August 2, 2010

Basketball’s Youth Brigade

Students return to India from University of Delaware programme to support BFI

From the fireworks of the 4th of July celebrations to the bright lights of New York city, Divya Singh and Yuvika Sharma had enjoyed their share of the American experience. Strange then, is the one concept that Yuvika especially brought back home with her.

Soccer Moms.

A 'Soccer Mom' (see Palin, Sarah) in American culture, is a parent that takes special interest in accompanying their children to sporting events and other activities, particularly to soccer/football games. In America, where the real football (and not the American version) is still a relatively smaller sport, encouraging the parents’ interest in their child’s growth as a footballer has helped a gradual change of national psyche towards the sport, and in turn, helped raise the profile of football/soccer in the country.

In India, Yuvika would like to see Hoop Moms (and Dads, too). After returning with a two years degree from the University of Delaware (UD) in Masters of Education – Sports Management, Yuvika has dived straight into work with the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) in organising and managing basketball events here. One of her dreams is to invite the parents of younger basketball participants to camps, tryouts, or important games, so that parents can soak in the hoop environment and see their kid in action.

“Involving the parents of younger children is a big step,” says Yuvika, “The game of basketball has to be attractive to them – they have to understand that their child can have success and recognition at a national level.”

We live in the culture where the ‘average parent’ is not one to embrace the idea of their child as a professional athlete, particularly if more secure options and available, and particularly if the sport their child is interested in is something other than cricket. But with the potential of growth of basketball in India, times are definitely a-changing – hoops can be more than just a hobby, and the support of a parent from an early age will be a big step forward in assuring that the youngster is encouraged to keep improving their game.

But that is just one of the many ideas that Yuvika and Divya have returned with. UD had received a grant by the US Dept. of State to conduct the International Basketball Initiative (IBI) educational exchange programme with India. Part of this programme included a seminar held in conjunction with the BFI and the NBA, where the two girls were selected to be fully sponsored for their education at the campus in Newark.

Divya, who has formerly been the captain of the Indian Women’s Basketball team, was already a famous name in the country’s basketball circles before she took this opportunity, serving as assistant coach to the UD’s women’s team. Yuvika worked alongside Matthew J. Robinson, the assistant professor of sport management, on the development and implementation of grassroots development strategies for Indian basketball.

Yuvika, who concedes that the training at UD has made her approach a lot more business-minded and professional, has grand plans to bring ‘showbiz’ into the game of basketball in India. “It should be more than a sport, it should be entertainment,” she feels, “We must look into every opportunity to commercialise the games for the audiences here. I have concentrated on PR, marketing, and events promotion of the game. The aim is to sell basketball to the common Indian household, tell people that it’s an affordable game.

She hopes to create a spectator market for the sport, making sure the games and important events are held at suitable time of the day (the afternoon heat is a bigger factor that you think!), involve entertainment events like a dunk contest, and most importantly, give the players the recognition and promotion they deserve.

“Our national level players must become household names, at least in their own town,” she adds, “When people in Chennai talk about S. Robinson, they should know that he’s one of our most lethal shooters, our very own Ray Allen!”

It may sound like a cliché, but after all, the game is about the players, and both Yuvika and Divya understand that. The BFI has taken a few steps towards fulfilling their demands, hiring a physiotherapist for the international teams and adding a player information database on the website. And while Yuvika focused on the management side of things, Divya returned home after working on-court with the basketball players at the UD.

Divya understands that the same techniques and views broached in the US might not apply to the different culture and the “different way of doing things” back home in India. Still, she’s willing to give it a try – Divya got the opportunity to be a trainee under UD’s head coach of the women’s team, the legendary Tina Martin. Now, as she makes her return to India, the 28-year-old has already laid out her plans to coach and improve the tactics of young Indians. “I want to eventually start looking at coaching the young coaches here,” she says, “They must be introduced to new techniques, and there must be uniformity amongst the coaches in the teaching of the basics of basketball to the young players.”

“It was really an eye-opening experience,” Divya added, “We soaked in American culture, we learnt so much about the professional manner to approach things when managing sports, and in our case, basketball.”

Nothing less than a professional manner will do: ever since BFI signed a 30-year-deal with IMG-Reliance (IMGR), hoop-heads in the country have been buzzing with excitement. As per this deal, IMGR will be supporting basketball in India through camps, talent scouting (such as the IMG Academies Scholarship programme), and within a few years, the launch of a professional basketball league. There is no better time than now for basketball to be popularised in the “common Indian household”; no better time than now for our young players to have the best training available so that they can become the future stars of this venture.

Get ready, ‘Hoop Moms’: it’s time to pay some attention to basketball.

1 comment:

  1. well said ..... lets make the changes ....go cazers