One Team, Euroleague Basketball's social responsibility program, has finished another season of supporting vulnerable people in our communities all over Europe, and a great example can be found in Piraeus, Greece, where Stelios, a 14-year-old pupil at Special Elementary School of Perama, one of this year's six new participants in the Olympiacos Piraeus One Team program.
Penny Giovanovits, the Events & CSR Manager for Olympiacos, takes up the story:
"When we first saw Stelios, his body language showed that he lacked self-confidence and was insecure in a new environment. As well as epilepsy and mental retardation, he suffers from vision problems that made him feel insecure away from his school. But we saw that Stelios is a person with a big will; he likes to push himself hard and make great efforts until he succeeds.
"One Team gave him the chance to play safely on a real, big basketball court. Very quickly he felt comfortable with our drills, showing his strong character with every new effort he had to make. He completes all the practices with no complaints and in the last session he became our hero. We were in an open court under the hot sun, and it was so difficult for him to score…but he never stopped. We were asking him if he wanted some rest, but he said: 'No way!'
"Most of his shots were too close to the basket, but he listened to our instructions, used some techniques he had learned. The One Team coaches were saying, 'Stelios, you know that you will stay here until you score, no matter how long it will be, right?!' He was laughing and he continued shooting until he finally scored! Even then it was not enough for him, so he continued trying, and scored again! His happiness was something we can't describe. He was so happy, and when we were walking all together outside, he started talking and sharing stories. It was a very sweet moment."
As well as learning how to make basketball shots, Stelios has taken many great personal steps during his One Team sessions. He has improved his personal relationships and his interaction with his parents, friends, teachers and social workers. He is working positively on a daily basis, and his social worker has added basketball into his routine. Sports, and particularly basketball, has been a vehicle for Stelios to communicate better and feel happier.
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.