Director of Student Athlete Development talks ‘Courts for Kids’

Cori Pinkett sits at her desk in the Vanier Complex on July 19, 2016 to talk with The Collegian. (Evert Nelson | The Collegian)

Andrew Hammond: “Courts for Kids.” That was something you participated in this summer? What’s the background of that?

Cori Pinkett: “We started a program called ‘Cats Across Continents’ and we partnered with ‘Courts for Kids’ to do our abroad trip. It was really cool. We were looking for something that gave our student athletes the opportunity to study abroad but in a shortened time frame. We thought it would be best to do a service abroad approach so that we wouldn’t have to deal with the nuances of class credits and student athletes having to pay for classes and everything that came along with that.”

AH: How many athletes participated in the program and how many sports were a part of it?

CP: “We had 16 student athletes from a total of eight or nine sports. So you had your football, women’s basketball — your track and field, tennis, rowing and equestrian. I know I’m missing some but we had eight.”

AH: Being away from home in another country, with a totally different culture, had to come with some culture shock. Were there any moments where you stepped back and had to say, “I’m not in Kansas anymore?”

CP: “The language was the biggest thing for me. I’ve traveled abroad, I’ve studied abroad and I’ve done service abroad so that’s where my passion for this comes from. I had seen poverty and lived in it during my service abroad experience so that wasn’t the biggest ‘ah-ha’ moment. When I did my abroad work before, I was in South Africa where they speak English, so I didn’t have to worry about the language barrier. Having the desire to communicate but not having the ability to, I was like ‘Man, I can’t say anything.'”

AH: Do you feel like some of the athletes opened up as the trip progressed? Got more involved within the community and each other as things moved forward?

CP: “It’s so funny you ask that question. So when we were doing our pre-trip meetings, the athletes would sit with their sports and there were a few people that would be the only person in their sport. It was just, we don’t really know each other so we’re just at these meetings so we can get prepared. Even that first day of the trip it was like that – but after that they were tight and it was just amazing to see that. They were forced to bond. You’re in a rural community, you don’t have access to Wi-Fi and you can’t use your phones. You’re forced to be with a group and it was cool also because they had different challenges each day to force that cultural immersion, so we briefed them at the end of the night and it gave us a chance to come together at the end of the evening and talk about those experiences.”

AH: What was the most rewarding moment for you on this trip, looking back on everything?

CP: “When we finished the multi-sports court where they can play basketball and soccer. Seeing the joy on that community’s face when we finished the court and seeing the joy on those kids’ faces as they learned how to play basketball and soccer. Seeing them have a place to play those sports, that was worth it all.”