MANILA, Philippines – Ateneo basketball players showed that the sport is greater than their achievements as they recently volunteered in a training camp for children from Autism Society Philippines (ASP) at the San Jose Seminary in Ateneo de Manila University.
Girls Got Game (GGG) managing director Mariana Lopa believes this is a way for college players to inspire the next generation, yet be reminded of the joy of basketball.
“When you’re a current player in the UAAP, you are so focused on trying to become better, trying to win, that you forget that there’s a bigger community out there,” said Lopa, who supported the clinic organized by the Ateneo alumni.
“That’s why I purposely brought these girls, so they realize early on that there are these other groups that they can engage with and enjoy basketball in other ways.”
Thirty-two children with special needs participated in the one-day event, where they were able to learn basic drills and play a 3×3 game as a culminating activity under the guidance of the Lady Eagles and their alumni. The coaches even cheered for the kids playing the 3×3 game, making them feel like they are playing in front of fans.
Ateneo Lady Eagles team captain Jhazmin Joson admitted it was her first time to coach children with special needs, but feels fulfilled to be part of the participants’ experience.
“I think that was a good experience for me and the whole team because we were able to expand our environment with our coaching styles and I’m also very grateful to help kids like that,” said Joson.
Former Ateneo Lady Eagle Nic Cancio’s brother Nathaniel, who has Down Syndrome, also joined the clinic. She said these experiences for children with special needs are very rare.
The basketball clinic became very special for her brother as he naturally loves to play basketball and is a fan of the Ateneo basketball teams. He participated in the training camp wearing his sister’s UAAP jersey.
“Whenever he sees Kiefer or anyone from Ateneo, he’ll say ‘that’s me! that’s me!’” shared Cancio.
“What’s nice is that from watching basketball, he’ll try to copy the moves and do it on his own, especially the celebrations. He tries to copy the celebrations in the NBA which are crazy.”
The children and their families also met UAAP champions Ange Kouame and Isaac Go, who in turn were inspired by how much the participants enjoyed playing basketball.
“I think it’s really one of the reasons why we play the game,” said Go.
“We’ve learned over time that we do have a bigger impact outside our circle. It forces us to be at our best because we serve as role models to these kids and hopefully we can inspire them to exceed us in becoming better role models in society.”
Kouame, who has served in the basketball clinic since its first staging in 2019, hopes to be able to organize basketball camps for special children when he turns pro.
“It’s always a pleasure to see and hear these kinds of stories from them. Even if they are different from regular kids, it really touched my heart and I appreciate every single moment of seeing them enjoy the game,” said Kouame.
GGG is an organization that empowers girls through sport. Led by former female athletes, they organize sports camps for basketball and football for underprivileged communities. – Rappler.com
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