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By: Kaustubh Garimella. Kaustubhis a sophomore at Northwestern University and has previously volunteered in India helping students learn basketball.
During the summer after my sophomore year in high school, I attended a basketball sleep away camp for a week at Bentley College. It was there that I was first introduced to the term “Student Athlete”. There’s a reason why the word ‘student’ comes before the word ‘athlete’, my coach told us. Academics always came first, and basketball came second. In other words, getting a proper education was the first priority, and being an athlete could only happen after schoolwork was finished.
When I first heard this explanation, it made sense in my head. Although I loved the game, I knew that my passion for basketball could only take my so far in this world. An education would open up a lot more viable opportunities for my future. But as I grow older, I don’t think that there necessarily has to be a progression on what one spends their time on. Not that basketball is more important than an education, but it certainly can be part of a one.
Basketball and athletics in general, teach a great deal of skills to players. From the importance of practice and a good work ethic, to proper communication and teamwork, to how to get up after failure and how to be gracious in success, basketball instructs people vital skills that can be applied in the future. I’ve seen this exemplified in my own life; I’ve learned a lot about how to interact with people from basketball, and when I ask my friends the same thing, they say that athletics were one of the most important things they had participated in.
Not that athletics is the only way to gain these skills; certainly they are always many
paths that lead to a full education. But for many who have the passion for a sport like basketball, there’s no need to separate the terms ‘student’ and ‘athlete’. In the end, for those of us who owe much of our education to our coaches and teammates, we are all just students, not matter how we are learning.
As we wind up the Inaugural Crossover Academy Session – and I hope I have said this plenty already – THANK YOU.
Thank you to everyone who has donated, who will donate, who has said words of encouragements, shared this vision with others, stopped and paused to consider what we are doing, introduced us to someone new, gave us a hug, a pat on the back, and told us to carry on.
Without you, these kids would not have gotten to experience such an amazing program and how each of them has already asked us to confirm that we will be back next year.
By far the greatest words heard on this trip were exactly that – “Sir/Madame – Teach me how…” followed by some skill, idea, concept, etc.
Although every kid has not reached out and asked us a question – the impact is shown when some are. In India, the schools generally don’t allow for questions or clarifications, as this is a sign of a lack of understanding/not paying attention on the part of the student. As a teacher, the asking of questions is essential to me conveying a complete understanding of the material and ensuring that each student has had a chance to feel that they have a grasp of each concept.
Teach me how… it’s not a phrase I will soon forget.
contribution by Neha Soneji (Contractor)
Due to a national holiday, Krishna Jayanthi, we did not have a session with our students but Team Crossover did not take the day off.
First, a visit to the US Consulate where we provided them with an update to the program. As we chatted, they quickly found out that Eric was from Holy Cross and struck up a conversation about the school and its conference, the Patriot League. It was refreshing to hear Eric and the folks at the Consulate exchange thoughts on his school.
After the Consulate, we then had another meeting with a local businessman to introduce Crossover. Once we were done, we had some time to kill while waiting for a taxi and saw a park right around the corner. We walked over and saw some boys playing basketball and as we approched the court, two little boys came over to chat with us. After about 5 minutes they invited us in and wanted to see Eric and Shaun shoot around, with dress shirts, slacks and all. They both took a couple shots and then the kids wanted to see Eric dunk. He modestly showed some of his skills but it was evident how muchhe truly loves sharing the game with kids where ever he is.
Whether or not the kids remember those 30 mintues we were with them, one thing is for sure, Shaun, Eric and myself will always cherish that moment. Seeing the smile on those kids faces will never be forgotten.
Make sure to check out the observers on the right. Eric has been quite the attraction thus far in Chennai.
Day 2 started out promising with the arrival of Eric Obeysekere and his excitement to meet our students. As it were, five minutes before pulling up to the school – the rain started to come down. Now in the US – no big deal. But here – with the courts being outdoors – we had to convert to an alternative plan.
