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This platform has been created under the Regional Programme on Local Democracy in the Western Balkans,which is funded by the European Union and implemented by the UNDP

Children’s basketball dreams on school floors

The first celebration of World Basketball Day

The squeak of tennis shoes, the sound of bouncing basketballs and children’s laughter have been mingling in the past months in school halls across Novi Sarajevo. Hundreds of children in this city have had the opportunity to try basketball, which has become an integral part of their everyday life. The sight of these boys and girls running towards the baskets with great desire is worth remembering the first celebration of the UN World Basketball Day.

More than 64,000 people live on the territory of the Sarajevo Municipality of Novo Sarajevo, less than ten square kilometers, which makes it the most densely populated municipality in the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The areas between residential buildings in this municipality are occupied by thousands of cars, and the space for recreational sports activities for residents, especially children, is getting smaller and smaller.

Nevertheless, the desire for sports is not lacking among the young population in New Sarajevo despite these living conditions. Proof of this is more than two hundred elementary school students who responded to basketball training as part of the “Sports for All” project, which was implemented in this municipality by the “BBY” Basketball Club Association. This project was implemented within the Regional Program of Local Democracy in the Western Balkans 2 (ReLOaD2), financed by the European Union, and implemented by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

“A few months ago, my daughter brought me a flyer for enrollment and said: ‘Mom, look, training is taking place in our school’s hall.’ Considering that Nadja long ago expressed her desire to train basketball, and that many of her classmates are already training in this club, I thought it was a complete hit,” said Emira Karamović, mother of 10-year-old Nadja, who started training basketball as part of of the “Sports for All” project.

Nadja has been going to training regularly for several months and is one of 80 girls dedicated to this sport. She got closer to her peers from her team, with whom she attends the same school, but they had not had the opportunity to meet and socialize before.

“I remember when she had her first practice that she scored a few baskets and she was delighted because of the praise from her friends,” says Nadja’s mother Emira.

She adds that regular training has had a positive effect on Nadja and her everyday life.

“I notice her greater responsibility in planning daily tasks, a physical change, but also a more serious understanding of the importance of a healthy life and healthy habits. The coaches are really approachable and dedicated, a great support for the children, and I really recommend all parents to enroll their child, and in return they will get a child who is happy and good at what they do”, said Karamović.

Basketball club “BBY” conducted a similar project called “Minibasket league and workshops of primary schools in the municipality of Centar” in the municipality of Centar, where 250 primary school students participated in the training. The interest of both boys and girls was almost equal.

“It is obvious that the perception of basketball as a ‘man’s sport’ is changing rapidly. The children’s interest was really great and as the projects progressed, it became bigger. That was the best indicator for us that the children feel beautiful, accepted and welcomed“, said the director of “BBY” Admir Sakoč. Among the participants was 11-year-old Ahmed.

“We absolutely support his desire to continue dedicated training and improvement in this sport. Through the activities of the “BBY” club within the ReLOaD2 project, he got the opportunity to meet more fans of this sport, which made the training sessions more interesting. He looked forward to every activity,” said Ahmed’s mother Adila Čehić.

She says that these kinds of projects give children the opportunity to further connect and express themselves.

“With good organization and a little commitment to children, beautiful memories and camaraderie are created. Basketball gave Ahmed a lot. Through it, he builds self-confidence, a sense of belonging to the team, quality physical activity and makes new friendships,” Čehić added.

“BBY” points out that with the project, they primarily wanted to leave the children with the memory of well-spent moments with their peers, but regular training can always bring forth new talents on the floor.

“The game requires active involvement and exploration, and at the same time stimulates children’s curiosity and provides a sense of satisfaction.

Projects like this represent a ‘spontaneous adventure’ through which the first elements of basketball are learned and work in a team atmosphere”, Sakoč said.

Team sports prepare children for necessary social interactions later in life because they teach them shared responsibility, coping with defeat and victory, and teamwork.

“Some want to become great players, some just want to move and be physically active, some just play and hang out. We respect everyone equally and strive to create activities and an atmosphere in which everyone will feel equally accepted, because working with young people is a long-term process, the results of which come slowly,” Sakoč said.

Basketball is a sport where bonds are naturally and simply made between young people in all their differences. It has its own set of values that we all strive for as human beings: team spirit, mutual respect, fair play, equal rules for everyone, and at the same time individuality, thoughtfulness and creativity.

“Basketball is also an exceptional opportunity to communicate with young people and convey important messages – to think about people responsibly and without prejudice, because no matter how different we are, we all share the same basic values, similar dreams, similar worries, equal right and equal responsibility to be the best we can be’, which is also our catchphrase ‘Be the Best You can’ (BBY)”, concluded club director Admir Sakoč.

On August 25, 2023, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution A/RES/77/324 declaring December 21 as World Basketball Day. Basketball is recognized as a sport that influences the global spheres of trade, peace and diplomacy and creates a unique space of cooperation, physical movement and interdependence that allows participants to see each other first and foremost as human beings.

In the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, sport is identified as an important driver of sustainable development. Sport, art and physical activity have the power to change perceptions, prejudices and behaviors, as well as to inspire people, break down racial and political barriers, fight discrimination and mitigate conflict.

ReLOaD2, which is financed by the European Union and implemented by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), has supported many projects in the countries/territories of the Western Balkans aimed at developing skills and new opportunities for young people with its activities within the youth component.

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