Voice | Outings + Activities | Arts | Family fun

Perfect Storm for parents and kids

Twenty-five years ago, I was among the throng of Seattle SuperSonics fans who jammed Pioneer Square to celebrate after our city's beloved basketball team -- led by the likes of Jack Sikma, Gus Williams and Dennis Johnson -- won the NBA Championship. Driving down First Avenue with a fellow fan from my Seattle University dormitory, I honked my horn, screamed at the top of my lungs and took in the sights of beer-drinking revelers sharing swigs with motorists as they slowly paraded through the city.

Fast forward to October 2004. I am standing in the middle of screaming fans at Key Arena as another Seattle team brings home a national basketball championship. This time, however, the players are sporting pony tails and names like Betty, Lauren and Sue. And while there are some beer drinkers in the crowd, there are many, many children -- little girls with big dreams of being the next WNBA star and little boys looking for their chance to hug or high-five Doppler, the Seattle Storm's loveable furry mascot.

Next to me is my 12-year-old daughter, who has been playing basketball since she was 6 years old and has been attending Seattle Storm women's basketball games since she was 7. For her, the thrill of the evening is watching her team bring home a national championship. But for me, it's much more than that.

As a season ticket holder since the birth of the Storm franchise, I am continually impressed by what the Seattle Storm organization has brought to families and kids who have turned out for games during the past five years. You won't see scantily dressed cheerleaders; instead, a dance troupe of energetic, talented boys and girls pump up the crowd with their hip-hop routines. Young fans are selected to appear on the court to greet players during team introductions, and kids in tennis shoes get to shoot free throws after each game.

Each July, the Storm schedules a child-focused daytime game that celebrates Doppler's birthday -- and includes a visit by mascots from all the other WNBA teams. Your kids will delight in seeing Doppler play a spirited half-time game of musical chairs with the likes of Maddie the Dog from the New York Liberty and Scorch the Dragon from the Phoenix Mercury.

Then there's the issue of role models. Let's face it, they are tough to come by in sports these days and, unfortunately, most men's teams -- NBA or otherwise -- are not often the place to seek positive examples for your kids. When you go to a Storm game, though, you immediately know you are in a different place. There are no dunks or alley oops in women's basketball, so the players are required to exhibit fundamental basketball skills and play as a team instead of showing off their individual flash. They don't display the excessive behavior that often comes with excessive salaries (the average WNBA player makes $50,000 annually, while rookies start out at $30,000). Name the last time you saw a story about a WNBA player caught with illegal drugs or arrested in a bar fight.

Of course, for girls, there is no more amazing place to be than a Storm game. I've always enjoyed basketball as a spectator sport but, despite being a nearly 6-foot-tall woman, never learned to play. My daughter has difficulty grasping the concept that when I was a child, girls didn't routinely play sports and there were few female role models to encourage sports participation. She also doesn't understand the big deal behind Storm head coach Anne Donovan becoming the first woman coach to win a WNBA championship.

And that, really, is what the Seattle Storm has done for girls, women and families: They have created a place where girls can routinely see young women achieve success in professional athletics. Where families can bring their children for an evening of low-cost entertainment. Where players still compete for the love of the game and the thrill of a championship ring, and often hold down a second job to pay the bills.

Next year, the Storm is expected to once again contend for a WNBA championship. Their core group of players is young (Lauren Jackson, considered the best women's player in the world, is only 23) and ready for another exciting season.

All of us at ParentMap wish them well, and we encourage our readers to experience the magic of family friendly Storm basketball in 2005.

Teresa Wippel is the managing editor of ParentMap.

There are no comments yet. Be the first to comment

Read Next