The thunderous sound of basketballs being dribbled filled the air inside the gym at the Burbank Community YMCA Wednesday night.
The Boys & Girls Club of Burbank and Greater East Valley teamed up with the local YMCA, the Los Angeles Sparks WNBA team and the Drug Enforcement Administration to host a basketball clinic for about 50 children in the community to practice core fundamentals of the game, as well as to instill life lessons.
Although the DEA agent scheduled to give a talk during the event was unable to attend, the three organizations that were there used the extra time for additional practice on the hardwood court.
LaSandra Dixon, the basketball director for the Jr. Sparks program, led the children through several ice breakers to acquaint them with one another before getting into the drills.
The kids practiced dribbling with both hands, worked on their lateral movement and played one-on-one against each other.
Dixon said she was honored to be in Burbank to share her knowledge of basketball with the children and to offer them a foundation so they can work on honing their skills.
“I had the opportunity to play Division I basketball at San Diego State, so it’s only right that I give this knowledge of the game back to the kids,” Dixon said.
She added that being able to participate in youth basketball clinics has helped her cope with the loss of Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, and the other seven people that died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26.
“Basketball has always been my safe haven, and these kids give me a sense of feeling OK,” Dixon said. “It definitely helps me day-to-day to empower other people. That’s what I love doing — playing basketball and building up young people in the community.”
One of the participants in the basketball clinic was 13-year-old Tashaun Barron. He said he plays basketball frequently and that he appreciated the Sparks for coming to Burbank to teach him and the other children fundamentals of the game.
Additionally, Tashaun said he took away lessons that he could use on and off the court.
“I learned to always play happy and to always bring others up, not put them down,” Tashaun said.
Jay Jackson, the athletic director for the Burbank Boys & Girls Club, said events like these are important in a child’s development.
While some of the children at the clinic have spent numerous hours playing basketball, a few picked up the ball for the first time on Wednesday.
“This is their gateway to basketball and other sports,” Jackson said. “It’ll be one of those moments that they’ll carry throughout their life and creates a foundation for them, not just for sports but in other aspects of their lives.”