We broke down the groups and held small group sessions about Leadership, Teamwork, and Communication – no easy task at times when students are taught not to participate unless they definitely know the right answer. We later extended these themes to the concept of help-side defense within a man defense. It takes leadership and pride to make defensive stops, teamwork to know that people have your back and are supporting your efforts, and communication to let everyone know what is going on.
Quite a full day – and quite the valuable lessons revealed.
Yesterday was a day that I had dreamt, planned, re-planned, fundraised, and more, for so long – that I couldn’t believe it was finally here. The kids at St. Patrick’s School in Chennai are amazing. Their excitement wasn’t one of jumping up and down but more of a “keep telling/showing us more.”
We worked on some dribbling drills, layups, passing, and understanding why we do the different things in the game. The analogy of a basketball game being like a test was also made, and so that way learning drills and practicing were just like learning the material and doing your homework. While someone might want to just take the test without studying or doing their work – usually to be successful, the work has to be put in to have that satisfaction with a grade well earned, or a huge game won.
Eric Obeysekere of College of the Holy Cross joins us tomorrow and standing at 6’9, I know the kids are going to love him right off the bat. I will post a profile of Eric later this week but kudos to a young man who is a Division 1 College basketball player who is giving up some of his very few moments of free time (and time he could be back home in San Francisco) and coming to work with these kids an help model Hoops Creating Hope.
While we did have a lot of students in non-athletic shoes and even in full school uniform, let’s hope we can find ways to reverse that and help these children who have a passion for education and hoops to be able to play more often.
And I’m sure I haven’t said it nearly enough but – thank you. Thank you for helping to make a vision of mine come true and thank you for believing that Hoops and Hope can help Change the World.
Chennai – Day 1
So after landing just past midnight local time, it took us nearly two hours to clear immigration, customs, and arrive at our hosts’ home.
Upon waking up – we started the day intent on accomplishing a few basic tasks. Finding SIM cards for cell phones, finding a cell phone with Internet access, purchasing an electric pump for our slew of basketballs, and a few other smaller tasks. Needless to say – these endeavors took us nearly the entire day. Can’t wait to get started as we add on to our volunteers here in Chennai. Now if only we could figure out a mobile hotspot – we’d be golden.
On Thursday, July 19 Crossover Basketball and Scholars Academy had the privilege to attend a reception at Ambassador Nirupama Rao’s (Ambassador of India to the United States) home to honor Congressman Gary Ackerman and wish him a wonderful retirement. He has been a key leader in bridging the relationship between the United States and India by being the ranking Democrat on the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans. He was awarded India’s third highest civilian award, the Padma Bhushan for his contributions as member of the India Caucus in the Congress.
Listening to all of Congressman Ackerman’s achievements, it was apparent that he was instrumental in strengthening the relationship between the United States and India and Crossover hopes to continue to be apart of building that bridge. Taking our philosophy in education in the United States and bringing it to India is only part of how we continue to strive to better both nations. The Congressman has paved the way for us and we hope to only build on what he’s started.
As we use these last few days to prep for our first trip to India, we are reminded that to be apart of something big, one must first start by being apart of something small. We will continue to blog as we get closer and closer to take off, certainly while we’re on the ground making our mission of Hoops Creating Hope a reality, and upon our return to share the lasting memories to come. Stay tuned for more!!
I wanted to share with everyone the short chapel talk I gave to my school on June 6 – the last day of exams. It was well received and so it made sense to share it with everyone in the Crossover family.
With today being the last “official” school day of the academic year I know that a lot of you have today’s exams on your mind and furthermore the summer. So I’m going to try and be brief and ask you to stop your worrying for a second and join me here in the present.
At the end of the year – there is always a lot going on. Exams, Science Fair, graduation, excitement, but what i hope that you all can take a few minutes to pause over the next few days to think about two things. 1 – What does it mean to be a Man for Others and 2 – Enjoy the view?
