By Seth Dahle
Jewell Loyd exited the Nisqually Youth Center in Olympia, Wash., two basketball shoes short on Tuesday evening, but it wasn’t because she misplaced or forgot them.
Instead, Loyd handed those shoes to two participants at the team’s annual Community Practice, and the memorabilia will be gifts that the two children will be able to cherish for the rest of their lives.
“One kid came up with his own shoes and no space to sign, so I thought I’d just give him my shoe, and I signed it,” said Loyd. “Then another kid came up, he was a big fan and his parents were really excited. He asked, and I signed my shoe and gave it to him.”
Jewell’s small act of kindness is what makes the Seattle Storm’s Community Practice special, as kids from different backgrounds learn the basic fundamentals of basketball from the Storm players, who are role models and leaders.
In sports, it’s easy to get caught in the X’s and O’s and wins and losses. The two-time WNBA champion Seattle Storm takes pride in what it does on the court at KeyArena, but also in its involvement in the community, said head coach Jenny Boucek.
“We’ve been blessed with this platform to be able to play professional basketball for reasons more than just playing and more than just championships,” said Boucek. “One of the things we take great pleasure in is giving back to the community and serving our community.”
While the Storm is three games deep into the 2017 campaign, the team received a special opportunity on Tuesday to take a step back and see its impact on the community, specifically those at the Nisqually Youth Center. For the first time, Amerigroup presented the Community Practice, which the Storm took part in for the fourth consecutive year.
Amerigroup is proud to partner with the Storm, Nisqually Tribe, and the Intertribal League to promote whole-person health care, which is taking care of yourself and your community. This partnership is an example of how local organizations are collaborating to build equity through empowerment and commitment to Washington communities.
Seattle’s roster includes not only all-time greats such as 16-year veteran Sue Bird, but also a variety of young talent in Loyd and Breanna Stewart. These athletes’ value and performance on the hardwood are often times measured in statistics, but their impact on children and young men and women last a lifetime – something that isn’t measured by either numbers or X’s and O’s. At this year’s Community Practice, the Storm players taught a variety of skills, including defense, shooting, ball handling, passing and rebounding.
Carolyn Swords, a newcomer to this year’s team, said the practice allowed the kids to work together and share their love of the game.
“It was fun to do the different stations with all of the kids,” said Swords. “They’re really energetic and attentive to what we were doing. They had a good time. I hope they enjoyed learning a couple things, whether it was rebounding, passing or shooting. It was fun for all of us to spend that time together.”
The sport of basketball not only serves as an outlet or a pathway to escape adversities in life, but it also brings people together in celebration of achievement, hard work and passion for the game.
Loyd said the team’s interaction with the kids also instills hope.
“When kids have something that gives them hope and something that motivates them to do whatever they want to do, that’s something they’ll always remember,” said Loyd. “That little handshake or smile can really help a kid dramatically, and you may not even know it. If you can do anything to help someone or make them smile, it goes a long way.”
Magdalena Turrieta, a representative of the Suquamish Tribe Sports and Recreation Department, seconds Loyd, stating that the practice gives the kids “bigger hopes than they had before” of becoming a professional athlete, going to college or giving back to their own community someday.
“It gives them an opportunity to see there’s something outside of just hanging out after school and on the playground,” said Turrieta. “It gives them an opportunity to see that there is another level if they keep working hard for what they want.”