The twin basketball courts at Ramjas College were a frenzy of activity this past Saturday. Schoolchildren bounded up and down the cement courts, passing and shooting. There was a largish crowd cheering them although the bulk comprises friends and family. The tournament they are taking part in is the Delhi Finals of the junior NBA program.
Appearance wise, the cement surface, chilly weather and predominantly mothers and fathers in support are be a far cry from the polished pinewood courts, packed indoor arenas, ringside celebrities and cheerleaders of the NBA.
However there is little doubt that many of the kids in Delhi this Saturday dreamed that they too would one day stand alongside a Kobe Bryant or a Lebron James.
Watching the children with an eagle eye is Carlos Barroca. He doesn’t think their ambitions of NBA glory are entirely unattainable. “You need to get a ticket to enter into a cinema hall” explains Barroca, the Senior Director of Basketball Operations of NBA India. If the glitz and glamour of the NBA is the cinema hall of Barroca’s metaphor, the ticket he refers to is the hard work players have to put in to get there.
However hard work is nothing without proper procedure and that’s where the Junior NBA program, which Barroca — the former coach of the Portuguese basketball team — is in charge of, comes in. The event isn’t just a tournament but a learning experience with a number of international professionals guiding the children as well as their school coaches when they need to. The two month long tournament was monitored by Mr Barroca with the help of 4 international coaches.
While this is only the second year of the program, Barroca says his ultimate goal is to reach out to a million students and 2000 coaches and physical education instructors across the country. However Barrocha says that speed is of the essence at least if the children want to make a career out of the sport. “Once the children are above 12-13 years old. it becomes hard to teach them the sport. If they are to make professionals in the sport they need to start at 7-8,” he says. To that end, Barrocha adds that he plans to hold a camp in Delhi next year where 120 students from 6 cities will be able to interact with international coaches.
If all this sounds too professional and Daniel, a coach at the Junior Program admits as much. “To bring in the enthusiasm in kids to take up the sport profesionally at the grass root level is not an easy task in India,” he said. As such his goals for the children are more modest. “the main objective of the tournament is to have fun,” he says.