Basketball team rises to “Cold Water Challenge”


As a dark mass of rain and thunder in the distant sky threatened the #Chillin4Charity Cold Water Challenge event Monday outside Champion’s Choice, the precipitation ended up being the least of the coaches’ worries.

Four coaches and an unlucky player were left to mentally prepare for a shock of ice-chilled water after having a water cooler poured over their heads by student-athletes.

“Lets get this over with,” the coaching staff could be heard saying with stoic expressions as they took position in front of cameras.

The event helped raise money for the fight against cancer.

“It’s huge for us to support the Kay Yow Foundation and charities for women’s basketball around the country,” USF women’s basketball coach Jose Fernandez said.

The Cold Water Challenge was started by Arizona women’s basketball coach Niya Butts who used social networking and the trend of video challenges splashing across social media sites to raise money in the name of late Hall of Fame women’s basketball coach Kay Yow and her cancer fund.

The challengers will donate $50 for every challenge accepted, and those who have received their ice-cold water shower must challenge others. If anyone declines, they must donate $250 to the cause.

“I knew I was going to get challenged by several people, so I had to get it done,” Fernandez said.

Former USF assistant Carrie Banks called out the women’s basketball coaching staff on social media. Banks is now an assistant at Stephen F. Austin State University, and the USF coaches decided to continue the chain of challenges by accepting their fate.

“It was quite a challenge,” assistant coach Jeff Osterman said. “But fun for a great cause.”

Osterman, like the rest of those selected from USF, admitted to favoring warm weather, but said this was another level compared to jumping in a pool.

Some players tried to get out of being dunked by bargaining their attendance at conditioning, while others said the amount of ice water would conflict with their hair appointments.

As Fernandez took a seat, he mentioned one name.

“Courtney Williams,” he said.

“I didn’t have any mental preparation because I didn’t know that I was supposed to do it,” junior guard Courtney Williams said. “I got here and I thought I was going to watch my coaches get soaked, and then they tell me that it has to be one player and I’m the one that got chosen. It was shocking.”

Most of the coaching staff challenged members of the FIU women’s basketball department, as Fernandez and his assistants have ties to the Miami-Dade area.

Williams decided to challenge players from UConn and Rutgers, while Osterman called out the AAC “zebras,” his name for the referees.

As they were submerged in ice water, so did an instant collection of viral video moments. Fernandez quickly jumped in the air upon feeling the rush of cool water, while Osterman ran off and assistant coach Desma Thomas Bateast sat frozen and stunned before struggling with numbed arms to receive her towel.

The sole student-athlete required for the challenge was not so worried about the temperature of the water more than her concerns for something else.

“My hair, of course my hair,” Williams said underneath two layers of hair caps.

While some of the players still got wet, they were all smiles and laughter.

Though the event was a fun way to raise money for a good cause, there is a personal connection to cancer on the team. Sophomore guard Neena Pacholke lost her boyfriend to cancer shortly before her first collegiate game. Since then, she has continued her efforts in the fight against cancer, including the Cold Water Challenge where she was selected to dunk Fernandez in ice water.

The team has been participating in other opportunities to give back as well. Fernandez, Williams and other members of USF Athletics recently visited patients at All Children’s Hospital, while other members of the women’s basketball team visited a Girls Inc. basketball clinic this week to help coach young campers.