This is the third installment from Portland Trail Blazers Director of Scouting Mike Born who is helping to lead the Basketball Without Borders in Africa program as we speak. Mike is contributing his thoughts here and you can also read them at iamatrailblazersfan.com.
DAY 3 - the best parts of day 3 had very little to do with the basketball we played today on the court. I worked once again with Dwight Howard and also got to work with Dikembe Mutombo on post defense. I think I am learning as much about post play as some of the campers getting to with these two players and also Chris Bosh yesterday. The campers competed like crazy and tried to take it all in. Our team also one a close, hard fought game in the afternoon. But we talked about how we can play much better. The kids play so hard but this effort at times can lead to playing to fast and making out of control plays. But we loved again how our team competed and we have done a nice job of playing together. We love our team as kids. A very appreciative and caring
group of kids.
The best parts of the day started after all the drills and games were over. The first terrific event was part of the "Skills for Life" that the camp puts on. A gentleman by the name of Kita and his group called Hoops4Hope spent an amazing hour with the campers and discussed leadership as part of their pillars for life. Hoops4Hope uses basketball, soccer and chess as a way of reaching out to the youth of Africa to teach four pillars for life: Leadership, HIV/AIDS and Healthy Living, Gender (a program specifically for girls), and Conflict Resolution. Kita started this group 18 years ago but it has been under the name Hoops4Hope the last 15 years. I had a chance to talk to him and when you see a human being that is driven with such an amazing purpose and passion for what he is doing, you understand how he and his group can have such an impact on the kids with their teachings.
The message today was a simple, well thought out teaching for the campers. Kita and his group had an amazing and positive connection with the campers. They broke the campers into three groups. Group 1 (around 20 campers) worked as a train (called Shosholoza) where only the front and back person could talk. The other 18 campers had to close their eyes and trust the people leading them through their communication. They had chairs set out and even took them off the court and into the grassy terrain with hills to test the leader's abilities. Group 2 had each of the campers partner up and they had to lead their blind folded partner across the court sideways through a maze of cones on the ground. If you touched the cone you went back and you had 60 seconds to get them safely to the other side. Group 3 was called "team hand ball" and focused on how life can be confusing if there is no plan, no direction and no leadership. They had the teams split up into two teams and had to keep the basketball safely away from the other team for 10 consecutive passes with out dropping or having the ball stolen. The game was played various times at first with no rules or leadership and then with leadership to explain how important leadership and communication were.
But their message was a simple and strong one. It was about how to be a good leader and follower. How these kids can go back and make a difference in their families and communities. That we need more leaders in our world and how the campers can inspire and motivate people. Our leaders must communicate well and have the trust of the followers. The followers must be aware, must listen, must respect and have to trust their leaders. It was a terrific message and I know each and everyone of these kids learned some new skills today that we hope they use in their daily lives.
After our "Skills for Life" seminar the entire staff of BWOB Africa loaded on the buses and headed to the Ivory Park Township for the Habitat for Humanity Build. Our group of around 100 people was broken up into four groups. Each of the four groups had their own home they worked on for the two hour period. I was with all the coaches along with family members and a few of the project leaders for the build. House 3 was going to be the home of beneficiary Barnett and his family of five. It was emotional to listen to Barnett speak to us about how fortunate he and his family were to have us come to help him build his new house. His family of five sleeps in one room so the new house will now have privacy and a place for his children to study. It was an amazing experience to know your work was going to make a significant change in a family's life. And we were not at this place to just do a photo shoot. Our crew leader was on us early. We moved hundreds of bricks, mixed a huge batch of motor that was called "dagga" and stacked rows of bricks on top each other. It was just another meaningful partof this entire trip.
After heading back to the hotel we left for our last function of the night by attending a reception at the United States Consulate. This was an opportunity for the NBA/WNBA to thank the people of South Africa for allowing us to come to Africa and help spread our message to their people. It was also for the Ambassador and Consul General to thank the NBA/WNBA and our entire staff for us being in the city of Johannesburg as well. It was another well planned event and I had the chance to talk to various people who were from Johannesburg about their city, country and continent. Just another opportunity to learn more about the South African culture.
It was a busy day but a great one as well. Not much down time here but when you feel you are making such a difference at each event it is easy to have plenty of energy. Tomorrow we will have another great day of basketball by doing stations, playing games and hearing from Kita and his group on HIV/AIDS and Healthy Living. We are also planning a visit to the Soweto Kliptown Youth Trust (SKY) and I have heard from many people this is one of the most touching events of this camp. Hard to believe because there have been so many wonderful experiences already. Until then.
Thanks as always to Mr. Born for making this experience come alive for those who can't travel along.