When I say Man for Others – all of you have heard the phrase and can recite it – but not all
of us think about what it truly means or how to go about being that type of person. And quite honestly – it means doing the little things in life that often will bring a smile to someone else’s face and reward you with a feeling of having impacted someone’s day. Tell your loved ones you love them, finding the good in yourself and others, thank someone who you know who has put in time and effort to see you succeed, high five a 5th grader, ask how you can be of service – all of these things are the little things that make up not just a man for others but a truly good man. Remember that today is the only today you get so make it the most complete that you can. I don’t believe I ever heard someone say – I wish I had spent more time last week playing XBox.
And enjoy the view. Gentlemen you have all been blessed to be part of a community that is unbelievably special – one that calls you everyday by name to be the best you possible. Look around you – this is a family that loves and cares for each and every one of you – no matter how exhausted you are at the end of the year. Live in that love. Excel in that love. Grow in that love. Just for a second – take in how awesome it is to be in a school like this, a place you can always call home.
To quote a Non-Jesuit, St. Francis de Sales “Be who you are, and be that well” remember both parts of that quote – we are all blessed with different gifts – so be the best version of you possible.
YES (Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study) Abroad student Hannah Heyworth won a national competition in India on creative writing celebrating the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens. Her poem, attached below, is amazing. Congrats to her and her beautiful prose. She is a very talented young writer.
However – my “outrage” comes on multiple fronts. First is that ONLY 173 students entered in a national competition open those 16 – 21 years of age and a median age of 26.2. Any single school alone should be able to produce 173 entries – not the second most populated country in the world. How is this possible that this competition is both so poorly advertised to students as well as valued enough for students to participate and enter. Again – finding numbers on India’s population demographics can be hard but according to UNICEF there are nearly 243 MILLION Indians between the ages of 10-19. Compare that number again with 173 total entries.
Second, if it’s a national competition – and this is by no means showing any disrespect to Ms. Heyworth – why would you award, or even open up the competition, to anyone who is not Indian. And not like how I’m “indian” but students who are full-time living in India. I can only imagine the outrage if a visiting student were to win an essay contest here in the US. Oh to once again not value your own students.
Again – Ms. Heyworth’s poem is fantastic and very much worth being read. Here it is:
“Modern Chennai in the Eyes of Charles Dickens”
It was the best of places, it was the worst of places,
It was a city, a metropolis difficult to constrain to rhymes,
It was a shining example, it was subpar at best,
Poverty, shouting, pollution, crowds, but lest
I forget! Also the peace and tolerance of a diverse people,
Where in one direction is a mosque, temple, and steeple.
An unforgiving climate, and an abundance of dust,
But where to sample the local cuisine is a must,
A historic language curving over tacky neon signs,
Yet carved as well into ancient ruins in poetic lines,
A history of colonialism, exploitation, and trade,
But where the colorful traditions shall never fade.
A conservative place, where time runs slower,
But do not assume a place where any development is lower,
A quiet, bustling place, an old-fashioned and modern place,
A place where ancestral homes and condos fill adjoining space,
This bundle of contradictions, my friend, this tumble of culture,
Is no decaying town circled by desertion and abandonment- those vultures!
This is a city, reborn a thousand times with only improvements.
This, my friend, is Chennai.
Crossover Basketball and Scholars Academy have partnered to work with 3pt Academy in helping promote the game of hoops. We couldn’t be more excited for this fantastic opportunity.
The 3pt Academy app is completely free and completely loaded with basketball content for players and coaches.
The idea of the app is to provide a tool for aspiring basketball players and coaches to be able to consume great basketball content and training videos on the go from the best basketball bloggers in the world! Are you seeing how great this fits into our concept of reaching out to those students in India? Plus it’s a great way to read the Crossover blog while on the go!
Videos, drills, connect with others in the sport, and reading some of the best basketball blogs in the world – 3pt Academy truly is an innovation that will surely impact the development of the game.
