Former WNBA star promotes fitness with Austin-area youth

80 youth participate in fitness camp at Columbus Park

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By Ashley Lisenby

Digital Editor

Nearly 100 West Side youth got to sharpen their b'ball skills Thursday with a former WNBA star at Columbus Park.

Former San Antonio Stars player Tangela Smith visited with the kids at Columbus Park's field house, 500 S. Central.

Eighty kids participated in the WNBA's FIT Clinic to teach youth about living healthy and having fun, active lives. Co-sponsored by the Chicago Park District and Coca-Cola Co., Thursday's event was the fourth clinic held nationwide this summer. Two more events are slated for other major cities in September.

Smith, a Chicago native and now a South Side resident, has had a 15­-year career in professional basketball, playing both nationally and internationally. For her, getting kids fit and active is important because childhood obesity is a big problem.

"Being active connects to living longer," said Smith, who was joined Thursday by volunteer coaches and NBA fitness expert Phaethon Bolton.

They ran basketball drills with youth and also talked with them about living healthy lifestyles.

"This is a new program but it's all over the country," said Kathleen Strand, Coca­ Cola's director of public affairs. "It's a great opportunity to bring small groups of kids together with real, live NBA talent."

The former Stars player credits her grammar school and high school coaches for her start as a professional basketball player, as well as her family and, "most of all, God."

While her pro ball career has ended, Smith said she'll continue to focus on her business, Jump Bunch, a mobile franchise that goes to schools and other community sites to teach youth about fitness. She also has her eyes set on coaching college basketball one day.

As for her former teammate Becky Hammon, who was recently hired as the assistant coach to the San Antonio Spurs, Smith said: "I am so happy for her. It is a huge step for women, and for basketball."

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