Like all clubs in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague and 7DAYS EuroCup, Zalgiris Kaunas is working hard to use basketball as a tool to support vulnerable members of its local community as part of One Team, Euroleague Basketball’s social responsibility program.
At the age of 37, Tadas is the eldest Special Olympics athlete in the Lithuanian club’s One Team group, and also the eldest person to have ever participated in Zalgiris’s program.
Although Tadas faces intellectual challenges, he was eager to join the program right from the start. He initially had a hard time trying new things, opening up to people and making friends, and would often quit a new challenge after one attempt.
In time, though, the One Team leadership group supported Tadas in growing his self-confidence and perseverance. He was also encouraged and motivated by his fellow team members, often feeling inspired that they were able to overcome the same obstacles he had faced, as many of them were at varying levels of ability.
By the end of the program, even though many sessions had to be held online this year, Tadas made great strides in overcoming his shyness and confidence issues; he was even volunteering to present games, demonstrating activities to audiences and persevering in ways he would never have managed before.
Since joining One Team, Tadas has now become one of the group’s leaders. Not only does he achieve his personal goals, but he also helps others with their tasks by giving advice and motivating his teammates when they face the same self-confidence issues he previously dealt with. His favourite saying is “We are all as One Team, we have to do it.” And it’s clear that being part of One Team has better equipped Tadas for independent living, whilst also making him a perfect example of how to overcome personal limitations.
Joffrey Lauvergne, Zalgiris’s star center and One Team Ambassador, attended many sessions over the course of last season and has been hugely impressed by the progress made by Tadas and his teammates: “It’s amazing to see One Team participants improving so significantly from session to session,” he said. “At first it seemed challenging having One Team sessions online during quarantine that lasted almost whole season. But it’s a great result that even online sessions let us achieve such great improvements in the One Team participants’ life skills. I’m pretty sure the things Tadas learned will help him a lot in his future life. A huge effort was made by the One Team coaches, and this motivates each of us to continue our work and make an input into this great program which changes lives.”
The positive changes in Tadas were also noticed by Special Olympics Lithuania, whose International Coordinator Vaiva Abramaviciute said: “When we invited Tadas to join the One Team program he was excited but at the same time confused because he would be the oldest participant in the program, and he was never was very talkative. The One Team program changed him a lot. Tadas started to be a leader in the team, encourage everyone not to give up and to be more physically active. He is very inspired by the One Team spirit because it helped him overcome many of his fears and he found new friends for life.”
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.