And it’s FREE! – Download it for the iPhone or Droid – and check out Crossover in a whole new platform.
Crossover Basketball and Scholars Academy is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit. We are an education and leadership program using basketball as a vehicle to increase educational opportunities for students of any socio-economic level in India. If you would like to learn more, discover volunteer opportunities, or make a donation – please visit us at www.crossover-india.org
If you haven’t read about the Red Jacket High School Indians post-season run this year without their head coach – let me catch you up. Head Coach Rich Miles was fired by the superintendent of the school district after a parent complained about the one-game suspension of their son after violating team rules. For the full story – http://bit.ly/xUWjim
Being a high school coach, even moreso than a college coach (let’s not go down that road unless you have a lot more than Pat Summitt, Ben Howland, Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, John Thompson III, Brad Stevens, Danny Hurley, Tom Izzo, John Bielien, and a handful of others), has a lot to do with instilling the framework of teamwork, leadership, empathy, communication, putting the individual aside, collective responsibility, trust, and pride.
Stories like this absolutely cut the legs out of the ability of the coach to be the very type of leader and mentor that every parent should dream for their student. We all get that they are kids and are apt to make mistakes. But how are we ever preparing those students to learn how to pick themselves up, learn from their mistakes, and find success and a team still waiting to embrace them if mom and dad are going to take away the entire learning process?
Firing for Thought!
So far this basketball season, my team has been truly fortunate in our first two games – winning by considerable margins and doing so by playing the type of basketball we want to play: tough deny defense, help-side defense, pushing the basketball and not settling for jump shots. (For the record, we are now 4-1 going into today’s game.)
Our first game had us playing a team we simply over-matched both skill-wise and athletically. In that game the process of subbing in every player was an easy task as the level of play evened out as we used all of our substitutes. Those are the types of blowouts where the outcome is never in doubt and you can try and get lots of experience for your younger and less gifted players.
Having the right game plan puts your players in the best possible place to succeed
The second game was a whole different story. Yes, we won 36-12, but I never truly felt comfortable with the lead or the situation. We won, not because we over-matched them in talent, but because we were by far the more disciplined team on the court, being patient when we needed to be and pushing the pace when the opportunity presented itself. In this case, with the talent level being even at the top, substituting out all of our regular rotation guys would have instantly cut the lead by a huge amount.
So at what point do you actually do that?
That’s where the other team felt we were intentionally running up the score – and where I disagreed. We had no press, stayed in a basic man defense and ran our offense without any fast breaks. In fact, we ran our offense so well that it chewed off the last 3 minutes of the game. Dean Smith would have been very proud.
On our team, we stress character – probably more than most. There was no hooting, hollering or showboating during the two blowouts and our boys treated the other teams with respect after the game. They did something I think is desperately lacking in our sports culture – they cheered for our team and not against the other. Last year, we were on the other end of a few early season blowouts and took to understanding how other teams played efficiently against us as our spirits were crushed. As a coach, I made a point to thank each player on the other team for the effort and point out something good they did – even if it was just flat-out hustle.
So what have I learned? To not take these games for granted. To play as many kids as possible without deflating your own team and what they worked hard to accomplish. To show respect for your opponent in not running up the score (as opposed to those who claim you are showing respect by keeping your foot on the pedal after the race is won). To introduce your players to empathy and the fact that it is not an act of treason against competing. And to remember above all that it is a game. A win or loss does not change who we are as a person and what we stand for at the end of the day.
So what do you do when a game starts getting away from you?
So when reading the recent ESPN The Magazine article on Satnam Singh Bhamara being not just a basketball prodigy but India’s future “Yao Ming,” I approached the article as someone who teaches boys this age rather than a basketball coach/scout. Not only is Bhamara being hailed as one of the next global superstars, the weight of over a billion potential fans weighing on him, but he now has the added onto this pressure and hype inclusion on the Senior National Team, competing internationally against grown men.
