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VIProfile: Rick Barnes


I love the people,” said Rick Barnes, Head Basketball Coach at the University of Tennessee, when asked what he likes most about Knoxville. “I think there’s a freshness. People here are friendly and real. People love their community and want to see it flourish and grow.”

“Knoxville’s one of those places where there’s so much good going on,” he continued. “I’ve been inspired by what people are doing here. There are so many people doing so many wonderful things. I want to be part of it. I feel like I have an obligation to the community.”

Coach Barnes arrived in Knoxville ready to contribute.

“When I first got here, I sat down with Mr. [Jim] Haslam and said ‘I want to be involved in the community, but not in ways that are not productive.’ He said, ‘I think I can help you with that.’”

Barnes credits Haslam for his involvement with Emerald Youth Foundation.

“He made the initial invitation to be on their board, and he introduced me to [President and CEO] Steve Diggs. When you meet Steve, you know it’s where his heart is. They stand behind their mission. I appreciate that. Later on, I got involved with their golf tournament, helping raise funds for the organization.”

Barnes credits his wife, Candy, for his involvement with Thrive.

“My wife started volunteering there with Elizabeth Sansom and Lori McKelvey. I got involved with the Thrive Banquet, and every now and then we go over and play kickball.”

“At a time when I was growing up in North Carolina, there were times I needed support and received it,” he said. “There were people who stepped up when I really needed it. They’re doing the same thing at Thrive.”

“They’re trying to help young people change the course of their lives, ground them in their faith and let them know they’re cared about,” he continued. “They’re allowing kids to search for what makes them feel good about themselves.”

Barnes also supports The Change Center, which grew out of the Save Our Sons Initiative, championed by Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero and former Police Chief David Rausch.

“They’re doing good work with young people,” he said. “Chief Rausch wanted them to know ‘The police are not your enemy.’ They still need help financially. I need to get back over there.”

Another organization Barnes supports is the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

“I’d heard about it when I was in college [at Lenoir-Rhyne],” he said, “but I’m not sure we had a chapter. I knew I wanted a presence within our program for the FCA. I was inspired by Scott Jackson, Lead Servant at New Life Gathering, and by conversations with Bill Sansom, CEO of H.T. Hackney Company.”

“Bill Sansom gave me great insight as to how it was when Philip Fulmer was Head Coach,” he said. “We wanted to have that component in our program. Chris Walker, who played football here and in the NFL, felt God calling him. He’s the campus director of the FCA.”

“Building the total person is what it’s about,” continued Barnes. “I want our players to compete at the highest level but look back on their time here as the best part of their life.”

“One of the best things is the gift of giving,” said Barnes. “It’s important to teach at a young age--the gift of giving. It’s all a calling. Some are called to help financially; some are called to be hands-on volunteers; some are called to help with facilities.”

“Non-profits always need to raise money,” he continued. “You have so much respect
for them. Their hearts are in the right place.”


The mission of the Emerald Youth Foundation is to raise up a large number of urban youth to love Jesus Christ and become effective leaders who help renew their communities. Last year, Emerald Youth Foundation ministered with more than 2,300 children, teens and young adults through a network of churches and faith-based organizations in the heart of Knoxville. They engage young people in three key areas: faith, learning and health.

Thrive Ministers to at-risk youth in Knoxville to share the Gospel through relationships anchored in the love of Christ. Thrive has Christian youth programming in the Lonsdale and Parkridge neighborhoods: Thrive Afterschool, Thrive Summer and Mentoring. Thrive seeks to connect children with deep spiritual, emotional, academic and physical needs with caring adults who have been blessed with abundance in those areas. Thrive recognizes that their students’ spiritual needs far outweigh their physical needs. Physical poverty often stems from poverty in other areas; they seek to address the spiritual, emotional and academic deficits that can rob children of their potential.

The Change Center grew out of the Save Our Sons Initiative, an effort focused on reducing violence-related deaths and increasing opportunities for success among teens and young adults. The Save Our Sons Advisory Committee found that many teens and young adults who think they are too old for after-school and youth programs begin to hang out on the streets with nothing to do — a recipe for trouble. The Change Center addresses this problem by offering a safe place for teens and young adults to play and relax. The Change Center helps youth form strong relationships, opens doors of opportunity that lead to positive outcomes through recreation, teaches job skills and promotes part-time employment.

Since 1954, FCA has been challenging coaches and athletes on the professional, college, high school, junior high and youth levels to use the powerful platform of sport to reach every coach and every athlete with the transforming power of Jesus Christ. FCA focuses on serving local communities around the globe by engaging, equipping and empowering coaches and athletes to unite, inspire and change the world through the gospel.

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