(Editor's note: The following story, written by Chad Bishop, was originally published on vucommodores.com.)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Vanderbilt women's basketball team knew it needed to be more visible in its local community. All it needed was just some prodding in the right direction on how to do that.
So part of the 2019-20 season included a concerted effort to improve in community service initiatives. At the urging of head coach Stephanie White, the Commodores answered the bell and then some.
"They should be 100 percent proud of themselves because we're proud of them," Marqu'es Webb said. "They did a really good job."
Webb, Vanderbilt's director of player development and a former Vandy women's basketball standout from 2013-17, was asked before the start of the campaign to help be the program's community service liaison. The Montgomery, Alabama, product knew just how important it was to give back to a local population who has meant so much to her during her amateur and professional career.
When White came to Webb and asked, "How can we expect the community to support us if we don't support them?" Webb knew she was the person for the job.
"Obviously being here for four years and playing here and investing a lot in here, the community means a lot to me," Webb said. "I still have a lot of different connections just being a part of it. There was kind of sense of pride I took within it being that I had already been here and I had already played for this community. I was excited."
Webb and White told the Commodores of an individual goal of at least 10 community service hours per student-athlete for the academic year. The team was well on their way to shattering that mark had the global pandemic of COVID-19 not occurred.
But Webb believes that would not have been the case had White not set the example for all to follow.
"(White) made a really, really big deal about it," Webb said. "It just took her saying, 'This is what we're going to do, this is how we're going to do it and this is why we're going to do it.' They just bought into it and they just did an amazing job throughout the year."
"I think when you have your head coach saying something is important and then with her being on the frontline - she went to every community service event that wehad as a team. She's just a big advocate of it."
Said rising senior guard Chelsie Hall: "We motivated each other to want to give back and be involved within the community as much as possible. I think it is important for us to use our platform to give back to the community. I want to represent Vanderbilt not only on the court but off the court and giving back to the community is one way I try do that. The love we get motivates me to give back to the people who support us and love us."
Added rising sophomore forward Yaubryon Chambers: "What motivates me to want to volunteer is being apart of the Vandy women's basketball family. We constantly talk about how what we do is bigger than just basketball and volunteering is just one way to show that."
"It is a privilege to play our sport and it's easy to take it for granted when you don't take the time to help others in need. The goal is always to be great at our sport, but if we can't make the world a better place in the process then I think we've failed to see the bigger picture."
The Commodores ended the 2019-20 academic calendar with 145.5 hours of community work, which averaged out to a little more than nine hours per student-athlete - and that was before Vanderbilt's campus dispersed due to the effects of COVID-19. By comparison, the 2018-19 team totaled 91 total hours of community service.
But more than the numbers, Webb said she knew the student-athletes had taken the initiatives to heart when they returned from the SEC Tournament on March 5 and immediately set out on their own to help with tornado relief.
"We want to serve our community and continue to get more involved in making a difference," White said. "I'm proud of student-athletes and for the great job (Webb) has done in conjunction with our student-athlete development office to find opportunities for our program to give back.
"We will to continue to take advantage of these opportunities to connect and serve our Nashville community."