For the last two years, Noida's Dribble Academy has been a beacon for hoops in the grassroots for the Delhi-NCR region. It's an intensive basketball training academy in the Gheja village, created to cater mostly to underprivileged children (aged five and above) and focused primarily on skill-based training. Its founder Pradyut Voleti has a Masters in Clinical Psychology and has trained with leading basketball skill developers including Ganon Baker. Hundreds of young kids have already been part of the Academy and Voleti continues to build a road-map for the youngsters from the villages to find an outlet, and eventually, an alternative path to life success, through basketball.
Shaily Upadhyay (12), the daughter of a household driver, found her solace in basketball. She took great leaps at improving her game with Voleti and the Dribble Academy over the past two years, and the fruits of her labour have now paid off. Upadhyay was awarded a five-year, hundred percent scholarship at one of the top educational institutions in Noida, the Shiv Nadar School. Her admission was based on a scholarship programme held by Shiv Nadar for exceptional young basketball players, and Upadhyay's performances stood head and shoulders above the competition. Over a hundred kids from Dribble Academy participated in Shiv Nadar's scholarship tryouts, while kids from other schools and areas in the region also took part.
Upadhyay was one of the first to join Dribble Academy's Gheja Village programme two years ago. Now, the Dribble Academy is working to train over 200 children in the village for free.
"There was something different about Shaily from the beginning," added Voleti. "She would outwork everybody at practice, always try to help other players, and has been a leader on and off the court. This is huge for us: a kid from Gheja village who would have never dreamed of a school like this gets a hundred percent scholarship. This is just the beginning for Shaily; we want her to improve in academics and become an all-rounder."
"There are many more such kids at Gheja who are extremely talented and we are hoping that more schools show their interest in these kids and help them achieve."
At Shiv Nadar, Upadhyay will have the opportunity to train under talented young coaches Brahmaditya Singh and India's national women's team player Raspreet Sidhu.