to be selected as the 2011 recipient of this most prestigious honor. I feel that the Champion of Character Program is worthwhile for many reasons. First, it gets student athletes to realize that there is a proper way to conduct themselves in practice, competition, and in their everyday life. Second, it gives these athletes a chance to get involved in many worthwhile community activities. Lastly, it presents a positive example that younger student athletes need to see. With so much media attention placed on negative behavior from the sports world these days, it is refreshing to know that there is a program that addresses the fact that there is a right way to conduct yourself when you compete. Coach Mills and our ladies have really embraced this program, and they have conducted several worthwhile projects this season. Not only did others benefit from their work, but these women also saw they were having a positive impact on others. It was a win-win situation for everyone involved.”
When asked to reflect on his squad’s accomplishment, Coach John Mills replied,” Upon accepting the head coaching position at Alice Lloyd College, I told the players that we will be a program that is more than basketball. We will be involved in our community, and on campus working daily to positively impact the lives of the members of this program. In today’s society, athletics as a whole is viewed as all about taking and very little giving. It is our obligation as coaches to change the way we are viewed. The Lady Eagles bought into this philosophy 100%. When planning and conducting the different programs this year, we did not do it with our goal to receive an award. We got involved because we saw a need, and we were in position to make a difference and be a giver and not just another taker.”
Mills added, “At Alice Lloyd College, we let students know upfront that they will receive a character based education. With the Champions of Character Program of the NAIA, it allows those of us involved in athletics at ALC to make an impact, not only on campus and in our community, but most importantly in the lives of these young athlete’s. I applaud the NAIA for this initiative of challenging all institutions to be about giving and not just taking. I also want to thank Buffalo Funds for stepping forward and backing this effort. Without their funding, the Champions of Character Program would still be an idea.”
When asked how the team felt to receive this honor from the NAIA, seniors Whitney Frazier of Louisa, Chelsee Jarrell of Paintsville, and Nicole Lutes of Jackson said on behalf of the squad, “We are quite honored to receive such a prestigious award from the NAIA. We worked very hard this year as a team, and to be selected as the national winner of the Champions of Character Team Award for women’s basketball lets us know that all of our hard work paid off. We hope the underclassmen can continue this tradition for future seasons.”
When asked how character has helped their team throughout this season, junior guard Sara Burchell of Manchester, KY replied, “Character has played a large role in the teams success this season. The superior character of our team meambers has enabled us to have great chemistry, thus helping our success, not only on the court, but off as well. We end each practice at center court in a team huddle with our hands clasped together and say ”Family”. Coach Mills will always say, “Make good decisions”. We understand that being athletes doesn’t end when we leave the gym; it just begins.”
Members of the Lady Eagles squad are: seniors Whitney Frazier, Chelsee Jarrell, and Nicole Lutes; juniors Sara Burchell, Nikki Durman, Bailey Gabbard, and Gemma Gray; sophomores Shelby Barnett and Kendra Thomas; freshmen Shannon Bays, Courtney Crowder, and Ariel Nickell.