Washington's Katie Smith Embraces Instructor Role Overseas in India

Katie Smith built on her overseas experience as a member of the State Department's Sports Envoy program
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After winning three Olympic gold medals in 2000, 2004 and 2008 and playing in a number of games that have spanned a long career of overseas offseason competition, it�s safe to say Katie Smith knows a thing or two about basketball on the international scene. But her latest venture overseas was a bit different than what she was used to in the past, as the Washington Mystics guard took on the role of instructor in the State Department�s Sports Envoy program.

Working in conjunction with NBA and WNBA Cares, the envoy organized a six-day trip that split time between Mumbai and New Delhi, India in an effort to conduct clinics and instruct fans throughout the country on the fundamentals of basketball. Smith was the only active WNBA player to take part in the event, as she was joined by Marty Conlon and George Gervin, formerly of the NBA.

�It was a blast,� she said of her week in India. �We just kept moving and getting into these places. People were excited, we tried to show them what we knew and our love for basketball, hard work and teamwork and the people were just great.�

Clinics were organized for a number of age groups, ranging from grade school on up through middle school and high school. Some of the clinics had as many as 100 kids, but most were more around the 50-60 mark, with drills ranging from simple warm-ups, to dribbling around cones and defensive drills.

One specific program, called �Magic Bus,� has been in place for nearly a decade. The goal is to bring children from surrounding slums, ones made famous in such movies as �Slumdog Millionaire,� to the bigger cities in an effort to integrate them into some of the clinics. The main goal for the organizers is to use sports as a way of teaching students social and life skills that will only further benefit them in years to come.

While the age range and size of the groups varied from clinic to clinic, so too did the skill set of some participants. The aforementioned basics such as dribbling and footwork provided a solid backbone to each group, but some players from the nearby women�s college and YMCA showed off a little more experience in their game and were eager to learn more.

�I was pretty impressed with their skill level and that they do play pick-up games or league games for their school,� said Smith. �Most of the questions were, �How much do you practice,� �What made you a good basketball player,� and stuff like that. But most of them were just enthusiastic and happy to have the experience.�

Smith overheard one woman say that participating in the clinic was �the best experience of her life.� Suffice to say, it was all Smith needed to hear.

�It�s cool to see that you can make an impact, whatever it may be,� she said. �Who knows, whether it�s basketball or working hard at something else, [if] we can affect it?