Chelsea Gray, Los Angeles Sparks empower military women veterans

It was an afternoon full of resources and information all about wellness and combating homelessness.

Sparks All-Star Chelsea Gray (L) and Sparks Head Athletic Trainer Courtney Watson (R) spoke to military veterans and the community about health and wellness. (Photo by Megan Hines / The Suave Report)

The three-time WNBA All-Star and Sparks point guard Chelsea Gray along with Sparks Head Athletic Trainer Courtney Watson took part in the team’s latest event for their ‘Spark The True You’ campaign at Bob Hope Patriotic Hall on last Tuesday.

The campaign came to fruition earlier this year with the Los Angeles Sparks partnering with the Los Angeles Department of Military and Veteran Affairs and Los Angeles Department of Mental Health to educate and provide assistance to women in active duty, veterans, and their families who strive to improve their overall health and wellness goals.

Since the campaign’s inception in January, there have been a plethora of events that have been put on throughout the year. The event focused on combating homelessness and discussing a healthy lifestyle.

Where the Heart Is conducts conversations around the various issues that homeless women veterans face while providing resources to help combat homelessness and the stigma surrounding it.

“I really love to see initiatives like this,” Sparks Head Athletic Trainer Courtney Watson said. “This is the second event that I’ve done with the LA Sparks and the department of mental health and veterans to really help us create that community.”

While Watson spoke to the group about health and wellness, Gray talked about her involvement with A Safe Place of Youth on their board.

“We were living down in Marina Del Rey and I was walking trying to find somewhere where I could give back to youth,” Gray shared. “Growing up, I had the opportunity to be around a lot of powerful [and motivated] women. I think it’s important for younger kids — boys and girls to be able to see that.”

Gray has put on a shoe drive for homeless youth in previous seasons, but did not have one this season. However, it will make a return next season with the help of Adidas.

Despite not being personally connected to veterans, Gray did share some similarities that women veterans and athletes have in common. One thing that resonated with some in attendance was the notion of putting more emphasis on women in their respective fields.

“I think it’s time that we stop using the word female because the word female can mean so many different things,” Gray said. “There’s a power and a strength to the word women.”

There are some vast differences in professions between being an athlete and a veteran but there are also some intersections between the two. Both go through grueling seasons or tours that take a toll on a person’s overall well being. Tacking on being a woman is another layer.

From dealing with physical ailments to low moments with mental health, trying to find a balance to persevere is a journey. Being away from their families for long periods of time was also another similarity between the two.

“The time spent away from their families. Women are gone and they miss their children take their first steps just to fight our country,” Gray said.

Gray expressed to the group that she’s had multiple injuries that have tested her, but her mindset getting through them never wavered. Gray recalled being hurt after being drafted and not knowing what her future would hold due to being wary of coming back from her injuries.

“That’s kind of been my story of how I wasn’t supposed to be here because of that,” Gray said. “I think it’s a huge part mentally to find it within yourself to want to be better.”

In focusing on taking care of her body for the past 3-4 years, she has become a better player and person. Gray has become a WNBA champion, an all-star, and most recently a member of the 2019 all-WNBA first team.

Gray will continue to become a pillar in the Los Angeles community with her involvement with the youth, something that she’s found a purpose in. She will have more time to do so this offseason when she’s not traveling the country with USA Basketball to prepare for the 2020 Olympics.

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