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By Jack Copeland
The story of a nontraditional student who joined a varsity tennis squad in her late 20s, then gently offered pointers to a younger, inexperienced and overmatched opponent, was selected as the top honoree in a quarterly recognition program jointly sponsored by the NCAA and the Division III College Sports Information Directors of America (D3SIDA).
Published by the North Eastern Athletic Conference, the article about Penn State Abington student-athlete Kimberly Ochester was selected by a panel of sports information directors representing D3SIDA as the best work from Summer 2012 portraying the Division III model of intercollegiate athletics.
The NEAC’s feature, “Penn State Abington’s Kimberly Ochester No Stranger to Helping Others,” reported that the article’s 29-year-old subject left the school’s tennis team after her freshman season to care for her cancer-stricken father, then later became a tutor/mentor at an AmeriCorps program in Baton Rouge, La.
She returned to Penn State Abington to prepare academically to operate a community center for inner-city youth, and was persuaded before her senior year at the university to rejoin the tennis team and serve as a squad leader.
The article focuses on her second match of the season, against an opponent from Bryn Athyn, which was playing its first-ever varsity tennis contest. Quickly noticing that her opponent had little playing experience, Ochester began offering playing tips, according to the feature:
“Ochester was glad to lend a helping hand to an up-and-coming player, but she sure didn’t do it for the attention. Playing on the courts furthest away from the Bryn Athyn campus, Ochester didn’t think anyone was close enough to even see them play, let alone take notice of her actions. One person in particular did – Bryn Athyn athletics director Matthew Kennedy. His first reaction? ‘This is what Division III athletics are truly about.’ ”
The D3SIDA panel noted that the article is particularly noteworthy for portraying Division III attributes of passion, responsibility, sportsmanship and citizenship.
The quarterly recognition program is part of the Division III identity initiative. The recognition program seeks to honor the best work – including news releases, feature articles, videos, blogs and other materials – produced by Division III campus and conference sports information offices.
“Athletics communicators play a crucial role in promoting the Division III model of intercollegiate athletics, which encourages student-athletes to ‘follow their passions and develop their potential,’ ” said Dan Dutcher, NCAA Division III vice president. “This outstanding work is a laudable example of the ways in which our member institutions portray the Division III philosophy as it is practiced on our campuses.”
Jack Copeland is a consultant to the Division III identity initiative.