Advantages to playing in WNBA

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Angel McCoughtry loves that being a WNBA player gives her the chance to give back.

Being a WNBA player definitely has its advantages. One of the advantages is getting to be in the national spotlight, like tonight when we play Minnesota on national TV on ESPN2. Getting that attention is definitely a lot of fun, but I also enjoy giving attention, especially to kids. And that’s why another advantage of being a WNBA player is having opportunities to give back to the community. In my case, I was fortunate enough to be able to start my own foundation -- the Angel McCoughtry Dream Foundation.

I started the foundation about two years ago. Its mission is to teach and empower youth to recognize their dreams through good character, self-confidence and valuable life skills. I want to inspire them and help them learn the values of sportsmanship. I want to get them off the streets by instead getting them involved in sports and academics.

It was something I knew I would want to do if I ever had the chance, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have that chance. I’ve always liked working with kids. One thing I didn’t really like is paperwork, and there was a lot of it when setting up the foundation, but I had a great team helping me out and I’m glad we got that out of the way so I could get started giving back.

Our team is involved in a lot of community service projects in Atlanta, which is great, but ever since I went to school at the University of Louisville, I’ve also been heavily involved in helping the youth in Louisville. Back in May, my foundation held a function where we rewarded Louisville youth for their dedication to education and community service. They had to read three books, complete 10 hours of community service and write an essay on “How I would make my neighborhood safer.”

To the winners we gave out laptops, Kindle Fires, musical instruments, books and all sorts of things. UPS donated $15,000 to help make it possible, so I have to give them a special thanks and I’m looking forward to doing more with them as well.

At the event, I got a chance to meet with the kids and play with them. They were really excited and had a lot of fun. They said they were excited to meet me, but I think they were really more excited about the laptops.

Another thing I do in Louisville is work with Elearn Olympics, which is an academic competition that gives incentives and rewards to students for all sorts of achievements. There was one young girl in particular that I had a chance to help through this program, that really made it hit home just how much influence we as WNBA players can have.

This young lady had competed in the Special Olympics as a swimmer, but she was thinking about quitting. So I wrote her a letter encouraging her to keep at it and not quit. It really wasn’t a lot to do, but it must have had an impact, because she didn’t quit and ended up winning some medals. Later, her mom contacted me and told me how grateful she was that I reached out to her daughter and inspired her, because she was about ready to give up, but didn’t.

Hearing that story from her mom really made it sink it. All I did was put a few words on a piece of paper, and it helped inspire someone and had an impact on her life. That’s such a great feeling to have.

I’m hoping to expand my foundation to make it international, and I’ve already seen how we can impact kids overseas as well. While I was playing in Turkey my Fenerbahce teammate, Cappie Pondexter, and I bought toys for some kids at Christmas. We went to a children’s home and gave them gifts, clothes, Fenerbahce gear, that kind of stuff. They don’t really celebrate Christmas like we do, but it didn’t matter. The kids had a fun time, we had a fun time, we were able to brighten their lives just a little, and in the end, that’s all that really matters.