A’ja Wilson, former MVP for the Las Vegas Aces, was among three other professional athletes (Kyle Juszczyk, Anfernee Simons, and Te’a Cooper) who teamed up with DICK’S Sporting Goods And The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation to participate in the #GiftofSportTour. Per the press release, the ‘Giving Truck’ will provide 10,000 gifts of sporting equipment to children in under-resourced communities across eight cities in the U.S.
Las Vegas is one of those cities and WNBA star A’ja Wilson was there to surprise the kids with sports equipment. Afterwards, I sat down with her to discuss the impact that this program has on these children.
Q: How did you get involved with DICK’s sporting goods and the #GiftofSport holiday tour that they’re doing?
A’ja: I think I’ve always been a fan of DICK’s Sporting Goods and when my agent brought to me an opportunity to give back to the youth of Vegas, I definitely was never going to pass it up. And I was just so happy and amazed at what they were doing within their foundation to give children an opportunity to play sports, to be active, to be outside, and have fun and [create] connections with other children because I know that’s how I got started and that’s where it all starts. So it was not any hesitation when it came to partnering with the Foundation’s work and their ‘Sports Matter’ program.
Q: So just maybe dive into that a little bit more, what kind of initiatives did you have when you were getting into sports and basketball or did you know of anyone else who did?
A’ja: I mean, my biggest thing with that opportunity [was] to try it and it was actually very heartwarming just to see these young kids get that basketball and the gifts in bags, and little things like that like a mouthguard. I think that’s where it all starts. And for me, it might have been the sports that’s how it started for me. My dad put a basketball in my hand and we went to go have some fun and then after that, I got a basketball goal and so you know it’s worth it! It is all about your equipment and looking cool. So as a company like DICK’S, to go out there and give back to the community and me being alongside them is special.
Q: What do you hope that these children will take away from this opportunity when you know you’ve helped to surprise them with those resources?
A’ja: Yeah, I mean, the biggest thing is just taking a chance on sport and having fun while doing it. I think we get caught up in the game and the wins and the losses and good play, bad play, but at the end of the day, it’s the game and we’re supposed to have fun while doing it, so I hope that the young kids that got that gift today can go out there and have some fun and friendships and go from there.
Q: Overall, do you think that basketball is a sport that is more accessible than other sports to kids and how much more work do we need to further progress in youth and sports, and even in basketball specifically?
A’ja: I think basketball really is something that’s very accessible to young kids. You could just really just get a large basketball and it doesn’t even have to be the right size and a crate or a basketball hoop and you have a game and I think for us to continue to help our sport grow, we have to make it welcoming. Like I said we get caught up with losses and scores. But at the end of the day, you [have] to have fun while doing it and loving it. So I think that’s the biggest thing is showing these young kids that it’s more than just the wins and the losses, it is about just having fun.
Q: Lastly, what is the importance of having various platforms bringing these initiatives to the public and having more people learn about them?
A’ja: It’s very important. I mean, that’s what makes our world goes when people have information to get things out, especially the next generation of these young people, allowing them to be themselves now and I think it’s very important when you have companies that taken the initiative in their communities in our backyard sometimes to help grow the game the sport.
This is the fourth year of the Sports Matter Program and this initiative is helping many children across the country. For more information, please visit SportsMatter.org.
Photo credit: forwardtimes.com