Dribble Academy is the result of one man’s passion for a sport coming together with compassion and a strong will to succeed. Pradyut Voleti is a basketball skills trainer and founder of the Dribble Academy Foundation, a non-profit organisation that provides basketball training and education to underprivileged kids. Pradyut first fell in love with basketball after watching the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Lakers live at the 2001 NBA finals on a family trip to the US. He started playing the sport with a passion and played at the school, college and national level. A clinical psychologist by profession, Pradyut got into basketball coaching in 2013 by teaching kids in his colony and nearby societies. Inspired by his own parents doing work to help the poor, a young Pradyut Voleti wanted to do something to empower the underprivileged children around him.
Talking about how his parents inspired him, he says, “I saw a high level of empathy and they never differentiated between me and other children and treated all of them equally. As a matter of fact, some of my best friends when I was growing up were from lower economic backgrounds. They taught me to always care for the poor to always look out for them and share whatever I had with everyone around.”
As he thought of a sport to encourage children from low-economic backgrounds to come together, Voleti realised that the NBA (National Basketball association), the biggest league for basketball in the world is heavily involved with community service and their players reach out to people in the community through the NBA cares initiative. “I felt that if I could spread the love for basketball in less-privileged communities, we could really bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. Basketball is an elite sport in India and at least in the city I live in, this game has never been played in villages hence I decided to take this game to a place where it's never been,” recalls Pradyut.
Challenges and solutions
Pradyut was very lucky to find donors who believed in the purpose of his work and contributed to help him pursue his dream. “I wanted to do this but I had no money. Everyday I would be messaging people asking them to donate something or the other but to my suprise most of them were keen to help and did whatever they could in their capacity to make a difference. Giving does not come easy in India and there could be multiple factors to it but our struggle was to keep encouraging people to give back and we are who we are because of our donors,” says Pradyut.
“Initially, we had a very few girls coming to into our programme. Not a single girl child had played any sport in this village, so why would parents send them to learn basketball but gradually they were able to see the impact sports was having on these girls.”
He takes pride in the fact that today they have an almost 50 percent participation of girl children.
No dream is possible without the support of people around you. Pradyut was fortunate to find a strong dedicated team of coaches and staff who worked hard to make things work. Pradyut’s and his team’s perseverance paid off. “We continued to work hard and in four years, we have managed to send a child to the US through the Jr NBA programme along with two girls in very well-known schools and won and participated in a bunch of tournaments across India . Everyday we come across a different struggle but isn't that what life is all about? Who doesn’t have challenges? We just have to go through them and continue to work hard.”
Pradyut Voleti follows a simple motto - he aims to impact lives in rural communities through the game of basketball. He proudly proclaims, “The kids and their hard work despite their difficult circumstances inspire us to continue working for them for a better today and an even better tomorrow. Every child in India should get an equal opportunity and access to sports despite the background they come from. I dream of a day where every village will be playing the game of basketball and through that learn the lessons of teamwork, discipline and sacrifice.”
Pradyut Voleti’s work is a true inspiration to youngsters across India and the world. He humbly says, “I do not know if I’m inspiring anyone but I continue to share my story with more people and especially the youth of India who have a unique opportunity to do some path-breaking stuff to uplift the underprivileged.”
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