Zalgiris Kaunas ended the first semester of Euroleague Basketball's One Team project with a challenge for its participants. And the results of the three-month program were clearly visible, as the teenagers posed a real test for project ambassadors Thomas Walkup and Marius Grigonis.
The One Team group and Zalgiris stars competed in four different challenges: agility, basketball, knowledge test and memory. After 12 weeks of training, the youngsters came in knowing all their strengths, which was a key element in defeating the Zalgiris players. And it didn't take long for Grigonis to realize he'd be on the losing end of one of the challenges.
"Competing in the knowledge test, I quickly found out that a lot of time has passed since I finished school," Grigonis laughed. "The information I hadn't used at all seemed to just have vanished. You could clearly see that the kids weren't wasting their time – they'd answer before I could even open my mouth! I have no doubts that with a fire like that in their eyes, they will achieve anything they set out for themselves."
The program's youngsters would visit Zalgirio Arena every week throughout the entirety of the three months and learn something new each time. The main objective was multifaceted development through the game of basketball, with topics such as goal setting, teamwork, tolerance and control of emotions.
The participants not only had the chance to meet up with the basketball ambassadors, but also learned some football tricks from Kauno Zalgiris players and the basics of American football from the Kaunas Dukes. They tried out integrated basketball with handicapped athletes, and dived into sports psychology with specialist Aiste Zemaityte. Walkup admitted that the experience was very rewarding, and would keep the Zalgiris players smiling despite their constant losses to the kids.
"I had a great time with the kids," he said. "They're energetic, active and fun children. Although Marius and I would keep on getting beaten, the joy you'd see in their faces after they scored another point would give us just as much happiness. I hope this program helps them achieve hundreds more victories in life."
The kids revealed the program made them improve not only in sports, but that they had also learned to speak up, interact with more ease, gain confidence and work in a team. 71 percent of the participants said the program helped them understand their near future goals.
Zalgiris was joined by Ramirent for the second year in a row to provide the children with a top-class, meaningful program, which helps them aim for higher goals in life.
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 16,000 participants through its various team-focused projects.