WNBA star participates in fitness clinics

Most media ignored the positive North Side event

Lindsay Whalen volunteered at the after-school clinic. (Charles Hallman/MSR News)

The NBA and the WNBA, now in its third year of partnering with Kaiser Permanente, a national healthcare consortium, is hosting youth fitness clinics around the country. This season the triad plans at least a dozen NBA or WNBA FIT clinics, hoping to reach 1,000 youth and seniors.

More than 2,500 youth in local communities nationwide have been engaged in over 30 such fitness sessions “instilling the important message of total health — mind, body and spirit,” according to a league press release.

An estimated 100 boys and girls last week participated at a March 14 after-school WNBA FIT clinic at Jerry Gamble Boys and Girls Club. Jerry Gamble, located on Irving Avenue North in Minneapolis, is the Northside’s only “stand-alone” Boys and Girls Club.

Two in-school clubs at Patrick Henry High School and Olson Middle School have also been established to serve local youngsters. The Gamble center on average serves 145 kids, mostly Black and other youth of color, each school day during the school year from 2-8 pm on weekdays. It is open all day during school-release days and the summer months.

Its regular activities include life skills, arts and crafts, sports and recreation, and academic enrichment programming for youth in grades K-12. Membership annually costs five dollars, but no child is turned away for financial reasons.

Center Director Marcus Zachary speaks to participating youth. (Charles Hallman/MSR News)

Last week the kids participated in various on-court basketball stations, as well as yoga breathing exercises and a healthy food station. Minnesota Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen was present speaking to kids on the importance of healthy living and taking part in the basketball and fitness activities. The Hutchinson, Minnesota native is among many WNBA and NBA players who regularly help conduct the youth clinics.

“I’ve gotten to do a lot of clinics in Minnesota” and at the NBA All-Star Game last month, Whalen told the MSR. “It’s been fun.”

“I think it is important to see there are people who come back and give to kids in the inner-city,” added Boys and Girls Area Director Marcus Zachary on Whalen’s appearance at the 90-minute event at Jerry Gamble. “It also gives them a visual of the future if they put their effort in whatever they want to do.”

Lynae Walker, a sixth grader, told the MSR that she learned about concussions and worked on dribbling and shooting skills. Her brother, eighth-grader Jakhai Walker, said the clinic was an opportunity for him to learn more on eating healthy, and “I learned how to dribble between my legs and go behind my back with confidence.”

Lynae and Jakhai’s mother, Lovie Kidd, said her children are Jerry Gamble regulars, noting that the center provides a “safe and secure place” for them as well as “a positive, supportive staff” who work with the children.

Whalen attended and played at the University of Minnesota before she was the fourth overall pick of the 2004 WNBA Draft by Connecticut and is a two-time Olympian. She begins her eighth season with Minnesota this summer. By not playing overseas the past two off-seasons, “I’ve gotten the opportunity to do more [youth clinics],” such as last week’s at Jerry Gamble, she said.

Kidd, however, expressed her disappointment on the lack of media coverage — the MSR was the only local outlet in attendance. Instead, a positive activity on the city’s North Side was virtually ignored, she complained.

“Lindsay Whalen gave her time to the kids,” said Kidd. “If this happened in Bloomington, Maple Grove or a suburban area, there would have been more attention given to it,” she surmised. “It is shocking.”

“I think it is a great event for us, a great outing for our kids,” concluded Zachary.


Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.