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Aug 01, 2017 at 09:17

From being passionate about a sport to actually using your talent for sewa in the society, can be a tough ask for a teenager. But Anandini Chawla does at her age, which would make a lot of people question their commitment towards society and change. She chose a medium, Basketball, and taught underprivileged children to play and learn at the same time. An interview with the heart and mind behind Jumpshot.

How did the idea of Jumpshot originate?

Till class 11, I used to spend my entire summer vacation in training to be a national level Tennis player. When I decided to quit in class 11, I suddenly had no plans for the summer. That’s when I decided to volunteer at a local NGO nearby

You see, I have been brought up in a Sikh family where there is an emphasis on one of the founding principles of the religion – ‘sewa’. That’s when my mother said, “Why volunteer? Do your own thing!” She’d read about Yuwa, an NGO in rural Jharkhand which uses football and education to combat child marriage and girl trafficking. And, so she came up with the idea of starting something similar with a sport I knew. I narrowed it down to basketball

Talk us through how Jumpshot works

Jumpshot is a small initiative which I started with my basketball teammate from school in my neighborhood. At Jumpshot, we teach basketball and tutor less privileged children in Maths, Computers, and English. We have basketball classes in the morning and tuitions in the evening.

What have some of the challenges been in the process

Well, firstly, it was a tough job finding a basketball court. The neighborhood school’s basketball court withdrew permission in 2014. “Security reasons!” the principal explained. Emails and meetings with other schools followed. Nothing worked. We even built a makeshift court in the neighborhood park but the monsoon rains washed it away. In early 2015, I met the Member of the Legislative Assembly of my constituency. I presented Jumpshot’s case to him at the open house for citizens. Believe it or not, a few requests from him to the same school, and Jumpshot was back in action on May 1.

Secondly, we didn’t get a good response from girls as we did for boys. So, we decided to make a rule – every boy who joined must bring a girl along. We also made morning sessions compulsory to attend free tuition in the evening. Financial constraints forced parents to send their girls to play.

How did your parents and friends react to your initiative?

Since it was my mother’s idea, my parents were glad I took the initiative and started it. My friends were happy too, and helped me a lot in spreading the word on social media.

In fact, Jumpshot’s logo has been designed by a close friend of mine.

How did you convince your parents to let you take a gap year?

In class 11 and 12, I went through a messy and emotional phase, which affected my academics and health. Together we – my parents and I – decided that I needed a gap year to sort things out and get back on track. During this year off, I devoted majority of my time to Jumpshot, which helped me immensely. For as the Dalai Lama quotes – “If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

How do you think, sports helps in the development of children? How do you feel sports can bring a positive change in society, esp for kids?

Sports is perhaps the only area where you experience defeat at a very young age. And coping with failure makes you mentally strong. That toughness is important, especially for kids who come from very vulnerable environments.

At that age, when you’re telling yourself, “It’s alright! I’ll work harder and get him/her in the next tournament,” you’re teaching yourself to accept and move on. You’re teaching yourself sportsmanship and creating a positive mindset.

Moreover, the entire routine that comes along with being into competitive sports – waking up for practice at 5 am, keeping track of the time you spend on social media and hanging out with your friends – instills a certain kind of discipline in you.

Share with us some of your most memorable moments or moments that made you proud from the past few years of working with kids

Seeing the little kids ready on the court at 6am has been a proud moment for me. I doubt I would have been able to do that at their age.

Sometimes when I’m busy in the mornings or out of town the kids take the initiative to go practice themselves. That has been another proud moment for me.

One of my most memorable moments was when all of us hand painted our classroom wall as a pre-Diwali celebration.

What are some of the future goals/plans of Jumpshot?

My friend, the other co-founder of Jumpshot, went off to college last year and I will be headed to college this year. With the both of us not around, our first priority is to find some good basketball coaches to carry forward the initiative. We hope to start playing tournaments next year. We’re also looking for some funding to get this new staff on board.

How do you feel about the success of Jumpshot?

I feel Jumpshot still has a long way to go. We’re a year old sports-based initiative. And learning a sport takes many, many years. As for now, I think we’ve done a decent job introducing a sport like basketball to kids from humble backgrounds. I’ve seen a change in the boys’ behavior with regard to their sisters. They now help them with household work from time to time. And the cleanliness drives we organize has instilled some sense of not littering public spaces.

How can more people become part of your initiative?

At Jumpshot, we’re looking for passionate people who can add value to the initiative. If you have good basketball skills or are interested in teaching an academic subject, email us at contactjumsphot@gmail.com. For all the basketball players out there, you’ve got to wake up at 5 am to volunteer here because practice starts at 6 sharp.

You can also organize fundraising events. We’ve listed a bunch of ideas on our website – www.jumpshot.org.in