Rūtenis Paulauskas: “Basketball creates freedom”
Basketball creates freedom
“Basketball Power” was born in order to bring basketball training to kids that lack adequate attention from society. The goal of the program is to create friendships with youth who cope with socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds daily and to reduce marginalization. A large part of this mission involves devoting time to young people who spend their lives in foster care homes and institutions. It’s our ambition to help teenagers who have limited communication with their parents, who are forbidden to use phones and the internet and have restrictions on general freedoms. The Veliučionys Socialization Center is a place where “Basketball Power” disregards the high fence, metal gates, observation cameras, and constantly guarded caretakers, and instead simply seeks to introduce youth to the sport of basketball. Basketball is not only just a sport for us, but an educational, social, and communication tool. Basketball is an area for the development of values, aesthetics, intelligence, and spiritual qualities because it is associated with very high physical and mental achievements for an individual. We seek to create conditions where a person can learn, lead, and improve. Basketball helps us to connect with people with different perspectives through common interests, teamwork, mutual understanding, and physical activity. We want basketball to help to create better relationships between people, encourage cooperation, help to make new friendships, and give youth a sense of freedom.
Basketball helps to grow
The most motivated team of Basketball Power is trained in Lentvaris. The commitment of the team to take part in competitions and practices makes them deserving of the title of the most motivated team. Though it may be an overstatement, I would argue that the key to their successes in competitions is not necessarily their training and practices but rather an inner motivation improve and to succeed, a great trait for future careers. It would be a dream that these guys stay in basketball – as judges, children’s coaches, or managers. Talking, practicing, and competing ensure positive emotions. Although their achievements in basketball are still modest, it would be great if at least one of them eventually entered into a professional basketball team and could experience the success that comes with hard work. There is also a luck story in Lentvaris, where Edvardas, who grew up without parents, received KG support and is now successfully contributing to the project and growing up as an independent and responsible person.
The conversations about life skills delivered by coaches in the Basketball Power program is an innovative and effective idea. Kids are always interested to listen what their coach or a guest that comes to the practice has to say. In these meetings, coaches need to learn not only to talk but also to listen. However, it’s very difficult to talk to kids from Ariogala, Miroslavas, Pandėlys, Simnas, and other towns. They are closed, restrained, and timid. However, when children start to talk, there are a lot of interesting things to hear. Interestingly, there are no overly ambitious goals or highly competitive mindsets; kids are more interested developing their skills through hard, disciplined work, not unlike how a professional coach would view the sport. Maybe that’s why in Simnas footballers are happy to come to the weekend BP basketball practices. Boys and girls become more ambitious, more vibrant, and more stubborn than their friends who do not do an activity like this. They get better not only in basketball but also better in understanding, discussing, even analyzing when it comes to monitoring adult teams. Kids receive advice on how to manage their own body but also their minds, how to communicate, how to share the ball, teamwork, and responsibilities. They are not afraid to challenge themselves and they want to compete and win. We want to create a better world for present and future Lithuanian generations.