Sidelined by injuries, Altoona senior becomes community service all star

March 24, 2015

When Penn State Altoona senior forward Joel Redfoot looked back at his collegiate basketball career, he could have chosen to dwell on what could have been. The Hollidaysburg Area High School product had a promising future on the court at the college level. In high school, he was a member of the team that won the 2010 District VI AAAA title and was an Altoona Mirror All-Star selection in both 2010 and 2011.

However, concussions quickly derailed Redfoot’s hoop dreams. Just four games into the 2012-13 season, his first as a member of the Lions basketball team, he was sidelined for the rest of the year after suffering a concussion. Redfoot’s prior history of concussions led to complications that prevented him from playing the next two seasons as well.

"It’s been extremely frustrating considering that I know my abilities and what I can bring to the court,” Redfoot said. “The risk of serious injury put things into perspective for me, though. It’s been unfortunate, but because of that situation, I’ve found that there are other ways to contribute.”

Because he was not medically cleared to play following his most recent concussion, Redfoot could have chosen to cut ties with men’s basketball and throw in the towel on his athletics career. Instead, he opted to stay involved with the team and the school’s athletics program by turning his focus to ways he could lend his assistance despite his medical limitations.

For the men’s basketball team, Redfoot remained on the roster but effectively became an assistant coach. He broke down film for upcoming games with his teammates, helped run the squad’s daily practices and took on a variety of support roles on the bench during games. When the Lions took the court on game days, Redfoot was unable to join his fellow players on the hardwood, but he still felt that he was a part of the team.

“Through everything, I still felt that basketball was a part of me,” Redfoot explains. “Despite not being on the court, being around the guys created a bond that made me want to continue staying involved with the team.”

Redfoot, a criminal justice major, also devoted energy to Penn State Altoona’s Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC), a group run by representatives from each of the campus’ 16 varsity sports teams that advocates for athletes. Among the top missions for SAAC is community service, and Redfoot spearheaded many projects as one of the council’s leaders. He was a regular volunteer with Special Olympics of Blair County (SOBC) and its sports practices, and he also helped run projects that benefitted SOBC and its members. Redfoot also volunteered in support of the Mountain Lion Backpack Program that provides food to elementary school children in the Altoona Area School District who otherwise may not have access to proper nutrition outside of school hours. Redfoot has also led SAAC in a variety of other projects, including its annual Toys for Tots collections, a Soles4Souls shoe donation that gathered footwear that was sent to impoverished people around the globe and the Home Run Against Drugs campaign that discourages substance abuse in local youth.

“If anything, I’ve become even more involved within athletics because of SAAC and doing more community service events,” said Redfoot. “I get the opportunity to spend time with other student-athletes outside of our respective sports and in different settings where we get to work together and build relationships. It’s not the same feeling as being on the court with teammates, but for those events, I see it as having different teams for a different cause with a different reward.”

During his time at Penn State Altoona, Redfoot has not set any scoring records, won the team’s most valuable player award or been named an all-conference player. But in early February, Redfoot was honored with a recognition that is more prestigious than any of those things when he was voted to the 2015 Allstate/National Association of Basketball Coaches Good Works Team. The Good Works team is comprised of 10 men’s basketball student-athletes, ranging from NCAA Division I to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics nationwide, who have displayed impressive commitment to giving back to their communities and positively impacting the lives of people around them. The award cements Redfoot as being in an elite class of men’s basketball student-athletes who have gone above and beyond in the realm of community service. As a member of the Good Works Team, he will travel to Indianapolis to attend the NCAA Men’s Final Four, where he will be recognized and also participate in a community service project to benefit the host city.

“I was grateful and honored with such a prestigious award, but at the end of the day, what is more important to me are the experiences I’ve been privileged to have and the connections I’ve made along the way,” stated Redfoot at the time of receiving the Good Works Team recognition. “To be able to make any type of positive impact on others is why I give back. I’m thankful to be in a position that I can give back to people who might not be as fortunate as I have been.”

“It’s a great honor for Joel to be named to the Good Works Team,” added Penn State Altoona men’s basketball head coach Billy Clapper. “The commitment he has made to make a difference in our community has inspired countless others to follow his lead.”

Redfoot’s senior basketball season was capped off by something he did not expect: the experience of making his first collegiate start. In the Lions’ final home game of the season Feb. 14, Redfoot suited up in uniform one last time, was announced as one of his team’s starting five and took the court for the opening tipoff in front of a standing ovation from the crowd in the Adler Gym.

To be sure, Redfoot wishes that his college basketball career had taken a different course. But instead of choosing to dwell on what did not happen, Redfoot will remember his time as a student-athlete at Penn State Altoona in a positive light because of the ways he made a difference off of the court.

“I didn’t get the chance to contribute how I had envisioned because of the concussion issues, but I ended up learning more about myself and what I need to do to be a better person and a better leader throughout life,” said Redfoot. “I’ve gotten to meet so many people throughout the last three years, and I’ve been fortunate enough to share experiences that have made me see things in a whole new way.”

  • Joel Redfoot

    Joel Redfoot is one of just 10 men's basketball student-athletes nationwide to be named to the 2015 Allstate NABC Good Works Team, chosen by The National Association of Basketball Coaches and Allstate Insurance Co.

    IMAGE: Penn State
Last Updated March 27, 2015