Be Active Campaign Targets the Young
By Barry Rubinstein

From sideline to sideline and baseline to baseline, youngsters happily dribbled oatmeal-and-orange WNBA basketballs between their legs, performed aerobics, jumped rope and performed agility drills, all on what had once been a pile of old sneakers.

If you think that doesn't sound like much fun, think again. These old sneakers were recycled and transformed into a spanking new basketball court at the Orlando Boys & Girls Club Southwest Branch in Orlando, Fla., where the new playing surface was dedicated at a WNBA and Nike Be Active clinic. The court was refurbished through Nike's Reuse-A-Shoe program.

It was a fitting stage for the Be Active national campaign. In its fourth year, it enlightens young people and women on the benefits of being physically active and raises awareness about improving health and overall well-being.

"We've been holding clinics for the past several months using our players, who are the best spokespeople I can think of for something as important as the subject of exercising," said WNBA President Val Ackerman. "The players have talked to the kids about how important it is to exercise and to stay in shape. And since last year, we got together with Nike and started refurbishing basketball courts like the one here today. And I can't think of a better way to use an old sneaker like that."

Nike begins the process by taking worn-out sneakers and recycling them to create Nike Grind, a substance made of, well, ground-up sneakers. Since 1993, some 13 million shoes have been recycled, with Nike's goals being the elimination of waste, providing community support for facilities and "closing the loop" by keeping shoes out of landfills. Nike recycles two million shoes every year, and the program has helped refurbish more than 70 basketball courts worldwide.

Joining Ackerman at the court dedication were 2000 WNBA MVP Sheryl Swoopes of the Houston Comets, Carla McGhee of the Orlando Miracle and 2001 Team Be Active spokeswomen Natalie Williams of the Utah Starzz, Tina Thompson of the Comets and Katie Smith of the Minnesota Lynx. All donated a pair of sneakers to the program, with Ackerman giving a pair of size 18 women's shoes worn by former WNBA player Zheng Haixia of China.

Once the dedication was over, it was time to get down to business, with WNBA players heading a rotation of stations and putting the youngsters through a series of drills. Smith worked on dribbling and ballhandling, Swoopes on aerobics, McGhee on jumping rope, Thompson on agility and Williams on sit-ups.

"This program means a lot," Smith said, "because these days, there's so much going on with kids -- computers and whatnot -- where they just sit around and don't get outside. If we want to live longer, we have to take care of ourselves.

"Sometimes you forget about the little things. You don't have to run a mile. You can be doing some sit-ups or pushups before you go to bed. It's something that if you start young, then those habits will carry on when you get older."

And best of all, you can even do it in those old sneakers, or on top of them.


WNBA and Nike host Be Active event on new Orlando court

WNBA stars preach reading benefits

Read to Achieve debuts at Orlando Summer Jam