Solon Springs High School to honor Sandy ‘Spin’ Slade

Since graduating from St. Croix High School in 1981, Sandy "Spin" Slade has walked a remarkable path. She's been featured on national television, rubbed shoulders NBA legends and launched a product line promoting physical fitness. Slade has trave...

Sandy "Spin" Slade
Sandy Slade spins eight basketballs during one of her many performances. SSHS will name its gym after Slade on Friday, Jan. 27. (Submitted Photo)

Since graduating from St. Croix High School in 1981, Sandy “Spin” Slade has walked a remarkable path.

She’s been featured on national television, rubbed shoulders NBA legends and launched a product line promoting physical fitness.

Slade has traveled the country performing at iconic venues, but at heart, she remains the girl who grew up spinning basketballs in Solon Springs.

“I just did what I loved, and I worked hard at it,” Slade said.

On Jan. 27, the gym at Solon Springs High School - formerly called St. Croix High School - will be renamed in Slade’s honor.


During her time in Solon Springs, Slade became the first player to score 1,000 points. She reached that milestone as a junior and finished her high school career with 1,500 points. Her career scoring average at St. Croix High School was 21 points per game.

“It’s long overdue for her to be recognized, and we’re very happy that she’ll be here for the dedication,” said Dale Rajala, head coach of the Eagle boys basketball team. “What we need to do here in Solon is make sure that these people are not only recognized for what they did here, but that they went out and blazed trails. They made a difference.

“She made a difference in millions of people’s lives, and I’m so happy that we get to recognize her.”

The gym naming ceremony will take place between the Solon Springs boys junior varsity and varsity games against Bayfield. The JV game is scheduled for 5:45 p.m., and the varsity game will follow at 7:15 p.m.

“This is quite emotional for me,” Slade said.

When she learned last spring of the plan to name the gym in her honor, she could barely contain her emotion.

“I just kind of welled up with tears in my eyes,” she said.

Since the official date of the ceremony was set, Slade has received a flood of messages from classmates. Many of them plan to be at the event, with some traveling from long distances just to attend.


“I feel like we were all brothers and sisters,” Slade said. “When you have 29 in a class, you all grow up together.

“And I loved growing up in Solon Springs. I loved all of it.”

Slade began playing basketball when she was five or six years old. Her father coached the boys basketball team, and she played with her brothers on the family’s court at their farm.

As a 12-year-old, Slade set her career path after attending a basketball camp in Perham, Minn.

She was dazzled by a skills demonstration from one of the camp organizers. The woman spun balls, showed off tricks and made the campers smile.

“When I saw her I thought, ‘That’s what I want to do with my life,’ ” Slade said. “It was the way she made people feel, and I wanted to make people feel that way.”

When Slade returned to Solon Springs, she began to practice spinning a basketball. She was an adept spinner by the time she graduated, but she had another goal to fulfill before pursuing a career: playing college basketball and earning a degree.

Slade played for the Bulldogs, first at the University of Minnesota Duluth and then at NCAA Division I Fresno State. Slade’s career field goal percentage at Fresno State (.507) remains the fourth highest all-time for the Bulldogs.


After graduating from Fresno State, Slade remained in California and began her career as a basketball entertainer.

The Chicago Bulls were the first to show interest, and Slade performed regularly for them in the 1990s.

That was the heyday of basketball in Chicago, with Michael Jordan leading the Bulls to three consecutive titles from 1991-93 and then again from 1996-98.

Slade remembers performing at Game 7 between the Bulls and New York Knicks in the 1992 Eastern Conference Semifinals. She said the atmosphere was indescribable as Jordan scored 42 points to help Chicago win the series.

It was easy to become awestruck, Slade said, whether performing at an NBA game or before the raucous crowds at the college level.

“I remember dribbling on the leprechaun (logo) for a Celtics game once,” Slade said. She tried to focus on her performance, but she found herself studying the floor of the Boston Garden and marveling at how worn it was.

“I had to tell myself to cut that out,” said Slade, laughing. “I was feeling the dead spots and thinking about (Boston’s) home-court advantage.”

Slade’s popularity snowballed, but she realized in her mid-30s that she wouldn’t be able to perform forever.


She had no plan for the next stage of her life until receiving a timely invitation to run a workshop on basketball fundamentals.

Her students were physical educators, and Slade fed off of their enthusiasm for helping children lead active and healthy lives.

“They were so excited and they soaked it all up. They were like sponges,” she said.

From that experience, Slade plotted her future.

She spent about five years developing a new concept to teach children basketball fundamentals in way that was not only effective but fun. The result was an oversized board game in which participants roll dice and perform different physical activities.

Slade introduced the concept, Skillastics, at the National Physical Education Conference in 2002.

“It went over amazingly,” she said.

In the past 15 years, interest has only grown.


Skillastics now comes in 13 versions - focusing on everything from basic fitness to character-building and teamwork - and the games are in use in more than 25,000 schools and after-school programs.

Slade has also created an at-home offshoot, Fitivities, to encourage families to exercise together.

“I’m just trying to help kids have a positive experience while being physically active,” Slade said.

Slade officially retired as a performer in 2008 after a 22-year career.

Her passion now is promoting physical fitness, but the St. Croix High School graduate said she may be persuaded to pick up a basketball when she returns to Solon Springs Jan. 27.

“We may have a minute or two of spinning,” she said.  “It’s going to be quite an amazing evening that I’m looking forward to.”

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