The Collegian
Saturday, May 30, 2020

Women's basketball starts playing with "pURpose"

After disappointing losses in the first round of the Atlantic 10 tournament the past two seasons, the women's basketball team decided to change its "pURpose."

In postseason meetings last year, the players got together and came up with a new plan for success.

"We wanted them to have a buy-in," said coach Michael Shafer said, "and the buy-in needed to come from [the players], so we encouraged them to come up with a strategic plan as to how to approach next season."

In the meetings following last year's 16-16 season, players divided into groups and presented ideas for change to each other before taking them to the coaches.

"They did it all on their own and I think that's the biggest part of it," Shafer said. "The purpose, that idea, that mantra came from the players as a whole."

Tracy Akers, a freshman at the time, brought up the theme of "pURpose" to the team in last year's meetings and it stuck.

"We were talking about how we could implement changes within ourselves without relying on the coaches," senior Genevieve Okoro said. "Tracy got up and said we have to start playing with a purpose."

"It's important to have these meetings after the season to reflect on how we did and ultimately improve as individuals and as a team," Shafer said.

"I once heard someone say that the purpose of life was to live with a purpose," Akers said. "I figured this could apply on the court and in just about anything for that matter."

With the start of the season less than two weeks away, the Spiders have been trying to implement this new direction every day. The team was picked to finish sixth in the A-10, according to a vote conducted by the league's head coaches.

"At times I've certainly seen a change in mentality," Shafer said, "and sometimes you have to kind of remind them. I use the word purpose a lot to try to bring it back to them because it's theirs." On all of the team's practice gear and warm-up shirts, the word "pURpose" can be found printed across the chest.

"Our coaches weren't even planning on giving us the gear or anything with pURpose on it," Okoro said. "It wasn't until we started practicing and, on the court, playing like we had a purpose. Like it meant something to be out there." Okoro is returning from an anterior cruciate ligament injury and has worked hard to be back in time for the start of this season, she said.

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The Spiders tip off the season in Washington D.C. Friday, Nov. 8 against the Georgetown University Hoyas.

"I think one of the things that the purpose mentality has brought about is that we're not looking to March," Shafer said. "We're looking to today. If we can win today, then we'll move on to tomorrow and try to win tomorrow."

"As a whole unit we're much stronger and closer than we were before," said Akers. "I think this has really helped our chemistry as we practice for the upcoming season."

Contact reporter Oliver Murphy at oliver.murphy@richmond.edu

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