Traveling Practice Sparks Fan Enthusiasm
The Los Angeles Sparks partnered with Pasadena Community College to put on a second annual Traveling Practice presented by Boost Mobile at PCC’s Hutto-Patterson Gymnasium on Wednesday, June 17. Spectators at the event said they truly appreciated the team’s willingness to open its practice to the public as a token of gratitude to the fans for all their support.
“I think it’s great that they are reaching out to the community and they’re getting diversity in people in the audience, from little kids in elementary school all the way to parents and grandparents,” Pasadena City College Athletic Director Beverly Tate said. “That’s what’s so great about this program. It’s the second year they’ve done it here at PCC and the fans absolutely love it. It’s a great way to get these kids and their parents to the games.”
Though the event date coincided with the Los Angeles Lakers’ victory parade and day-long festivities, hundreds of spectators chose instead to help fill the seats of Hutto-Patterson, cheering on the Sparks all throughout their two-and-a-half hour practice with the same excitement and fervor of a real game.
“Many of these people are Laker fans,” Tate pointed out. “They could have been at a parade downtown but look – they’re here watching the Sparks practice. It just shows how great [the Sparks] are and that they’ve established a relationship with the community.”
Many of the attendees took advantage of a promotion between the Sparks and the Junior YMCA that offered free admission to the practice with the purchase of a discounted ticket to the Sparks’ Father’s Day game against the Sacramento Monarchs this Sunday. Though some of them weren’t familiar with the Sparks prior to the practice and had never attended a game, many left the gymnasium with a new-found respect for women’s basketball.
“At the junior YMCA they were selling tickets to this [event] and the game, so I figured I would check it out,” L.A. resident Dennis Moreno said. “It seems pretty fun. I had never actually been to a [professional] basketball game, only a college game. This is pretty cool, seeing a professional team play. I think I have become a Sparks fan now.”
Another L.A. resident and avid Laker fan, Vincent Rodriguez, chose to attend the practice instead of the Laker celebrations downtown. As a father of two daughters, Rodriguez said his girls look up to the Sparks’ players and believes, “It’s really good for the girls to see positive role models.”
Members of the Pasadena City College state championship women’s basketball team were in attendance as well. The girls were blown away by the quality of play they witnessed.
“It’s way faster than college, definitely, and more physical,” said Melia Basavand, who broke the Lady Lancers’ all-time 3-point baskets mark in her sophomore season. “You have to be way more disciplined.”
Perhaps the biggest factor that differentiated the event from promotions done by other teams, however, was the personal touch the Sparks provided to their fans.
“It’s so informal, it feels like I could just say, ‘Hi’ to them and they wouldn’t care,” Moreno said. “It’s kind of a family-oriented type of practice.”
Sparks guard Kristi Harrower felt that the intimate atmosphere the team creates for its fans helps to set it apart from other sports teams.
“Instead of just watching us on court they get to meet us in real life and people get excited about that,” Harrower said. “I remember when I was a little kid and I met some of my idols in Australia. You just want to be like them. It’s a great way to get people interested and really get behind the Sparks.”
Joe Peron, the head coach of the PCC women’s basketball team for the past 14 seasons, echoed Harrower’s sentiment.
“It’s always good to be in proximity where you can touch people you look up to, so I think everyone had a good time,” Peron said.
Though the fans thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to meet their favorite athletes, the players enjoyed the experience just as much, if not more, according to Harrower.
“This doesn’t happen every day,” Harrower said. “You have to make the most of it, and enjoy it while it’s here and give back to the people who come watch us play night in and night out and cheer for us and really get behind us. It always feels great to give back.”