Take a step back now and allow this to sink in: a 14/15 year old playing, rooming, traveling, competing against grown men – and through all of this being expected to act like an adult.
Think about that for a minute. High achievers are often asked to compete at a higher level but being teammates with adults is not the place for the emotional and mental growth of a teenager – especially one still learning the game, footwork, and thought process of what still is not an instinctive game. Consider even adults’ sense of humor, interest in flirting, grabbing drinks after a game or even asking for their hotel room to be left alone for a period of time. Teenagers are still fragile, still growing, still developing their sense of self, and still need people to act goofy around. Teenagers really have little to no capacity, no matter how many precautions you surround them with, to be expected to act and respond as an adult when others are relying on their actions.
Now for all you grown ups reading this blog (yes – a lot of us are now adults) think about doing your jobs with all of your responsibilities and expectations while relying on a 14 year old. Teaching boys that age has certainly been an amazing experience during my career, but having to rely on someone that age for joint success is more than just overwhelming for everyone involved; it is also emotionally unfair for adults who have little or no experience in working with children that age.
Some food for thought as we start 2012 and how personal/academic growth is just as important as basketball growth.
Beyond Sport United hosted more than 80 sports teams from across the globe Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at Yankee Stadium to speak about the role sports plays in social change both on the macro and local/community level. It was sponsored and attended by all of the major North American sports leagues (MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL, NHL and the WNBA) with most of the commissioners representing their respective leagues.
It was pretty special to be involved in such an event, and not just because we spent all day in Yankee Stadium, (in the suites, VIP sections and even in the dugout). The star power was impressive in who attended, I’ve attached a list of some of the who’s who at the end, but the most impressive thing was the work that so many organizations are doing in the community and how many are looking for even more impactful ways to engage their communities. But let’s not be completely naive, the business of making money was still a prominent piece alongside the positive impact message.
As for the takeaways – all I can say is attending was more than worth the adventure it took to get down there (that’s a whole ‘nother story). By making it a priority to attend and be there, a lot of great connections were made, some potential new board members were found, and the willingness of those attending to want to help and connect was remarkable. It truly was a case of finding a way to be in front of the right people at the right time in the right place.
**Just to give a shout out to some of the incredible people who took the time to bounce ideas around with me, Jennifer Koltnow and Elliot Perry (Memphis Grizzlies), David James (RBI Program – MLB), Christian Aviza (Coaches Across Continents), Eli Wolff (Brown U), Amanda D’Annucci (Dance 4 Peace), Deanna Ford Castellini (UGive.org and Cincinnati Reds), Alex Doty (FSG), Jennifer Moeller (Northwestern U), Megan Barlett (UP2US), and Marc Davies (Standard Charter Bank)**
Along with being sponsored by MLB, NHL, MLS, NBA, WNBA and the NFLSome of the attendees – Roger Goodell (Commissioner, NFL), Gary Bettman (Commissioner, NHL) and Don Garber (Commissioner, MLS). Additional special guest attendees included Rita Benson LeBlanc (Owner, New Orleans Saints), Avraham Burg (Former Speaker of the Israeli Knesset), Brian Burke (president and General Manager, Toronto Maple Leafs), Christina Lurie (Owner, Philadelphia Eagles), Dikembe Mutombo (NBA All-Star and founder of the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation), Allan Houston (Assistant General Manager, New York Knicks), and Mike Richter (Former NHL Hall of Famer and Managing Director of ECP Capital).
So I have spent the last few weeks actually trying to think of how to post my feelings about a June 10 article by Sampriti Ganguli titled “Dateline India: What Shade of Brown Are You?”
The reality of it is – shades of brown when it comes to complexions is ridiculous. I listened to family my whole life speak about not getting darker, staying out of the sun, finding ways to be light, oh they must be from X part of India – look how light/dark they are. Having had people be openly racist towards me at various parts of my upbringing (whole other post) it always baffled me that those of Indian descent or from India would internally segregate each other. Didn’t they know that those that saw colour just saw one shade of brown – and that if you were it – you weren’t part of them.
