GAINESVILLE -- Like every young athlete, Taylor Hawks harbors dreams of turning her love of sports into a career.
On Tuesday she got a chance to see a little bit of what that takes up close and personal, as the WNBA's Atlanta Dream traveled to Gainesville to conduct a public practice session.
"Look at their wingspan, their dribbling, their handles and how tall they are; it's pretty incredible," said Hawks, a Gainesville High freshman that watched the Dream go through their paces at Gainesville Middle School. "It's very exciting to see the WNBA come and practice in our gym, just a great experience."
It was exactly what the Dream and Gainesville City School System had in mind when the two entities opted to provide the opportunity for area basketball fans -- as the six-year-old WNBA franchise conducted a full practice, along with autograph and interactive sessions.
"It's always a lot of fun seeing the kids and seeing their faces light up. It's all about them," Dream standout Angel McCoughtry said. "They definitely need role models they can look up to and it's great for them to have somebody to look up to and somebody that can inspire them. When I was young I wish I had seen something like this."
For Gainesville, and all area sports fans, it represented the first of two similar opportunities this week. The Atlanta Falcons will also conduct a practice session on Friday at Gainesville's Bobby Gruhn Stadium in City Park.
"It really is exciting," Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Dr. Merrianne Dyer said. "It's great for our students to be involved; it broadens their horizons. We know we've got great pro teams around, but to have them come be involved with us is exciting.
"(The students) are opened up to meeting the players, therefore they kind of have aspirations beyond high school days, beyond college days."
McCoughtry -- who scored 11 points on Saturday in her second straight WNBA All-Star start as a member of the Dream and has helped lead Atlanta to an 11-5 record so far -- is glad to play the role model and hopes that the Dream's appearance on Tuesday can make even the slightest difference to all the young hopefuls in attendance.
"I think it gives them a sense of hope and excitement and motivates them a little bit to achieve their dreams -- to see athletes that have the routes they took to where they are to inspire them a little bit," McCoughtry said.
Judging by Hawks' reaction, it was mission accomplished.
"Learning everything they do, see how they got here and just learning is what I'm doing," Hawks said.