Friday’s practice was a truly special one for the Lynx.
On Friday morning the Lynx signed five new honorary members to their roster. Each were paired with a player to serve as a mentor for Friday’s practice and throughout the season.
The signings are a part of the the Minnesota Lynx FastBreak Foundation’s Dream Team Player for a Day, a partnership with local nonprofits who nominate youth to participate in the program. The honorary signees signed a one-day contract, participated in a press conference, and attended Lynx practice with player mentors.
The 2018 Dream Team is composed of Maisy Martindale, Mia Houston, Millie Muller, Teagin Schmitz, and Tim Watkins. Youth were paired with Lindsay Whalen, Sylvia Fowles, Seimone Augustus, Danielle Robinson, and Rebekkah Brunson. The five participating youth were nominated by HopeKids, ACES, United Heroes League, and Tubman.
The Lynx enthusiastically embraced their new members.
“I thought we had a pretty stacked team,” said coach Cheryl Reeve. “Then I got to add these five to the group? The league better watch out, they’ve got no shot to knock the Lynx out of contention.”
Augustus agreed. Taking a few minutes away from a competitive game of HORSE with Tim, she spoke to the experience of being able to spend time with these amazing youth.
“Awesome experience to meet this wonderful young man who has been through so much but still has the courage to keep going and to be here just kind of enjoying this experience,” she said. “He said he was nervous and I said ‘What are you nervous for?’ It’s just a fun, friendly environment where we embrace everyone and just kind of have fun.”
Augustus and Tim seemed to be getting along well—developing a friendly rivalry on the court and a great bond off of it.
What does Tim think of Augustus’ shooting skills?
“They’re ok. I’m better.”
As an older brother to three siblings, Tim has experience as a mentor in his own right. He spoke at the press conference about what it means to him to be a brother:
“For me to be a leader and make sure they stay out of trouble,” he said.
For all the new Lynx signees, the day was a special experience.
“I feel really great to be here, it’s really fun, I feel really special,” said Millie, who was paired with Brunson. “It’s just too good to be true.”
Brunson felt the same way.
“It’s an awesome experience just to be able to spend some time with these kids,” she said. “She’s the winner here, I’m just trying to suck off some of her mojo.”
Both Teagin and Mia spoke about how the Lynx need to keep working hard and stay positive during their pursuit of another title.
“Try their best. They’re a pretty good team, they’ve got a shot at it,” said Teagin, on what advice she would give the team.
“I think positivity is good because if you show negative attitude it doesn’t help the team,” Mia added.
For her part, Maisy might be more focused on the competition she faces in her own backyard. The youngest of eight brothers and two sisters, she said she isn’t quite able to beat them on the court yet, but as Reeve suggested, she’s feisty. The day will certainly come.
The Dream Team event was a huge success, and everyone came away feeling great about the new friendships they had formed, and the power of basketball to bring people together.
“To be able to use sport as a vehicle of change in so many ways, it’s something that’s special that we get to do,” said Reeve. “Obviously we love the game of basketball, we’re all professionals at it, but to know that it’s so much more than basketball, it’s pretty powerful stuff.”
Margaret Eggenberger a brand manager with Slumberland, a partner with the Lynx for the event, was thrilled with how everything went.
“When we started talking about a partnership it was important to us that it was more than just a logo in a stadium, we wanted there to be some meaning behind it,” she said. “I’m just blown away. I got to meet the kids before the press conference and just knowing a little bit about their stories and what they’re up against every day then to come here just smiling and excited, and a little nervous, knowing that this is going to be one of the best days of their lives up until this point, it’s exceeded my expectations.”
The way the Lynx step up in events like this says a lot about the culture they’ve built—the same culture that has helped them win four championships in the last seven years.
“I can’t speak enough about [the players],” said Lynx Vice President of Community Relations John Thomas. “Just being in the practice facility you can see everything is open, they’re welcoming, there’s smiles on their face, music, they genuinely care about each other, and it shows on the court. People think that winning is the end all solution, but understanding that it’s a process, and a culture, that’s something Cheryl and the team have done a wonderful job cultivating. They’re the gold standard, I always will say that about this organization.”
The Lynx players genuinely love cultivating relationships with the community, and you can see it on the faces of their newly signed young players, as well as the ones who have been around longer: this is a day they won’t soon forget.