Despite a six-month lockdown in Lithuania, Zalgiris Kaunas has continued to run its One Team program alongside Special Olympics remotely, holding weekly virtual sports development meetings.
Zalgiris’s work with One Team – Euroleague Basketball’s social responsibility program – is financed by long-term partner Ramirent and the Sports Support Fund. That has allowed the club to develop quality remote sessions through the purchase of modern conference equipment, allowing One Team coaches to demonstrate physical exercises clearly and correctly, while also keeping an eye on the youngsters who are repeating those exercises at home.
Gediminas Navickas, One Team coach and Team Manager of Zalgiris-2, explained: “During live meetings we have the opportunity to interact, motivate each participant of the project, to demonstrate physical exercises and correct if someone wasn’t doing it in the right way. Moving to remote meetings provided a shock, as we understood that without normal conditions, you can’t quite pass on the exercise correctly. But the remote conference equipment took the meeting quality to a whole new level.
The participation of Zalgiris stars and One Team Ambassadors Martinas Geben and Joffrey Lauvergne also had a major positive impact on the motivation of the group.
Project coordinator Akvile Dagilyte highlighted: “The ambassadors are very involved in the activities. They not only keenly join the virtual meetings, but also interact with the youngsters playing remote games, supporting them, joking around, and simply bringing more life to these meetings.”
Even working remotely, the program has led to positive changes within the group, as noted by Special Olympics Lithuania representative Vaiva Abramaviciute: “The youngsters have changed a lot. They’ve become braver, less afraid to take responsibility, they’ve learned to not give up if something doesn’t work out right away. As I continue working with the youngsters who have participated in the project, I hear less and less of ‘I don’t know how to’, ‘I can’t do it’. I see them working hard until they succeed, and also motivating others to do so as well.”
When asked to highlight some of the key things they have learned, the youngsters mentioned the importance of sport and science in life, the importance of teamwork, not giving up and keeping good relationships with the people around you.
Akvile Dagilyte concluded: “As we go through this project, it’s important that the young people not only have a good time and continue playing sports, but also that the project leaves a lasting mark on their lives. Looking back, you can see true results and that inspires us to continue working, no matter if it’s in person or remotely.”
Zalgiris has been working with the One Team project for eight years, hosting almost 200 activities with 250 youngsters from socially vulnerable groups. For the last four years, Zalgiris’ One Team work has been supported by the socially responsible company Ramirent, and since 2020 the project is also co-funded by the Sports Support Fund, administered by the Ministry of Education, Science and Sports, the Education Exchange Support Fund and the Central Project Management Agency.
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.