My roommate and I have been able to visit a couple of schools this past week. Just like at any institution, when the students are attending their classes they see the same faces and have the same daily routine. When they notice us new people walking in the halls, the kids and teachers observe with unfamiliarity and curiosity, because they know that they might get a break or change in their schedule. At one school, we spoke on stage at an assembly to about 300 seventh grade girls. When speaking to them, I try to stay away from just talking about basketball. My biggest goal is to have fun with them and have a message that they won't forget involved in the experience. This involves bringing kids on stage, having them show us their talents, being interactive and expressing lots of energy, which if you know me at all, I have an abundance with lots to spare lol. At this particular school, a few girls came up and sang on the microphone. Once they got to the chorus, the entire auditorium erupted in sync (and ironically it was an American song by Ed Sheeran lol). We brought lots of kids up to the stage one by one and talked to them about their goals and hobbies. As an administrator was walking around the students with a mic, we were having them tell us what they wanted to be when they grew up. One wanted to be a pilot, another a doctor, another a lawyer and another an astronaut. These girls were well articulated and goal-driven. As we finished, we had everyone stand up to jump around in a dance party; we joined them in the chaos of moves that I am getting way too old to do lol. In the end, as the principal was closing the program, she said the biggest lesson that the girls learned was, 'Dream Big, Smile Always'. They wanted to pursue a career that allowed them to reach beyond their limitations and yet that they enjoyed. They knew it would take lots of work, but to never forget to keep smiling through the process. It made my day and I hope it made their day as well.
Tryouts for many of the cities have begun. They are for the top twenty boys and girls in that area that have been chosen from the skills challenges and tournaments. With only ten spots available for each, the athletes are competing to try and secure a spot to compete in nationals at the NBA Academy in Noida, India. It is exceptional to see their energy when they arrive and how they carry themselves throughout the event. They are working so hard to retain a position, but you also see the excitement on their faces just to be there. The jubilant reactions of the players when we announce that they have made it is so emotionally satisfying. Even though there are kids that do not make it, we reiterate that they are the best players in the city. Just the opportunity to participate against the top athletes in this selection process is something they will never forget. As one of the tryouts had ended, I passed by the swimming pool while I was leaving the hotel. I saw every kid out there playing in the water. They were having a great time conversing and splashing each other. I know it had to be a lot of pressure during the day to make the team, so I was extremely happy to see them having such a great time being able to relax and enjoy themselves.