As a long-standing member of One Team, Euroleague Basketball’s social responsibility program, Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar has a proud history of working hard to support vulnerable members of its local community.
The last few months have seen the Russian club continue that commitment by joining forces with local stakeholders to create a series of activities for Krasnodar's public organization, Deti Luchiki, a support center for families raising children with disabilities – mostly Down Syndrome.
A group of 16 youngsters aged 8 to 18 met every week over five months under the guidance of One Team coaches, who used specially-designed drills to develop key life skills. In particular, the sessions focused on motivation, communication and self-esteem, and promoting socialization.
"I’m so excited to be the club’s One Team Ambassador," said American big man Alan Williams, who was joined by teammate Dmitry Kulagin as the club’s One Team Ambassadors and attended several sessions. "To see the smiles on the faces of these kids, work so hard and have so much fun, that’s what it’s all about. It’s really important. I want to say thanks to Loko and EuroLeague for putting on such a great thing."
The value of the program is clear from the example of Fedor Suslov, a One Team participant who suffers from Down Syndrome and had always found it difficult to play organised sports or take part in any other social activity, due to his condition.
Fedor’s mother Natalya explained how Lokomotiv’s program has made a huge difference to the whole family: "One Team is a project that helped realize my son’s dream of playing basketball! He could never be so open to communication as in the One Team sessions. Now Fedya understands what it means to work in a team and do something together with others. He learned the basics of basketball: he dribbles with confidence, willingly gives up the pass and already often gets to the basket.
"He also learned to distinguish between time and days of the week in order to count days and hours before training sessions. Fedya overcame his main fear – communicating with people – and he is no longer afraid to look people in the eye. After the first program it became much easier for him to be in a room where there are a lot of people and ride in public transportation. During this short time, he began to speak much more than all the years at school. Of course, the main words were Loko, game, match, basketball, Dayana, Vladimir and Natasha!”
Those three names referred to the One Team coaches at Lokomotiv, and one of those, Vladimir Krotov, emotionally recalled how much progress the children made during the program.
"The children are unique, they require a special approach, but I can say that after the second training session we already had excellent relations, we received trust from the guys and saw interest in their eyes," Krotov said. "Each child with his own character, they tried to show themselves, learn new things. The training took place in a playful way, the guys talked, became more open. All this gave inspiration and confidence that we are doing one great good deed!"
The Administration of Krasnodarskiy Kray and Madyar Collection were the club’s commercial One Team partners, while fitness center Avax Fit & Spa provided facilities and Special Olympics Russia also supported the program with workshops.
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.