Zenit St Petersburg completed its season with One Team, Euroleague Basketball's social responsibility program, by concluding a series of activities with a group of teenagers who had stumbled and were going through hard times.
The Russian club, using the power of basketball, helped to restore self-esteem, responsibility and dedication to the 14- to 17-year-olds who had been in trouble with the law.
With the assistance of a psychologist, each session focused on life skills such as communication, team-building, problem-solving and nurturing a sense of community, and the program achieved outstanding results.
Some of the participants have now become Zenit volunteers, helping make the preparations for every game, and most of the group are continuing to play basketball within the club's sections, thereby achieving the program's important task of encouraging and organizing leisure activities for teenagers who had previously spent too much time at home alone or on the streets.
Konstantin, a 15-year old participant, explained how the program has given him confidence as he said: "Before I didn't go anywhere, I sat at home. Now I have started to communicate more. I decided to try myself as a volunteer for Zenit and it's very interesting to prepare for a match, all those little details. Some people have no idea what hard work it takes. Basketball has become the priority for me now."
Anastasia Doronina, the program's psychologist, said: "The guys increased their sense of motivation and responsibility, started to come to sessions on time. They understand that you cannot let the team down. They began to lead a healthy lifestyle – many quit smoking. And they gained the very important skill of hearing. Not just listening to what their coach is telling them, but hearing and then applying it."
Igor Volkhin, Zenit's One Team Ambassador, added: "It is great that Euroleague Basketball promotes such an important project and that our club Zenit supports it. I am honored to be the Ambassador of One Team. These sessions are very important because through sports and basketball you can overcome any difficulties."
Julia Ivakina, the club's One Team Manager, concluded: "I believe the program not only brought the kids positive experiences and an opportunity to play basketball, but also that they truly became One Team and learned valuable life skills. They learned how to communicate with each other, became kinder, learned to respect themselves and others. I have worked for four years with troubled teenagers, and they are very interesting children, who at the end of the day can achieve high results that children with simpler histories don't always achieve. I'm glad that I got to be a part of the program and we are looking forward to next year."
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.