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L.A. Sparks Teach Health and Wellness to Female Veterans
By Amanda Scurlock, Sports Writer
Published October 31, 2019

WNBA All-Star Chelsea Gray talked about her involvement with Safe Place for Youth during the Where the Heart is event (Amanda Scurlock/L.A. Sentinel)

The Los Angeles Sparks are committed to help women veterans through their campaign “Spark the True You,” even after the WNBA season is over. The Sparks recently hosted the event “Where the Heart is,” an event that brings awareness to the everyday issues that homeless female veterans face.

The event provided resources to help combat homelessness. Three-time WNBA All-Star Chelsea Gray spoke at the event, talking about the work that she has done with Safe Place for Youth (SPY). Gray is a board member at SPY, an organization that offers resources to homeless young adults in the Venice area.

“It’s an after-school program able to allow people who don’t have anywhere to talk about what they want to achieve in their dreams,” Gray said. “I often do a shoe drive to help … if they need shoes just to go to an interview that they have, we take a lot of those things for granted.”

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Sparks head athletic trainer Courtney Watson also gave attendees tips on how to live an active lifestyle without the need of excessive equipment.

She talked about how jumping rope works all the muscles in your body and how elevating your feet above your heart gets rid of inflammation as well as slows your heart rate. Walking and drinking water can also help your body get in better shape.

Sparks head athletic trainer Courtney Watson explains importance of drinking more water and taking walks (Amanda Scurlock/L.A. Sentinel)

“Hydration is key, it really helps to balance the mental, the physical, the emotional aspects that we go through,” Watson said. “You’re supposed to drink half of your body weight in ounces [daily].”

The tips that Watson shared where practices she enforced on the Sparks. While many Sparks players were competing overseas during the offseason, she held a jump rope challenge among them. The challenge was to see how long they could jump rope for 10 consecutive days. Gray was the first to participate.

“[Gray] starts doing her funny style of jumping rope,” Watson said. “It just really created this energy from all over, just awareness, physical awareness of making sure you’re doing something every day.”

The veterans who attended asked Gray and Watson questions about remaining active, finding motivation to exercise and finding a safe space to workout. When asked about tips for mentally overcoming injury, Gray talked about her experience recovering from having six athletic surgeries.  Her nephews were a source of motivation for her to bounce back and get in shape

“Those were the toughest times of my life,” Gray said. “I think it’s a huge part mentally to find it within yourself to want to be better.”

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The Los Angeles Sparks created “Spark the True You” in partnership with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health and the Los Angeles County Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. Uniting veterans with pro athletes to have open discussions show the many similarities in their experiences.

Categories: Basketball | Health | Sports
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