Throughout this week we will be highlighting the clubs that have been shortlisted for this year's One Team Awards, which will be presented in early September to celebrate the outstanding work carried out in local communities as part of Euroleague Basketball's social responsibility program.
The series begins with last season's Gold Award winner Unicaja Malaga, which has again earned a nomination for its impactful partnership with Down Malaga Association, an association founded 20 years ago by a group of parents whose children have Down Syndrome, with the objective of improving their quality of life and giving them more independence.
An example of Unicaja's powerful work is the positive change experienced by Maria, a 21-year-old member of Down Malaga and a participant in the club's One Team activities. At the beginning of the program, Maria was very shy and did not like interacting with her teammates, preferring to spend a lot of time alone. So Unicaja's One Team coaches set the objective of encouraging her to participate more with the rest of the group, therefore improving her self-confidence.
To achieve this, the coaches celebrated every basket or successful action she made during the practices, also bringing together the rest of the team so that Maria could experience how enjoyable it is to share successes with companions. This gradually made Maria more and more excited about her achievements, allowing her to understand that she was also giving happiness to her teammates. During the program, she learned to celebrate the successes of her teammates and overcame her past shyness to become part of the team and develop great relationships with everyone in the group.
Jose Carlos Gaspar, Unicaja’s One Team Manager, explained the impact of the program on Maria's overall quality of life: "Maria is a very special person, as we have seen over the course of the program. She has worked hard and evolved in all aspects, and several people have commented that she became a different person during the two months of her participation with One Team," he said.
"She did not miss any of the sessions, and her tenacity and commitment are very much valued by everyone at the club who has got to know her. We are proud to have helped Maria achieve the goal we set from day one: to overcome her shyness.
"We would also like to highlight the importance of her father, Rafael, in Maria's development. Rafael was the first to see how important it was for Maria to participate in One Team. He is the true architect of the wonderful program we have been able to carry out with the young people of Down Malaga and we thank him from the bottom of our hearts."
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 19,000 participants through its various team-focused projects.