Social distancing restrictions around Europe have made it difficult for clubs to carry out their usual activities for One Team, Euroleague Basketball's social responsibility program.
But many clubs – including AX Armani Exchange Milan – are still finding ways to support vulnerable members of their communities by delivering sessions online.
Milan has developed its program with Laureus Sport For Good Italia Onlus. It is dedicated to the children of Gratosoglio, a difficult suburban area of Milan where people from different backgrounds live at risk of social exclusion. The club is working with a group of 60 children aged 11 from Baroni Primary School.
Marilisa Zanini, Milan's One Team coach, explained that the online sessions have allowed the One Team participants to develop in different ways:
"During the online sessions with three classes of Baroni Plexus, we used the topic of dreams to stimulate the children. Dreams can be compared and allowed each child to talk about which characteristics struck them most in every classmate.
"Children have an open mind, sometimes far-sighted. Some said their partner has the ability to console someone in sadness, others found joy and the ability to make people laugh, others even simply to listen. Each child has a talent and each child has a dream. In short, we have encouraged them to value their talents and characteristics in order to make a dream come true."
Marilisa also likened the project to the ambitions of a professional basketball player, saying: "Everyone's talent is the starting point to be able to dream. Every player on the court has a role that expresses his talent and with that certainty he moves on the court. Knowing your role helps you move in life. Each role has both physical and mental characteristics. To be realized, dreams need talent. We try to make children choose who they would like to be, and what their role in the world could be. Being able to say 'I would like to be…' is a way to dream out loud."
The project was executed in a practical way, relating to basketball-related exercises that can be carried out in front of a computer screen, as Marilisa continues:
"We asked the boys to take a blank sheet and write down their dream, their desire, the role they want in life. We stimulated them to write their own dream, which we then materialized into ball-handling exercises that Filippo, our One Team coach, demonstrated to the children.
"A ball of crumpled paper can be a symbol. Throw it into the air, watch it spin towards the sky, towards infinity, beyond the walls and towards the ceiling of their room. Then the ball drops down and is caught just like Kyle Hines catches rebounds in a game. The ball, like a dream catcher, holds the child's dream tightly within itself.
"It is imperative to keep dreaming, to keep a goal close, to gaze at the goal and not to stop. The ball is an invitation to let you play and experiment with dreams. The children understood that a dream must be protected, defended and trained, like the ball in the game of basketball."
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 22,000 participants through its various team-focused projects.