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Starting with Bhutan, Ball'In Schools aims to boost grassroots Basketball
THIMPHU (Bhutan) - We often focus on basketball at the highest level, whether it is professionally or with the national team. Yet, do we question what got us into basketball in the first place? With a new pilot program, the Asian Regional Office is attempting to make a significanct difference by focusing on basketball development in schools.
The Ball’in Schools program was started based on the identification of challenges across Asia that affected the development of basketball. Whether it is the insufficient presence or low quality of basketball in schools, the lack of basketball coaching education for PE teachers, or the little interest or awareness of the youth in the sport, these are all issues that could be tackled at an early stage in education institutions and lead to significant development of basketball in a given country.
Research has shown that the earlier school children get acquainted with a sport, the more and the longer they are likely to play the game. In fact, raising awareness in schools for basketball would promote the sport by making children more likely to play the game, get friends to join them, and make the sport more popular overall in the country.
The objective of the Ball’In Schools program is to raise awareness and increase basketball activity by empowering local ambassadors, making it both effective and self-sustainable.
The FIBA Regional Office - Asia organised the first edition of the Ball’In Schools program in Thimphu, Bhutan from June 3 to 6. The 20 participating ambassadors underwent comprehensive training aimed to teach them how to make basketball fun, the basics of officiating, the 3x3 discipline, how to develop practice plans and make activities suitable for kids. They were empowered with all the tools to be able to lead school sessions and train Physical Education teachers.
“In the last 18 months, the [Bhutan Basketball Federation] has done a fantastic job of introducing some basketball in schools,” said WABC member and FIBA Coach Instructor, Michael Haynes, who led the training for the program. “Schools are where all the kids are, where you want to grow your sport. You need to start at that grassroots [level]. Ball’In Schools is going to accelerate the program that the federation has put in place.”
“The idea was to combine the elements and the know-how that we have at FIBA from mini-basketball, to 3x3, coaching courses and others and make an impact on the grassroots level in countries where basketball is not a main sport,” added FIBA Regional Office Asia – National Federation and Sport Manager, Andrea Paoli, who initiated the program.
During the training, ambassadors got to practice the notions of the workshop by delivering sessions in schools. This had a tremendous impact in the school as the delivery of the session was so innovative and entertaining that the kids kept asking for more and got extremely excited to take part in the end-of-term festival. This event is the culmination of the school activities, it will gather all the schools enrolled in the program in an unprecedented 3x3 festival which will showcase both the entertainment and community aspects of basketball as well as the strong link between academics and sports.
“Seeing the difference in our ambassadors between the first day and the last in the school was extremely rewarding and was the proof that this program is successful,” expressed Paoli. “Kids were asking for more, ambassadors understood the concepts of making basketball attractive, and everyone was motivated to deploy school trainings until the end of year festival. It is exactly what Ball’In Schools aimed to achieve: increase basketball activity and spread the passion for basketball!”
In the end, the core of the program is all about teaching kids how to enjoy the game.
“The Ball’In Schools program starts by teaching fun. We want kids to enjoy being physically active. And we use basketball skills to do that and we have a lot of fun doing that. Once kids enjoy this activity, then we focus more on the available programs of the federation that are more focused on skills development,” said Haynes.
“The main objective of this program is to push our coaches and players to be ambassadors of basketball and think outside the box,” added Younten Phuntsho, Bhutan Basketball Federation Program Officer. “By focusing on the aspect of fun and enjoyment, we are redefining the way we teach basketball in Bhutan.”
As this has been a pilot initiative developed in Asia, the program will be implemented in a few more countries with the aim of eventually scaling it up globally. By motivating and inspiring local basketball players, coaches and other stakeholders to contribute to basketball development in their countries, the goal is to raise the standard of the game nationally, making the sport a school-favorite. The results have been so encouraging that the passion and motivation of the ambassadors has exceeded the expectations set when designing the program.
“I want to thank the team for their efforts and passion in creating the Ball’In Schools program,” Jigme Namgyal, Bhutan Basketball Federation President expressed. “We can see how much effort and work was put in developing the material provided to us. We will ensure that the program keeps growing and approach the ministry of education as well. I hope all National Federations will adopt this program.”