At a time when several private sports academies are charging a fortune to train children in various sporting activities, the Velachery Basketball Players Association stands apart as not only they train children for free but takes on even specially-abled and physically challenged children for training.
Prabavathy (35), parent of Sruthi (6) who is a special child, came to know about the training academy through word of mouth. “We found it a great initiative as we wanted our child to play and enjoy like other kids, but most academies did not admit our child,” she said.
To their surprise, Prabavathy found that her daughter showed a substantial improvement in her physical abilities after playing with other kids. “I was happy to see my kid play like other children. In no time, she mingled with the other kids and her speech process, too, got triggered as a result,” she said.
Samra Afreen (14), who represented Chennai in the district level basketball three years ago, now coaches the students. Speaking of her experience, Samra said, “It’s not difficult for me. It just requires some patience and they are also like us.”
G Meyappan, ex-treasurer of the club and the head coach said that disabilities shouldn’t be a barrier to learn. “This initiative aims at motivating everyone who is passionate about sports and also give the differently-abled a positive spirit that they can achieve,” he said.
Children who come there for training claimed that the Basketball court was like their home and it was their duty to maintain the place. Sundar, a Class 9 student who has been training here for several years said, “I practice here for three hours and before and after practicing we ourselves clean the place”.
Another member, Varsha, a Class 7 student, said she wouldn’t miss the practice any day and is aiming to become a coach one day.
Students who have been trained in the club become coaches and even some parents have voluntarily opted to train the children. “We don’t appreciate donations or fees as we function with a motto to make the game accessible to everyone. We collect small denominations from our senior players to take care of the expenses. Not a single penny is levied from any kid practising here or through any sponsors,” said Meyappan.