The fifth season of Lietuvos Rytas’s involvement with Euroleague Basketball’s social responsibility program, One Team, came to a happy conclusion in Vilnius last week as the young participants had the chance to train with all of the club’s players.
Also in attendance for the Lithuanian 7DAYS EuroCup club was vice-president Linas Kleiza, who won EuroLeague’s Alphonso Ford Top Scorer award during his playing days with Olympiacos in 2010 and delivered a heart-warming speech.
The presence of the club’s players was a total surprise for the youngsters, who were delighted to join their heroes for the final practice session.
“Today I was very surprised how many Lietuvos Rytas players were at our practice!” said Arnold, a One Team student. “I am a huge fan of the team and sessions like this are very exciting. Everyone can learn something, share their experiences and help each other.”
For more than an hour, the four teams – mixing professional players and One Team participants – competed in various obstacle courses that emphasized life skills such as collaboration, trust and responsibility.
Everyone had a good time and the winning team was led by Arturas Jomantas, the captain of Lietuvos Rytas, who was helped by teammates Loukas Mavrokefalidis, David Sirvydis and seven students from the One Team program.
“Events like these are very important,” said the team’s guard and One Team ambassador Jimmy Baron. “The kids look at us as role models, so we must act like it. In gatherings like this we can be together and enjoy this wonderful sport, basketball.
“This is also a wonderful opportunity for the kids to set goals and reach for them. I really enjoyed the unity of the group. It was fun to see everyone working together.”
At the end of the practice, the youngsters and pros sat down together in the middle of the court while players Jomantas, Rokas Giedraitis, Mindaugas Girdziunas and Martynas Echodas shared the painful experiences they had overcome in pursuit of a basketball player’s career.
The players also gave some tips to make it easier for students in the One Team program to accomplish their goals, and Mavrokefalidis, who is also a One Team ambassador, said: “I would advise children to concentrate on the sport. Do not pay attention to all kinds of temptations or harmful habits, and simply focus yourself on the game.”
Sirvydis, the team’s youngest player at the age of 17, had another piece of advice: “It’s very important to choose the right friends. A young basketball player needs as much support from his family, friends and relatives as possible. It is also necessary to realize that the main point is the journey to achieve the goal. It doesn’t matter whether the steps are small or large. Do not stop and everything will be fine.”
Summing up the fifth year of working with One Team, the club’s program coordinator Arminas Vareika said: “We had an awesome One Team season, and this last event was like a cherry on top of the cake. The young players had the opportunity to chat with basketball players and hear about their difficult childhoods. Perhaps we often see such things as small or irrelevant, but the eyes of the children shone bright and such moments can change their lives.
“Today we had more than 30 One Team students. If even just five of them decide to choose the right path in life, then this program will be a total success. Thank you Euroleague Basketball for this program, which has provided an amazing opportunity for Lithuanian youth.”
The club delivered its program jointly with Capital Basketball School for the third year in a row, incorporating another existing program called ‘The Power of Basketball’.
The sessions provided free basketball lessons and mentoring programs for children aimed at raising awareness around subjects such as bullying, alcoholism, suicide, human trafficking and other important issues.
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 meaningful social impact in our communities across Europe and is supported by every club in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague and 7DAYS EuroCup.
Since its founding in 2012, the One Team program has already helped more than 14,000 participants through its various team-focused projects.