Sooner or later the internal politics have to subside and Indians will proudly call themselves Indians and not worry about what specific region or skin tone or even caste (though this is illegal now). While I am not sure how much this exists in other cultures, my brothers and sisters of Indian descent often find a way to self-segregate and distinguish between each other, from brownness, to how “Indian/Desi” one truly is?
My response – Get Over It! Start Looking For The Similarities Amongst One Another.
Without one unified country looking to work together – India will continue to create its own glass ceiling, whether it be in basketball, other sports, all the way through world politics.
As I have continued to delve into the idea of heroism and truth this week, I was reminded by a colleague about a poem I have often referred back to a various times since my freshman year of college (it was neither 5 nor 25 years ago) – Desiderata (Latin: “desired things”)
While not a poet myself, I do remember that Coach Wooden himself wrote often – both letters and poems (click here to learn more).
True poetry to me (and I don’t just think poetry exists only in the academic arena) can honestly touch the soul and as such, Desiderata is almost alarmingly calming, peaceful and yet amazingly inspiring.
Enjoy – and let’s all finish this emotional week strong.
Desiderata – Max Ehrmann
Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Strive to be happy.
After receiving favourable feedback after giving this “Morning Wisdom” at our school assembly – I thought I would share it as a blog post.
It is important to put students in the best possible position in order to allow them the opportunity to make decisions
As all of you know – yesterday marked a significant moment in the healing process of the country. It was a day marked with sadness, tears, memories of where people were and where they remember their loved ones being, and one that changed the lives of each and every person who witnessed the tragedies, whether there in person or on television.
What it also gave us though was a look into the spirit of a lot of people that morning. We not only saw men and women from various police and fire departments rush into buildings that were unstable, but also the spirit and heroism of thousands of others each in their own way. So many people who could have simply cared about their own safety found ways to give back, pick up others or fall themselves while trying to do good.
Now I’m not asking you to put your life in harm’s way this morning but I do think that each of us in this room can aspire to be heroic. Romain Rolland, a French Noble Prize winning writer, once said “A hero is a man (or woman) who does what he can.” And that got me to thinking about what each and every one of us is called to do every day here at Nativity Prep.
We are called every day to be heroes. To do what we can seems like such a simple task and quite honestly it is. Whether it be students or faculty, we each can do what we can for each other here at school and others outside our brick walls. It is not too much to ask the most of your brothers in your classes and to know that you are getting the very best from each of your teachers. Instead of laughing and pointing at someone who gave a wrong answer or when someone falls on the basketball courts, let us commit ourselves that he is not left on the ground defeated, or helped up by one caring person, but have every person offer a hand, to picked each other up, as a team, a school and as a family.
Everyone in this room has already taken the first steps towards being heroic. Each person who is here each morning has chosen to be here, part of this community. Now is the time of the year that we should not only be thinking about what a successful school year will look like individually, but in the context of the bigger picture, for everyone we encounter. No one else can make those internal choices – only you. Are your decisions putting you in the best possible position to achieve amazing results every day, and are you making each day matter in your life, using it to create good among others and feeling inspired to accomplish the goals that we see in our future.
So let us start this week and this academic year, by each being heroic.
So I have been once again inspired to work towards keeping a running blog for Crossover. The problem that I most often come up with is (a) does it always have to be discussing the development of Crossover, and mentioning the words basketball and India for search engines to discover, (b) relevant to sport and coaching, or (c) just about anything I am contemplating at the time and therefore having pieces of information consistently going up.
And honestly – it is starting to seem like it should be some combination of all three – and with that – I begin writing again. ..
The school year has started. New students, clean and organized classrooms, energized teachers, students wishing they still had a few more days of summer and a year’s worth of could’s, might’s, should’s, hopes and goals await. For me – this might be my most calm and collected start of the year ever.
So with that being said – what are some of your goals for the coming year?