Quinn and Kid

Storm Visits Nisqually Youth Center for Community Practice
by Jourdan Rodrigue @JourdanRodrigue

A lesson was taught today.

The Seattle Storm visited the Nisqually Youth Center on the Nisqually Reservation on Tuesday for a community practice.

After two tough losses and two grueling practices during which the defeats were picked apart for the purpose of rectification, the eleven players trudged onto the bus for the two hour-plus-Seattle-traffic ride. Some had ice packs on their knees. Most promptly fell asleep, heads stuffed full of whiteboard x’s and o’s and what to do when a screen is slipped or how to defend in the post.

But when those eleven players and their coaches stepped into that pristine gym, the cheers of hundreds of children washed over them and their steps lightened.

The players threw shirts to the kids, whose thundersticks slapped together in response, and then the drills began.

“Form two lines for layups,” head coach Brian Agler instructed on the microphone, and laughing, the kids and players formed layup and passing lines. Doppler played solid (albeit fuzzy) defense, and when a half-court-shot contest developed, he swished the winning bucket and ran into the locker room, arm frozen in its arc to display his form.

The kids thought they were learning basketball fundamentals from professional athletes, but the real lessons were fleeting—blink, and you might’ve missed the smile on Temeka Johnson’s face as she ran down the court with the last-place little girl in the relay race so she wouldn’t have to run alone. Turn away for a second and you might not have seen the little boy, barely over two feet tall shoot a basketball the size of his torso six times finally make a layup as the crowd erupted in cheers like Sue Bird just hit a trio in a sold out KeyArena. And if you weren’t really listening, you might’ve missed the team of 8-year-old girls—the fearsome and undefeated Hawks basketball team—rooting for each other energetically as they participated in drills.

And when asked, the answers from each member of the young Hawks team-they’re undefeated, don’t you forget it—were the same: “Basketball is fun. Today was fun. My favorite part was everything!”

Because basketball is fun. It’s a game. It’s a game that teaches us something every day, whether we know it or not. It’s stats and analytics and sprints and a win-loss column and push-ups for every turnover, yes, but it’s a game.

And maybe the most important thing it teaches us, teaches these professional athletes who can get caught up in criticism and job performance, is that it is a game and they can be kids again when they play it. The best part of basketball can still be “everything”.

“Having the Storm players out here is good for the young girls in our community and for every member,” said Bill Kallappa, organizer of the community practice. “It’s important for them.”

It’s important for the older girls too.

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