Zalgiris's One Team project changing lives in Kaunas

Jun 07, 2017 by Print

With the basketball season coming to an end, Zalgiris Kaunas has also concluded another successful and impactful year of work with One Team, Euroleague Basketball's social responsibility program.

During the 12 active weeks of the project, which has now been running for the last four seasons, 110 troubled teenagers were given fresh hope and encouragement through basketball, with Zalgiris coaches, players and One Team ambassadors working with the participants on setting and achieving goals.

Several organizations collaborated in the project, including the Kaunas Boys Socialization Center, the Kaunas District Probation Center and the Kaunas Juvenile Detention Center. Zalgiris Kaunas football players and sports psychologist Aiste Zemaityte were also involved.

During the activities the teenagers talked about their emotions and how to control them. The participants were also required to choose their role models, and the head of Zalgiris’s One Team program Akvile Dagilyte explained why many of them were inspired by basketball players: “Most of the guys grew up in troubled households, not having an example of how to become a good adult.

“That is one of the reasons they chose the wrong path in life. Children who grow up in better homes usually can model their behavior after their parents, but these guys usually did not have that opportunity.”

One Team Ambassador and Zalgiris center Antanas Kavaliauskas was proud to have played a part in making the project a success, saying: “We gave them a break from their daily routine, had conversations and shared our experiences. We helped them to understand that basketball is not just a game. It is just like life – you have to work hard to achieve something.

“I had quite a difficult childhood myself. There were moments when we struggled to make ends meet. But we had a mom who worked several jobs and did her best to provide for us. I remember basketball shoes being a luxury item and a reason for the family to give up something else.”

A large number of the participants have already learned from their past mistakes, and stated that One Team has taught them the values of teamwork and compassion. The teenagers also learned how to be more confident and to think about the consequences of their actions.

More than 80% of the youngsters have stated that their involvement has helped them to realize their dreams. The next objective is to finish their studies and obtain a qualification which can help them to find a job or start their own business and support their families.

The head of the Kaunas Juvenile Detention Center Vytautas Lamauskas has been impressed with the impact of One Team, saying: “It is really important that this program shows the youngsters that they matter despite their past. I feel that it is making a huge influence on their change, self-realization and smoothly getting back into society. I am sure we will hear about their success in a few years.”

One Team, supported by Turkish Airlines as the One Team Founding Patron and with the collaboration of Special Olympics as Proud Partner, uses basketball to achieve real social impact in our communities.

Since its founding in 2012, the One Team programme has reached already directly and indirectly 12,000 participants through its various team projects.