Dribble, pass, shoot, defend, rebound. These were the basketball lessons delivered by NBA players, former players and NBA D-League players to kids from three schools in Southern California recently. Beyond the hoops, however, the hope is these kids will follow the examples set by these elite athletes and choose to stay active, eat right and take care of their health.
The odds are slim that any will play basketball for a living, but lessons provided are intended to last these kids’ whole lives and perhaps be passed on to future generations.
Kaiser Permanente and the National Basketball Association wrapped up a series of 14 NBA FIT clinics held this year, with three Southern California schools holding events in late September. The clinics are an integral part of Kaiser Permanente’s groundbreaking partnership with the NBA, WNBA and NBA Development League.
At Will Rogers Middle School in Lawndale, California, Assistant Principal Rosalinda Barajas saw kids engage and their confidence grow during the after-school event, held Sept. 23.
“Kids who before the clinic were worried they weren’t good at basketball, once they got going were showing a lot of enthusiasm,” Barajas said.
Attendance at the clinics was limited, so school staff made a point to involve “a mix of kids, not necessarily the ones performing the highest academically. We included kids we thought would benefit the most – including some who needed a little extra motivation.”
In addition to the middle school participants, William Anderson Elementary, also in Lawndale, sent a group of fourth and fifth graders to the clinic.
A total of 75 kids got the chance to interact with players Josh Magette and Alfred Aboya from the Los Angeles Defenders of the NBA D-League. Defenders Head Coach Casey Owens joined Magette and Aboya.
The following day, September 24, kids from the Eliot Arts Academy in Altadena, California got the chance to learn life and basketball lessons from NBA Hall-of-Famer Jamaal Wilkes.
Basketball skills and life lessons
Clinics typically consist of six stations — drills NBA players use to hone their shooting, agility, defense and ball-handling.
Prior to drills, players and coaches talked about the importance of being active, which doesn’t require playing organized sports. Kids heard they should be active at least 60 minutes a day. They also heard about the importance of healthy eating; choosing fresh vegetables, fruits, and lean meats and limiting sweets.
Kaiser Permanente representatives spoke about how much sugar is in soda and the bad stuff all that sugar does to a young person’s body.
For their participation, the kids received t-shirts and backpacks supplied by the NBA and NBA D-League. The backpacks contained goodies including reusable lunch bags, courtesy of Kaiser Permanente, and vouchers for a ticket to a Defenders game. Barajas said she’s still seeing the positive impact the clinic brought to campus.
“I still see the kids who participated wearing their Defenders backpacks,” she said. “They’re a source of pride.”
The district’s focus on creating a healthier, more active school environment isn’t limited to a single marquee event. It’s a school-year-long effort that’s paying off in other ways.
“We’re also seeing higher participation on our sports teams compared with last year,” she said.
The middle school has girls and boys volleyball, basketball and soccer teams. And beyond the teams, she sees more kids choosing to play basketball or just being more active at lunch and recess instead of going to the computer lab.
She also sees students making healthier food choices at lunch.
“Before, maybe they were afraid to try something at the salad bar. Now, more kids seem willing to try something other than pizza.”
The September clinics wrapped up the series for the year. Clinics took place in each Kaiser Permanente region, from Hawaii to Georgia. The first took place May 6 in Sacramento, where Ray McCullum of the Sacramento Kings led kids from the Roberts Family Development Center and Martin Luther King, Jr. Technology Academy.
Current and former players and coaches from the NBA, the WNBA and the NBA Developmental League volunteered their time at the events.
Kaiser Permanente’s role at the clinics included promoting healthy choices and reinforcing the message to kids of the importance of daily exercise, eating right and working hard in the classroom.
As the NBA partnership moves into its second year, schools and school-based events like the NBA FIT Clinics will continue to play an integral part.