Nov. 26, 2013
By Ben Biddy, UTsports.com
The basketball season is under way, and the Tennessee Volunteers are gearing up for a trip to the Bahamas for the 2013 Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.
Over the last three years, Tennessee has traveled to Maui, Italy, and Puerto Rico. When they travel to the Bahamas later this week, the Vols will be traveling outside the contiguous United States for the fourth time in just four years. Through such travels, the coaching staff introduces the players to a world of opportunity.
"One thing we really like to do as a coaching staff during the four years that our players are here, is to allow them to experience as much as they possibly can," assistant coach Kent Williams said.
Additionally, the Tennessee program shares a strong connection with the organization Athletes in Action through Williams, who has helped facilitate trips to Germany, Poland, and Jamaica for junior guard Josh Richardson.
"I was introduced to AIA when I was a senior in college and was able to go on a trip to Poland," Williams said. "I had the chance to meet some of the people who are really involved in running the program, and stayed in close touch with those guys. I just have a great relationship with them. We had a couple players get involved at Missouri State, and now Josh has gone twice.
"So we always try to find a player or two to send on a trip with that organization. They have done an excellent job of providing great experience for our players."
Through these Athletes In Action endeavors, the student-athletes are taken on a tour of the countries they visit and are provided the opportunity to compete against other teams. This past summer, Richardson and his team competed against the National Jamaican team.
"It is great for the guys to get in games in the summer against good competition," Williams said.
Being a part of the Volunteers basketball program has provided Richardson benefits on and off the court through traveling with his UT team, as well as with Athletes in Action.
"(Tennessee) has given me a great opportunity to be able to travel a lot of places, experience a lot of different cultures and learn different styles of basketball," Richardson said. "I think it broadens my horizons in many different areas."
One of the luxuries of traveling is the ability to experience different cultures and compare the lifestyle to your own. While active with Athletes in Action, Richardson has had some impactful journeys to both Jamaica and Poland.
"In being able to work with the orphanage (in Jamaica), I was able to see the way kids grow up there as opposed to how kids here grow up," Richardson said. "It made me appreciate a lot of the things we have here. It was a tough environment.
"The first time I went to Poland and saw that there weren't any TVs there and that you couldn't drink the tap water, it was a culture shock. It has made me more grateful for the things we have here."
In addition to the development student-athletes can experience at Tennessee athletically, their association with the Vols' program also gives student-athletes tremendous opportunities to travel and see the world.
By attending Tennessee, student-athletes are receiving experience that is invaluable and are also given the chance to make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate. Richardson acknowledged as much when speaking about his appreciation for the program.
"I'm grateful to God for being provided the ability to do what we do here at the University of Tennessee."