The Mystics visit Sherando

Washington Mystics center Stefanie Dolson shares a laugh with Ethan Tran, 8. Dolson visited Sherando High School on Saturday with her team to practice in front of local youth basketball players before leading them in a skills clinic. Jake Zuckerman/Daily

STEPHENS CITY – “Fast feet, quiet footwork, stay low,” yelled Ivory Lotta, a guard for the Washington Mystics WNBA team, to several aspiring ballers while they scurried through an agility drill at Sherando High School on Saturday.

The drill was a part of the clinic the Mystics held after completing a full practice in the gym. The team designed the clinic to teach the young players some of the fundamentals of the game.

Members of the Frederick County Parks and Recreation Department, the Winchester Storm youth basketball program and the Washington Mystics staff organized the event as a means of reaching out to nearby communities.

Norm Blowe owns the Winchester Storm and worked to coordinate the event. He said he put it together to show some of his players where hard work can take athletes.

“Any girl aspiring to be a basketball player needs to see the level these women play at, and see how hard they work to keep it up,” he said.

Clinic participant Camille Zinaich prepares to shoot for the basket. Jake Zimmerman/Daily

Saturday’s clinic marked the second time a local school hosted the event. Blowe said while some in the community think it’s just a few team members who show up, in reality, it’s the full squad doing a real practice.

The team ran drills for an hour and a half before working with the kids on agility, ball handling and shooting skills.

After the practice and before the clinic, Mystic Head Coach Mike Thibault spoke to the kids about the sacrifice, hustle and drive needed to play ball at the highest levels.

“To do what these girls do, you’ve got to be willing to put in the time, give up on some other things in life, and not get frustrated when something doesn’t come to you right away,” he said.

Wrapped up in ice packs after practice, Mystics’ center Stefanie Dolson said running the clinic is as fun for the pros, not just the kids.

“It’s fun seeing them work hard and to cheer them on,” Dolson said. “…It’s a great way for them to get active and show their stuff.”

According to both Blowe, and Chris Konyar, superintendent of recreation for the Frederick County Parks and Recreation department, the Mystics will be back next year – if not sooner – to work with the kids and engage with them as positive role models.

Konyar said he hopes the event will be an annual rotation between Sherando High School, James Wood Middle School in Winchester, and Millbrook High School in Winchester.

Above all else, Konyar said, he’s just blown away to see such a prominent franchise playing in his own backyard.

“It’s not everyday you get to see a professional franchise come out to Sherando High School for an entire afternoon,” he said.

To accompany their newfound skills, all participants in the clinic also received a ticket to the Washington Mystics’ Sept. 11 game against the Indiana Fever at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C.

Contact staff writer Jake Zuckerman at 540-465-5137 ext. 152, or jzuckerman@nvdaily.com