Thursday, December 13, 2018
Page 763

Littler girls need bigger girls

One of the six (baller) kids I took to the Sparks game Sunday night is the daughter of a friend of mine. All the kids were sitting in other areas, but when the seat next to me was open, I invited J to come sit there.

After the final buzzer and the handshakes, Sparks players started heading towards the tunnel to get to the locker room. J and the other kids crowded towards the railing with others and stretched out their hands toward the players as they walked by. I noticed that Candace Parker reached up and touched J’s hand as she strolled.

J is a quiet kid, so I had no idea what that moment meant to her until yesterday, when I talked to her mom. My friend said J texted her right after the incident and said, “I touched Candace Parker’s hand and I didn’t even cry.” Because I guess J had done the low-five thing with CP once before, and she got all emotional afterwards.

I was a bit blown away by that. Basketball players are such role models for the young women who look up to them. They exemplify strong women, and they show them that anything is possible.

I’m glad that most WNBA players seem to understand and appreciate that fact, and that they are good to their fans. Because little girls need big girls.

Dawn Staley’s youth foundation making an impact for kids

At a recent banquet, five products of the basketball legend’s foundation spoke about how they benefitted from the programs there. Mel Greenberg was there.

Marissa Coleman blogs

The injured Mystics forward details life on crutches, including an incident with her dog.

Adventures of the Young and Crippled

Candace Parker nominated for an ESPY again

There are four other nominations. Wonder who will win?

Sparks practice report, and other yellow and purple-related items

LA season ticket holders get great “insider” emails with lots of goodies, and today is no exception. For one, there’s a video featuring interviews with Coach Michael Cooper and guard Shannon Bobbitt.

Then there’s this great interview with some of co-owner Kathy Goodman’s students….have I mentioned lately that I love the Sparks owners?

Sparks Co-owner
Kathy Goodman
Passes the Test

When school gets out for the summer at High Tech High in Los Angeles, English teacher Kathy Goodman quickly switches roles to Co-owner of the Los Angeles Sparks.

Having taught high school for many years, Kathy Goodman knows how to run a classroom. But in 2007, Goodman, along with Carla Christofferson, added another title to her resume: Owner of the Los Angeles Sparks.

While High Tech High students Alicia, Maya, and Jessica learn from Ms. Goodman in the classroom on a daily basis, they, along with many other students have also become fans of Ms. Goodman’s Sparks team.

Q: What is the best part of having Ms. Goodman as your teacher?

A: ALICIA: My favorite thing has to be her sense of humor. She is very funny in an intelligent way.

MAYA: My favorite thing about Ms. Goodman is that she treats us as adults and challenges us. She lets us figure things out for ourselves and challenges us everyday.

JESSICA: One of the greatest qualities that Ms. Goodman has as a teacher is that you can tell that she really loves what she does, which makes it a lot easier to learn.

Q: What’s your favorite memory of Ms. Goodman as your teacher?

A: ALICIA: One of the funniest days was the day after the Sparks were eliminated from the playoffs last year. She came to school the next day, and in our first period class you could tell she was not in a good mood. So someone stood up in the middle of class and pretended to shoot a basketball and miss. Everyone was so nervous to see how Ms. Goodman would react and she just burst into laughter. It was a really great moment to show how we could make her forget about everything business related and just laugh with us.

MAYA: Some of my favorite memories about Ms. Goodman are her telling funny little stories. One of my favorites was her telling us the story of her dad convincing her that he had a hotdog tree in the backyard. She loves to tell little stories like that or jokes to keep class enjoyable.

Q: How does Ms. Goodman being the owner of the Sparks affect her being your teacher?

A: ALICIA: One of the best things about it is that every time the Sparks win a game, we get to have a “Casual Dress Day” the next day. We all get to celebrate together by not having to wear our uniforms.

JESSICA: I think it’s a cool perspective to have someone with real-world business experience being your teacher. To know that she has a business outside of school is really neat.

Q: What is it like seeing Ms. Goodman at the games, not as your teacher, but as the owner?

A: ALICIA: It is hysterical to watch Ms. Goodman at a Sparks game because she seems so focused and serious. But then when the Sparks make a basket, she jumps up and starts cheering.

MAYA: The really cool thing about High Tech High is that you really get to know teachers as teachers, but also as friends. So it’s always fun to see Ms. Goodman sit in her courtside seat and get so excited when the Sparks score. She also always comes to visit us at halftime, which is really nice.

JESSICA: It’s always a little strange to see teachers out of the classroom, but it is also interesting to see Ms. Goodman in more of a business setting. She comes up to us to say “hi” but then gets right back to business.

As all three girls can attest, Ms. Goodman succeeds both in the classroom and at Sparks games and never fails to bring her humor and enthusiasm with her.

Finally, Sparks PR Director Alayne Ingram has a nice blog that is full of goodies. My favorite entry so far is April 29, when she explains how Candace Parker had discussions with her unborn daughter to keep the labor short.

Bringin’ the A-game

Her entry right after that reminds me what a conundrum of accents there are on the Sparks team. There is Shannon Bobbitt with her thick Bronx accent; Kristi Harrower, who’s an Australian, mate; Vanessa Hayden, with her Southern accent; and Betty Lennox, who has a distinctive flat, Midwestern way of speaking. I love it.

