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Sharing the spotlight with NBA Coaches and Players in Africa

By Andrew Todres

The rapidly-growing non-profit organization Hoops 4 Hope (H4H) showcased its talents at the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders (BWB) camp in Johannesburg, South Africa last month, sharing the spotlight with NBA coaches and players. H4H’s coaching staff offered their unique basketball and HIV prevention education to Africa’s 100 most talented young basketball players.

Just a month earlier and a world away, at a H4H coaching fundraiser in Southampton, New York, University of Memphis head coach John Calipari, along with Larry Brown and Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Woodson, reminded the privileged group of kids in attendance about the need to help others who are less fortunate. At the BWB camp, the Hoops 4 Hope team practiced what the celebrity coaches preached, as it always does—using sport as a means to improve the social climate in Africa.

H4H South African Director Thierry Kita spearheaded the team of local coaches at the BWB camp in their innovative approach to implementing HIV/AIDS education and prevention, by creating a casual and enjoyable environment in which to discuss a most difficult subject.

“This organization has been tackling these issues for more than a decade, and are now running programs in over 150 schools for 10,000 children a year in South Africa and Zimbabwe.  By putting the most critical HIV lessons into interactive, skill-building, basketball games and activities, H4H’s coaches are able to connect with the youth in an easier and more meaningful way,” stated Kita.

Given the prevalence of HIV in Africa and the latest research on the epidemic, H4H has decided to place more emphasis on actual behavior than on awareness. While many African youngsters understand what HIV is and see its devastating results every day, they still continue to engage in high-risk behavior, prompting H4H to design prevention programs that aim to change the behavior of young people before they put themselves at risk.

“We are delighted at the outcomes of the BWB camp,” Kita said. “Players engaged enthusiastically with the lessons and demonstrated a strong comprehension of the messages provided. Coaches, guests and media further expressed keen interest in and approval of the program.”

Fellow South African All-Star coach Lubabalo Busakwe also emphasized the great extent to which the young athletes enjoyed the activities.

“Not only did the players get the message, but they had fun,” he said. “When the time was up, they didn’t even want to stop. Some were asking if the other activities at the camp would be as nice.”

For H4H, the opportunity to demonstrate the power of its educational program in front of the NBA and Africa’s top basketball prospects served as a tremendous boost to everyone involved.

“The experience provided us with a unique opportunity to measure our program’s effectiveness on this group of youth, and to demonstrate yet again  the potential of using sport as a vehicle for education and behavioral change,” Kita said.