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Students learn healthy living and smooth moves from the pros

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Nearly 200 students from middle schools in Prince George’s County trained like pro basketball and hockey players at a recent sports clinic hosted by Coca-Cola and the home teams playing at Verizon Center.

Washington Wizards and Washington Mystics trainers led the students in dribbling and shooting drills on the Verizon Center’s court. They also sharpened their hockey swing on an inflatable practice board and scrimmage area.

Impressing the youth with his finger spin, Wizards Head Coach Flip Saunders spoke about his tenacity in high school to make the varsity team even though he was only 5 feet 4 inches tall.

The Wizards’ Head Athletic Trainer Eric Waters shared some of the team’s health regimen, including drinking a protein shake after games. Mystics forward Crystal Langhorne answered questions about her height and salary before encouraging them to be physically active.

“A lot of kids don’t play sports any more, and it’s great to come out here and tell them not to sit around and play video games,” Langhorne said.

Coca-Cola began its “Live Positively” initiative four years ago to encourage an umbrella of issues including health and wellness, environment sustainability and workplace diversity.

When executives learned of the District’s childhood obesity rates, they turned to their Washington pro sports team partners to form a coalition.

“We were looking for that signature event that we could own to encourage kids to live a positively healthy lifestyle,” said Dori Silverman, area vice president of regional marketing.

Last year, Coca-Cola piloted the “Get the Ball Rolling” sports clinics in the District and then introduced them to the New York Rangers, Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Red Sox.

Each clinic costs $5,000 for supplies, transportation and lunches. The staff of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Wizards and Mystics, selected a class from four local schools, which included Benjamin Stoddert Middle School in Temple Hills and James Madison Middle in Upper Marlboro.

Because of the NBA lockout and game commitments, Langhorne was the only pro there.

Company executives said they plan to continue the sports clinics next year.

© The Washington Post Company