By Jack Arnhold, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The basketball school Escolinha FlaBasquete, set up by the State Department for Sports, Leisure, and Youth, in partnership with Flamengo Regatta Club, is providing over 500 children with free basketball lessons in the state of Rio de Janeiro.
The project is currently running in the Vila Olímpica do Sampaio and in Degase, both located in the Zona Norte (North Zone) of the city, as well as in Três Rios, Cachoeiras de Macacu, Mangaratiba and Petrópolis, in the state interior.
Escolinha FlaBasquete at Vila Olímpica do Sampaio is open to new members, with classes held on Mondays and Wednesdays, from 8AM to 11AM and from 3PM to 6PM. The address of the Vila Olímpica do Sampaio is Rua Antunes Garcia, nº12.
At a time when the effects of government cuts are being felt by many social programs, collaboration with private companies is a welcome effort to fill the void.
Similar to the NBA’s basketball social project launched last year in Complexo da Maré, the initiative uses basketball as a tool with which to teach discipline, self-confidence and team-work to young people throughout Rio.
“It’s great to see how the project is growing, as it celebrates its third anniversary in 2018. This has been achieved with the support of the children and young people from the places where we currently teach.” said Thiago Pampolha, the Secretary of Sports, Leisure and Youth.
According to Professor Roberto Almeida, a teacher at one of the venue schools, it has made a noticeable difference to the behavior of the participants during its three-years. “The project has been a life-changer. Now they have a different attitude, with more discipline and technique and, above all, affection for the sport.”
Basketball isn’t Brazil’s favorite pastime, despite the country producing the sport’s all time top-scorer, Oscar Schmidt, and having five players in the NBA. However, it does remain popular with young people in the inner city, and Brazil currently ranks just outside the top-ten best countries in the world.
“This experience has enriched my life.” said Felipe Gabriel Abreu, 16, a participant of the project, who has gone on to train with three different clubs in Rio.