Plenette Pierson out for the season

The Detroit Shock forward had surgery on her shoulder today from an injury she sustained in the season opener in LA on June 6. Now Pierson is out for the season.

There are injuries every year, of course. But I don’t remember when there have been so many severe injuries less than three weeks into the season.

Yolanda Griffith and Semione Augustus both suffered season-ending injuries in a torn Achilles tendon and a torn ACL, respectively. Rookie Marissa Coleman is out six weeks – a lifetime in the WNBA season – with a high ankle sprain. Lisa Leslie is sitting out six games due to a severe knee sprain.

I don’t like this trend, and I hope it stops.

“Those who are fearless are far less compelling than those who overcome fear”

School is out for the summer now, so I’m able to get to some things now that I have been meaning to but haven’t had time for. Like Louisville Coach Jeff Walz.

Watching him at the press conferences at the Final Four in April, I noticed that he stuttered – not much, but some. I made a note to discuss that with him at some point. When I contacted him a few weeks ago for my June 11 blog entry, I mentioned it. Walz said that ESPN had written about his stuttering issue, and that he wasn’t at all ashamed to acknowlege the problem.

I looked up the piece, by Graham Hays, and was struck by Walz’ integrity and honesty:

“The hardest thing for me, and this is the honest truth, when I’m recruiting and I start to call a kid for the first time, saying, ‘Louisville’ — I’m telling you, it kills me,” Walz said.

“I joke with my staff; I’m like, what I want to do is call up and say, ‘Hey, Graham?’ and you say, ‘Hey, yeah,’ and then I press play on my tape recorder and go, ‘This is coach Walz from the University of Louisville,’ and then press stop. Because then, I’m fine after that. I’ll stutter some, but it might take me a minute to get ‘Louisville’ out.”

What is remarkable about Walz is how at ease with himself he appears in public, joking during an answer at a news conference that he might just keep talking because he’s on such a roll without stuttering. Talking to him on the phone, even as he jokes that e-mail is his preferred means of communication, he offers up a familiar litany of stresses and frustrations, but here he is, running a college basketball program that is four games from a national championship and drew a crowd of 19,123 to Freedom Hall earlier this season.

Those who are fearless are far less compelling than those who overcome fear.

“I’m going to have to do it, and if someone doesn’t like the fact that I stutter, well then, they can leave,” Walz said. “It’s just a part of you.”

Walz is also a speaker and spokesman for the Stuttering Foundation, a non-profit organization that helps those who have the problem.

Hays’ column is over a year old, but maybe you’re like me and you didn’t know that this rising star of a coach has worked to overcome stuttering. I admire him for that.

“Coach, I got you”

USC names two assistant coaches

Michael Cooper’s staff is taking shape, as Kelley Gibson and Mary Wooley join the ranks.

Sounds like they’re ready to go.

Sparks 67, Monarchs 47

Last night the Sparks looked more like they did in their opening game: they were hustling, playing good transition game and working together like a unit. I like the team that comes to Staples better than the one I have to watch online.

Shannon Bobbitt played with a lot of confidence, and put seven points and had five assists.

There was a short piece in the Sparks game program about how Betty Lennox and Marie Ferdinand-Harris have both been starters for roughly 75 percent of their pro careers. And now that MFH is now off the bench behind Lennox, she is “accepting her role with grace and professionalism.” MFH is also fiesty, and matched Lennox’ 10 points and two assists. Lennox won the battle of the boards, however, garnering eight to MFH’s one.

This is not a sight you want to see if you’re a Sparks fan.

Shannon Bobbitt puts up one of her ace shots.

Assistant Coach Marianne Stanley talked emphatically in Bobbitt’s ear for a good 20 seconds. Then she said one more thing, strongly, swatted her on the ass and sent her back out on the floor.

CP has them laughing at the timeout.

Second half action. Sacramento is the second team to make us play offense at the opposite end of the court in the last half. I don’t like teams that do that.

Courtney Paris finally got to play in the second half. She did fine.

Non-game-related note: Me and those in my section are relieved that the grown woman who wore her hair in two pigtails on the sides of her head, and roller-skated around the arena, is no longer there. She has been replaced with an easy-going white guy who doesn’t have her annoying, high-pitched voice. He’s nice and easy on the ears.

Footnote: CP twittered earlier this evening that she met with Penny Toler today to discuss her time table for returning, and “July is looking good.”


Sparks issues

Oh cripes, Lisa Leslie was sitting on the bench last night. I’ll have a picture of that later tonight.

Nice piece on Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton, including this quote:

“She’s eager to learn,” Milton-Jones said. “Her eyes are wide open and it seems like everything is going a million miles an hour. I’m impressed with her poise. There were times she could’ve been rattled and turned the ball over but she allowed the game to come to her.”

Finally, I need to give the Sparks organization props for giving free tickets to last night’s game to those who attended the pep rally in May. I was gifted with four tickets, and one of my best friends and section mates gave me two of hers. So I brought six of my kids to the game, and they had such a great time. Thanks, Sparks, for providing those opportunities for kids to go.

I’ll have pictures from last night’s game later this evening.

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