Mario is a very special young basketball fan living in Madrid with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
For the last two years, Mario has been part of the Real Madrid Foundation Basketball Adapted Schools, which forms part of One Team – Euroleague Basketball's social responsibility program, supported by clubs all over the continent. The activities provide high-quality basketball-related activities to participants with disabilities who don't usually find opportunities to play.
Mario had been perceived too difficult to manage for every previous organization or foundation, and initially he did not reply to any stimulus at Real's sessions. He was unable to keep up with the rest of the group and usually left the gym before the end of the practice.
He found any social game or interaction with other people especially difficult, and often showed his frustration or discomfort by escaping from the group and storming other activities that were taking place at the same time.
To overcome these issues, Real established a reference coach for Mario to set practical routines, which allowed him to feel comfortable and reach short-term goals during the practices.
He still does not show fluent communicative skills but has improved in confidence to show his emotions and make it easier to understand what he wants to express. Importantly, he has also improved his motor skills and specific basketball abilities, standing out among his teammates by his shooting percentages.
Last season, Mario was able to stay on the court for the whole practice, enjoying interaction with his teammates even when his coach was not by his side. He participated in several tasks without going to his "safe space", even if the tasks were collective games.
The change in Mario's behavior has really been noticed by his teammates, who initially were afraid of being near him but have now developed the empathy needed to understand him. There has also been a positive impact upon the coaches, who have developed a greater sensibility through working with Mario and feel more capable of improving everyone's quality of life.
Real Madrid Foundation worked with 180 people, aged between 12 and 30, twice a week in 11 different facilities all around the city, between October and June. The program was led by professional coaches and presented the opportunity not only to practice sport but also to integrate in regular activities with other young people from the club's basketball schools.
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 16,000 participants through its various team-focused projects.