Wednesday, December 5 has been designated by the United Nations as International Volunteer Day, and Euroleague Basketball would like to take this opportunity to give our sincere thanks to the hundreds of people all over Europe who give their time to support our activities.
Whether it's at the Final Four, junior tournaments or One Team social responsibility activities organized by our clubs, volunteers are always present – selflessly giving their time to take a central part in the planning and execution of hundreds of basketball-related events all over Europe.
Volunteers are motivated by one simple factor: they just want to help. But volunteering can also be a great way to play an active role in the day-to-day running of the continent's top basketball clubs, as shown in the example of Utku Yusuf Ozciger, who started as a volunteer but is now employed full-time as the Digital Manager and One Team Manager for Anadolu Efes Istanbul.
"I always wanted to build my career in basketball, and one of my goals was to be a part of an international sports organization such as Euroleague Basketball," Utku Yusuf explains.
"I always worked voluntarily for different organizations during my university studies, and first met the One Team program at workshops in Valencia, when I was working part-time for Pinar Karsiyaka Izmir.
"I was so impressed by One Team because it was not only a profession in sports business where I could build a career, but was also contributing to the development of communities, helping people through basketball. This was the main reason that I wanted to volunteer for One Team.
"Volunteering for One Team helped me make new friends all over the world. It also helped me gain experience, knowledge and a wide network in the sector. Finally I had the chance to take a position at Anadolu Efes Istanbul, and I am so thankful to be in this club.
"I can say that volunteering for One Team was one of the most important turning points in my career. You must not forget the importance of life-long learning, and volunteering at every age is one of the best ways of doing it."
Nick Papaspiliou has spent the last three years volunteering for Olympiacos Piraeus, initially as part of spectator services on gamedays, but now also in the One Team program.
"When the club announced that we can volunteer for One Team and they chose me, I was enthusiastic from the first moment I met the participants," Nick explains.
"My desire to help others started from my early school years, when I participated in fundraisers helping kids with disabilities. So this great One Team post with Olympiacos basketball, where I can help and encourage the participants, is the biggest lesson for me.
"I would advise others to share some of their personal time volunteering. At the end of the day, they will feel they have gained even more than they have offered. Volunteering is psychotherapy at its best!"
EuroCup clubs are also involved in the One Team program, and one of the volunteers for Croatian side Cedevita Zagreb is economics student Matea Milisa, who emphasizes the fulfillment gained through helping others.
"I started volunteering five years ago with my friend Tea Varicak," recalls Matea. "We were big supporters of Cedevita, and when we found out about the club's One Team activities for children with Downs Syndrome, we thought it was a great opportunity for us to invest our time and energy into making somebody else happy.
"This experience has really helped me to see how simple and happy life can be. During our practices, everyone is happy and we receive even more positive energy than we give. The participants are really amazing – they always put a smile on our faces and make our day much better.
"I would encourage anyone who is thinking about volunteering to just start. It's going to make you appreciate life much more, and you will be more content and happy with the thought of helping somebody else and making their life a bit better."
In Spain, Javier Barcala is a student at the University Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, who started volunteering at the Final Four held in his city in 2015.
"I thought it was a great way to live the event instead of just watching it, learning about how it works, and getting to know a lot of people," he said. "The Final Four is the top event in European basketball and it gave me experience of working under pressure in a fast-paced environment, which is highly valued by companies. I got my first job thanks to my volunteering experience."
Javier has already volunteered his services for the Final Four in Vitoria-Gasteiz at the end of this season, too. If you would like to join him, you can register as a volunteer here. The platform will remain open until February 17, and interviews will be conducted until the end of February.
Once again, thanks to our volunteers!