With on-ground sporting activities across the country largely coming to a standstill due to the ongoing Coronavirus crisis, the 12-week Live virtual clinics series conducted by the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA Program has come in for widespread acclaim from both the participants and guests.
The final session was held on May 22 by NBA veteran Kendall Gill, known as one of the best perimeter defenders in the game. Gill, who holds the record for most steals in an NBA game with 11, followed a stellar lineup of NBA, WNBA & NBA G League players besides legends and coaches who interacted with eager youth on Saturday mornings to keep them engaged with the sport.
"I think these online sessions have a big impact, because I know for myself as a kid, when I was able to speak to people I looked up to, it meant the world to me," said Tyrese Haliburton, Point Guard, Sacramento Kings, who is among the three finalists for the NBA Rookie of the Year award.
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"Those are conversations and talks that I'll cherish for the rest of my life. I think it's important, especially in a time like this where interaction is limited, and everyone has to stay inside, more than you would like."
"I feel programs like Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA not only get young kids interested in being active, but also help them in enabling dreams of potentially making it to the NBA or using basketball as a way to further their education or travel the world," added Roy Hibbert, former NBA player.
The sessions were designed to promote the participants to remain "Active at Home" by participating in drills and physical activity. Considering the challenges posed by the pandemic, the drills were devised such that the kids could perform those inside their homes.
Rather than having to focus on a one-way presentation through the course of a session, the participating kids, coaches and Physical Education teachers were encouraged to actively take part in the drills, ensuring they became enthusiastic collaborators in the entire routine with their specialist instructors. The sessions attracted well over 2000 participants over the 12-week period.
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"The coaches were excellent," said Ravinder Singh, a participating student. "They have the passion, expertise, knowledge and the patience to teach. The coaches not only demonstrated a particular move, but also explained to us how to use the move in a real game situation."
"I simply loved it," exclaimed Isha Kashyap, another participating student. "I have been thinking about which moves I could use in the game and what I could work on at home. My trainer really knew what she was doing and I left feeling confident about what I have learned through the session."
"They teach the game the right way by making it fun, improving skills, and providing an environment that is safe to make mistakes and learn," added Bhupinder Kaur, parent of one of the participating students. "My son has improved and his confidence level has increased. I often sit and watch the practices amazed and what these young people are asked to do and yet can accomplish with practice."
Since its inception in 2013, the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA program has reached more than 11 million youth in 13,000 schools in 34 cities across India. The digitally led initiative this year ensured the ever-growing basketball eco-system of kids, teachers, coaches and parents continued to remain invested in the sport despite the challenges posed by the pandemic.
For the instructors as well, while operating under drastically changed circumstances was a unique challenge, they were encouraged by the enthusiasm and willingness of the participants to embrace the new reality.
"These are unprecedented times and unfortunately, we are all living in a time we have never lived in before," said Ticha Penicheiro, WNBA Legend. "If we can have a little more motivation, like these sessions, it is amazing. We all have to reinvent ourselves. So, this is the best time to do stuff at home."
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"In my formative years, any word of encouragement from seniors were always a great deal for me and programs like Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA allows youth to have those interactions," added Princepal Singh, former G League Ignite player. "It feels good to try and inspire youth and help them to get on a path to achieve their goals."
Among the others who conducted sessions over the 12-week series were NBA legends Sam Perkins & Nikoloz Tskitishvili, WNBA players Sydney Colson, Azura Stevens, Dearica Hamby & Ebony Hoffman and Roy Rana, Assistant Coach of Sacramento Kings.