Zalgiris and Euroleague Basketball social project One Team changes lives 0

With the basketball season coming to an end, Zalgiris Kaunas and EuroLeague Basketball finished its social project – One Team. This activity has been a tradition for four years in a row now and during the 12 active weeks of the project – 110 troubled and transgressed teenagers have been heard.

Achieving goals together

The main idea of the project is encouragement through basketball. However, there is not only basketball activities involved. Zalgiris players Augusto Lima and Antanas Kavaliauskas as One Team ambassadors have talked to the teenagers about their goals and ways to achieve them.

After hearing the program more than 80 percent of youngsters stated that the conversations have helped them to realize their dreams. The next objective for all the teenagers is to do their part and finish the studies: get a degree, which would help them to find a job or start their own business and support their families.

“During the project both us and the youngsters have learned something. We gave them a break from their daily routine, had conversations and shared our experiences. We helped them to understand that basketball is not just a game: it is just like life – you have to work hard to achieve something“ – said One Team ambassador and Zalgiris center Antanas Kavaliauskas.

Difficult conditions at home

During the activities teenagers talk about emotions and how to control them. The participants are also required to choose their role models.

„Most of the guys grew up in troubled households, not having a good example of how to become a good adult. It is one of the reasons why the youngsters chose the wrong path in life, – said the head of One Team program, Akvile Dagilyte. – Children that grow up in better homes usually can model their behavior after their decent parents, but these guys usually did not have that opportunity.“

A big part of One Team youngsters had to grow up without a family, or even a home. And those who had the “luxury” of a home struggled with money. That is why, while choosing Zalgiris players for the ambassador roles, attention was drawn to similar experiences of the players.

“I had quite a difficult childhood myself. There were moments when we struggled to make both ends meet. But we had a mom who worked several jobs and did her best to provide for us. I remember basketball shoes being a luxury item and a reason for the family to give up something else” – Antanas Kavaliauskas shared his story with the project participants.

Similar experiences that are followed by success inspire the youngsters. This is the reason One Team ambassadors has become their role models.

Prospects and integration

Since the beginning of One Team program many organizations have collaborated – Kaunas boys socialization center, Kaunas district probation center and since the start of this season – Kaunas juvenile detention center.

“We thought about this step earlier, but hesitated a lot. It seemed a bit scary – we assumed we could not control the youngsters. The public stereotypes did not help at all, but since the start of the first activities we had realized that it is going to be a really easy group. The guys were active, open and positive”, – Akvi;e Dagilyte spoke about the preconceptions.

A part of the guys serving their sentences have a mature approach to life: they have already realized their mistakes and learned from them. Prejudice towards youngsters that have already been imprisoned has a big influence on their future plans. Some of them think about moving abroad and starting over.

Versatile benefits

Not only basketball players are involved with this project. Zalgiris Kaunas football players are also members of One Team. Sports psychologist Aiste Zemaityte is involved as well – she visits the participants and gives the various advice.

The real effect of the program can be seen after the surveys. The youngsters claim that One Team has taught them teamwork, behaving and even compassion. Teenagers also learned how to be more confident and to think about the consequences.

“The teens were really enthusiastic. It is really important that this program shows the youngsters that they matter despite their past. I feel that it is making a huge influence on their change, self realization and smoothly getting back into society. I am sure we will hear about their success in a few years“ – said the head of the Kaunas juvenile detention center Vytautas Lamauskas.