Why miss out on hoops when you can sign up for NBA Basketball Schools online

NBA Basketball School is helping youngsters make the most of the lockdown by offering online sessions that brush up their basketball skills. But this doesn't mean there is no homework, children! 
Dribble like a pro | (Internet)
Dribble like a pro | (Internet)

Missing the outdoors already? But you don’t have to miss out on the fun outdoor sports, especially not basketball, thanks to the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Basketball Schools, a network of development programmes who took their operations online. With 17 partner schools across India, they are helping interested and upcoming athletes brush up their fundamentals and not lose touch with this sport without even stepping outside! “The minimum requirement for them is to have a basketball and the rest of the activity is designed in a way which can be done even in a small area,” says Marc Pulles, Basketball Operations Team Leader, NBA India.

“Now that there is a lockdown and it is difficult for us to play basketball, NBA Basketball Schools have started their e-coaching lessons which has been helpful for all of us,” exclaims Panav Ahuja, a 13-year-old from Jamnabai Narsee School, Juhu, Mumbai while Tvisha Gala, a 15-year-old from the same school, says, “Who would have thought that at this time of crisis, our coaching will come online!” So indeed, students are delighted. But what exactly are the sessions about and how do they overcome space restrictions? We find out all of this and much more in a chat with Marc Pulles. Excerpts:  
1) Tell us a little about the role sports plays during times like these when stress and anxiety are in the air. And when did you decide to launch these particular sessions?
Children at home are constantly on the lookout for physical activity. NBA Basketball Schools online sessions serve as a perfect platform giving them a chance to brush up their skills and not lose touch with the game, all from the comfort of their homes.

The NBA Basketball Schools is a network of basketball development programmes around the world open to international male and female players ages 6-18. Following the recommendation of state and central authorities regarding the developing situation related to the coronavirus in India, we suspended all basketball development programming in India including our sessions at the NBA Basketball Schools across India. With the available flexible online learning solutions technology affords, we decided to introduce curriculum-based online basketball sessions and the initial response has been encouraging.
Of the 24 partner schools across India, 17 of them have joined us already. With two sessions per week, the average number of participants are approximately 12-15.

We also conducted online sessions with our coaches to bring them up with the new ways of training. The drills are designed in such a way that it will keep the kids active in a fun way. Additionally, as a part of our NBA Together campaign, we launched Jr NBA at Home, an interactive content series providing basketball skills and drills featuring NBA and WNBA players

Marc Pulles, Basketball Operations Team Leader, NBA India | (Pic: NBA India)

2) Can you take us through the curriculum of the online sessions and its focus areas?
Working within the limitations, the sessions are focused on learning and brushing up the fundamentals of basketball. A typical session starts with a warm-up, then some ball-handling drills, form shooting work and defensive work. We finish up with a group discussion on a basketball-related topic and end with usually assigning the participants some videos to watch and give homework to do such as form shooting and show gratitude to parents and so on.

3) Is there any special training that the coaches receive to conduct the sessions online, because it is completely different from conducting the session in person? What are the highlights?  
Yes, we first conducted online sessions with our coaches to get them up to speed with the new ways of training children and monitoring them virtually. Basketball is a physical game and it's important to know how to navigate movements remotely which was the focus of the training.

4) Monitoring becomes an important aspect which is a little difficult to track remotely. How do you keep track of the students’ progress?
Precisely why we have two coaches for each session so that there is equal attention on everyone. There is real-time feedback like it is on-ground and we end with usually assigning the participants some videos to watch and give homework to do such as form shooting and show gratitude to your parents and so on.

Panav Ahuja and Tvisha Gala | (Pic: NBA India)

5) Is there a scope for extra classes or extended classes for students who would like more guidance or would like to train longer?
We are working on a set schedule at the moment due to the limitations. If there is a demand from all participants, we will evaluate the availability and schedules of our coaches and all participants before offering extended sessions.

6) How has the response been? Any particular complaints or bottlenecks that you have successfully overcome?
It’s been a very exciting first two weeks and we have already conducted over 25 sessions. This is a new format for all, but the students have quickly adapted to it and our enrollment number is consistent across sessions and improving by the week.

7) Towards the end of the course is there a test of sorts that one has to give? To prove that they have absorbed all that they have been taught well?
While we do give them homework and some tips on improvement, we are hopeful that we can get back on the ground sooner and test their improvement in a game. The holistic approach is intended to strengthen the culture of youth basketball, teach life lessons and empower young athletes to succeed both on and off the court. The curriculum is a developmentally-based progression that depends on players mastering new skills before advancing to the next level. It’s not based on a player’s age, but rather on his or her proficiency at key skills.

An online session | (Pic: NBA India)

8) What are your plans for the future? Anything interesting in the works?
The unprecedented situation has led us to innovate and if the response remains as encouraging as it is, we will consider continuing the same even when we hit on-ground. The NBA has always been committed towards the growth of basketball in India. With an aim to fulfil this commitment to our ever-increasing fan base, we keep exploring innovative ways to engage with them.

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