Forty kids had just jogged three laps around the gym, and one boy proclaimed “I’m tired!” and proceeded to sit on the metal bleachers.
A few minutes later, after running a couple of half-speed sprints, a girl wondered out loud, “Do we get a water break?”
And they were among those in good shape.
And as he was watching inside the Paradise Recreation and Community Center on Wednesday afternoon, Spencer Haywood shook his head sadly.
“It’s scary to see what’s going on,” said Haywood, a former NBA All-Star and U.S. Olympian.
Haywood was referring to the growing danger of childhood obesity with kids choosing to stay inactive rather than go outdoors and play. It’s why Haywood, Robert Smith, Mike Brown, Keith Starr and the Las Vegas chapter of the NBA Retired Players Association showed up to spend 90 minutes with the 40 local youth, some as young as 5 and as old as 15, to give them a few basketball pointers and, more important, convey the need to get active.
“It doesn’t need to exist,” Haywood said of childhood obesity. “As parents and citizens, we’re responsible for teaching our kids. Who sets the agenda? We do.”
Seaquette Williams, whose son, former NBA player Jerome Williams, sponsored Wednesday’s clinic through his foundation, the JYD Project (Jerome’s Youth Development), said she sees what is going on, and it scares her.
“To see the kids sitting around, playing video games, watching TV, it hurts,” she said. “You need to be outside in the fresh air. You can make good choices. You don’t need money to run or walk.”
Haywood said he’s not surprised that kids in America have an obesity issue.
“You could see it coming,” he said. “When we were kids, we got outside. We weren’t doing this (his hands mocking a video game control panel). You’ve got to make a conscious effort to help children and get them moving. You’ve got to get them off the couch.”
Some of the kids already have gotten the message. Malik Muhammad, a 15-year-old who attends Del Sol High School, said he doesn’t like sitting around.
“I’m a fairly active person,” said Muhammad, who displayed some decent aptitude on the basketball court. “This is a lot more fun than playing video games.”
Autumn Cowan, the girl who was asking for water, said she prefers being active.
“I play basketball,” said Cowan, a 12-year-old who attends Nevada Virtual Academy. “I don’t have video games in my house. Most of the time, I’m outside.”
More clinics such as Wednesday’s are being planned for 2013 through a cooperative effort between the NBA Retired Players, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the Urban League. But they won’t touch solely on basketball. Mentoring and other life skills, including staying active, will be part of the daylong event, and Las Vegas will be one of 12 cities participating.
Cowan said kids shouldn’t wait until the next clinic to get active, and she had some advice for parents who are still deciding what to get their kids for Christmas.
“I hope kids get stuff that they can use outside,” she said. “A jump rope. Roller skates. It doesn’t matter.”
Even a basketball.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.