Through the inaugural HandsOn Tokyo Summer Teen Program, one of the high school participants chose as his project to bring US-style basketball training to children in the Tohoku region. With advise from former NBA stars, domestic professional and former professional basketball players, the volunteers put on a two-day program that sought to emphasize the enjoyment of basketball and to introduce a more American style of competitiveness.
Our regional partner is the Ofunato Junior Sports League, which is run by the city's social welfare department, but is largely organized and managed by the children's parents. Following the effects of the Great East Japan Earthquake and resulting tsunami, one of the consequences was the impact on local children and their physical education. With their parents struggling in many cases to get back on their feet, the Junior Sports League activities, understandably, became a very low priority. Thankfully, as the region has begun to make progress toward recovery, many of the sports activities have re-started; however, many teams are now consolidations of smaller groups reflecting the affects of the disaster on the population. Moreover, in response to the urgent need for housing, Ofunato built over 1,800 temporary houses to accommodate the disenfranchised, many of which were schoolyards (and one complex resided at the Massaki Elementary School (these buildings can be seen on the map below of the school as the row houses.) The situation is further exacerbated by the fact that the City has coopted other public spaces, such as parks and play areas, for temporary housing. As such, outdoor sports is increasingly challenge and the local Sports Leagues wants to get the kids to play basketball.
Over the course of two days, Hands On Tokyo supported six volunteers to run the first Tohoku Youth Basketball Program, putting the kids through drills, playing skills games for prizes, and after a mini-draft, dividing the 24 elementary school children into four teams for a round-robbin tournament. We also provided t-shirts to all the participants so no one went home empty handed!
Following the program, the parents of the students treated the volunteers to a terrific barbecue at the local fire department. The homemade grill made from used propane tanks (ironically constructed by the firemen!) served the 50+ parents, athletes and volunteers. We were able to get feedback from the locals who praised the young volunteers for inspiring them to incorporate more fun into their training, increase competition and most importantly, increased the level of interest amongst the school children in basketball.
We hope to have this event as an annual event, including more area sports teams in the program.
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