USA Basketball National Team Members Teach Skills to Annapolis Youth
Seeing the smiles and excitement on the children’s faces once again brought memories back to Sue Bird.
Bird, a two-time WNBA champion three-time Olympic gold medalist and two-time FIBA World Championship winner, was once a young basketball player participating in basketball clinics where players she looked up to offered their time to pass on their knowledge of the game. Early Tuesday evening, Bird was once again in the position to return the favor in giving back on the other end.
At a Hoops For Troops basketball clinic for children of military families on campus at the U.S. Naval Academy, Bird, a former first-overall selection by the Seattle Storm, reflected on being able to help out during the hour-long skills workshop for young children.
“It’s funny because when you’re growing up, as someone that’s interested in basketball, you do go to a lot of things like this — clinics, camps,” Bird said, following some post-clinic shooting with a couple of young participants. “I definitely remember stations. That was a big part of camp. This is similar to that. But for a long time now I’ve been on the other side. It’s always fun to interact with the kids and show them stuff, have some fun.”
For an hour, Bird, along with some of her USA teammates, worked with the U.S. Naval Academy’s women’s basketball team to instruct children in various drills. They broke off into stations to work on layups, dribbling, defense, elbow jumpers and agility work. Other USA National Team players participated in an off-campus clinic at a local Boys & Girls Club in Annapolis.
Parents were able to watch their children work on their games at the clinic, with USA National Team coach Geno Auriemma surveying as well. One mother introduced herself to Auriemma and told him her daughter had dreams of playing for him at the University of Connecticut one day. The brought a smile to the coach’s face.
Based on Auriemma’s observation, he said he wasn’t sure who was having more fun — the kids or the players instructing.
“We see them as the great athletes that they are today, but at one time they were their age, sat there and watched some players come,” Auriemma said. “Now that’s where they are. They can look down there and say that used to be me. It brings them back when you watch them interact with the kids. You can see how much fun they have.”
Following the clinic, the USA National Team players signed autographs on basketballs, photos and posters for an eager bunch.
Like Bird, it caused guard/forward Angel McCoughtry to think back on her youth basketball days.
“I remember when I was a kid we would do these clinics and it would be so exciting,” McCoughtry said. “I know they’re excited just to be here. It’s always good to get back here and give them our energy.”
Earlier Tuesday morning, Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia of the United States Marine Corps spoke to the USA National Team about the unique position they’re in as being role models to young people that love basketball.
It’s not a situation this team is taking for granted.
“Just to be around people you look up to and aspire to be like is exciting, especially at such a young age,” guard Danielle Robinson said. “The little ones will look back and see the shirts and the pictures and realize how special it was.”