October 10, 2010

A Crossover to connect Basketball, Education, and India



One of the greatest basketball coaches of all time, American coach John Wooden received legendary status with his success and exemplary basketball philosophy while at UCLA. Wooden is known for designed the 'Pyramid of Success', a set of building blocks for winning at basketball and in life. At the top of the pyramid was 'Competitive Greatness', which Wooden defined as "Perform at your best when your best is required. Your best is required each day."

The basketball world lost a great when Wooden passed away four months ago, but his fire he started continues to blaze. If the vision of the ambitious Crossover Academy comes into being, India could soon have its own young men and women playing and living by the 'Wooden Way'.

Shaun Jayachandran is the founder and president of Crossover Basketball and Scholars Academy, a basketball programme which will soon launch in Chennai with a mission to provide free educational and basketball training opportunities to Indian youth. Jayachandran, who is of Indian descent, holds a special bond with the land of his forefathers. He also counts himself as a member of John Wooden's "coaching tree", as his high school coach Bill Sweek played under wooden at UCLA.

"I wanted to combine three of the things that I love in life," said Jayachandran, who is a basketball coach and chemistry teacher, "Basketball, Education, and India. Basketball is more than a game to me - it is a form of education. The game offers creativity but can also be broken down mathematically and scientifically. It is a great teacher of leadership and other life skills."

With this purpose in mind, Jayachandran is looking to launch the Crossover Academy in Chennai in 2011. The mission will start as a short camp for the first few years in India, where students can sign up to attend a FREE two-week basketball camp. The participants in this camp (open to boys and girls, ages 9-16) will be coached basketball fundamentals and educate the youngsters in a mix of Indian and American academic styles. Jayachandran says that the aim of this programme is to prepare young Indian athletes for shoot for attending high school and/or college in the USA on a basketball scholarship.

CSBA is targeting towards an attendance of 100-125 student athletes for the first leg of the academy. The youngsters won't just play basketball, but also take part in conferences and lectures on basketball theory and study game-tape to enhance their skills.

"I read a statistic somewhere that less than 40 percent of Indians go to high (secondary) school," said Jayachandran, "It was surprising, because in the US, Indians are respected for their intelligence. This shows that there is so much more potential in the country for education. If these youngsters can get a full scholarship, it will mean that they can have a top-class education in the USA for free. They can then either use this opportunity to carve out a professional career in basketball for themselves, but even if that doesn't work out, they will have reputed school and college degrees that will help lead them to many more avenues in their life."

"CSBA students will not only be well informed and motivated about their opportunities, but will also receive support as they continue on in their ventures both inside and outside of India," Jayachandran added.

With time, Jayachandran and CSBA aim to expand the two-week camp into a full residential Academy that runs all year long in Chennai. Students will be readied for the next journey in their life via test preparation, cultural integration, English pronunciation courses, along with presentations on U.S. college applications and interviews.

The wheels for the August '11 camp in Chennai are already in motion. A public kick-off event will be held on October 27th in Boston, through which Jayachandran hopes to involve the Indian-American community to support the programme. "We will be funding CSBA through grants and charities," said Jayachandran, "The Indian-American community as well as the basketball coaching community in the States is keenly supporting this mission."

In December, another representative from CSBA will visit India to finalise the launch process and Jayachandran is hoping to finalise all the necessary contracts by early next year.

Chennai, and the whole state of Tamil Nadu, is a major hoop destination already in India, with some of the most active tournaments and successful teams of the country hailing from the region. Jayachandran still feels that there is much room for improvement in Indian talent.

"Unfortunately, the talent level of basketball in India right now is based more on athleticism right now than on developed skills," he says, "There is certainly room to grow and to introduce new ideas. Basketball is a game that requires developed and trained intuition, an understanding of the ebb and flow as well as the coordination of various skill sets."

From his father's teachings (who is a football/soccer coach) to the teachings of the several other basketball coaches and programmes that he has been part of, Jayachandran says that he has discovered several ways of teaching the game via a discipline to doing things the right way.

"India, with its large population, has an opportunity to truly make leaps and bounds in the global basketball world," said Jayachandran "At the same time, the more educated Indians are, the stronger the country will become. Basketball is another form of education, and it can help the young adults today become leaders of the future."

Wooden would've been proud: if we can develop a string of youngsters that live his philosophy, performing their best every single day, then future is indeed bright for basketball in India.

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