Championing school basketball

A person with a vision and an insatiable appetite for perfection coupled with an inborn modesty towards life is difficult to come by these days in sports.

By Moni Mathews

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Published: Mon 18 Jun 2012, 1:12 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 1:56 PM

Abdalla Taryam — a mechanical engineer, sports lover and administrator-turned sports management consultant — never keeps still or takes a back seat when grassroot level sports is brought to his attention.

And, when it comes to standing up for basketball, a sport he loves so very much, Abdalla has got few to match him in this part of the world. The 3SM managing director has championed the cause of schools basketball the past couple of years like no one else has done here before.

Big prize money

Along with his partners at 3SM he presented a cheque for Dh50,000 from his own pocket to the champions of the inaugural 3SM High Schools Basketball Championship this season.

It took a visit to the website to find out this clause in the tournament rules and presentation literature.

There was no media announcement to kick start the event boasting of the prize money outlay. The Sharjah-based basketball promoter instead chose to quietly pass on the news through a Press release without any specific mention to the amount.

Khaleej Times was the first among the media to take notice of the prize money announcement on the website midway through event. Abdalla’s response then was: “There is no need to make a big issue out of it. The initial media and registration response was good and we wanted to build on from there. Eventually everyone came to know.”

The event was open to all institutions irrespective of the curricula followed or the nationality of a student, a first of its kind happening in the UAE for a ‘minor’ sport.

In association with the UAE Basketball Federation, and some basic support by Decision Makers TV, 3SM — a Dubai-based sports event management company — the High Schools Basketball Championship saw 10 teams take part.

Updating website

Details of the games and stats on the teams and players were available on the official website of the event in a short time after the matches which again is something new not just to basketball but other disciplines as well in the country.

“The purpose of the 3SM High School Basketball Championship is to structure, initiate, control and improve opportunities for amateur high school basketball competition, and to promote and develop leadership, sportsmanship, fitness, and athletic excellence,” says the website.

Entry is free for both teams and spectators, and the loud thunderous cheering on the final day at Al Wasl stadium on a Friday evening earlier this year, was unforgettable.

The website adds: “It is mandatory that coaches, players, administrators, volunteers, and other representatives affiliated with 3SM practice the highest principles of sportsmanship and to observe the ethics of competition. Good sportsmanship is defined as qualities of behaviour, which are characterised by courtesy and genuine concern for others. The display of good sportsmanship is a statement of the individual’s understanding and commitment to fair play, ethical behaviour and integrity.”

His (3SM’s High School basketball Championship) website goes on to say: “On Athletics and education 3SM believes that athletics can be a powerful tool for shaping the educational development of young people, and for the enhancement of educational opportunities for its participants.”

All-round progress

“High schools are responsible for the academic well-being of its athletes, and must ensure that participation in 3SM activities does not adversely affect their academic progress. 3SM should cooperate with the athletes, schools, and parents to strike an appropriate balance among academic, social, and athletic activities.”

St Mary’s Catholic School (STM) defeated School of Choueifat, Dubai (ISC) 57-47 in the final of the inaugural 10-team High School Basketball Championship contested early this season.
 At an open session where the school management and the team along with Abdalla took part, it was decided that a good percentage of the prize money should be allotted towards starting scholarships for players with weaker financial backgrounds.

Abdalla is straight talking and he does not boast of the amount (prize money) given; which by itself was huge for a sports event of any kind here.

Funding constraints

“Finances are difficult to come by. My partners have been very patient by holding on to the goals set. I cannot promise whether I would be able to do the same regarding the cash prize for the second edition. We do not have a sponsor. All this time money has been channelled out of the company funds,” said Abdalla.

After the championship, Abdalla while talking to Khaleej Times said: “We are pleased to finally be able to provide a professional atmosphere from which student athletes, schools and business partners can mutually benefit from. We are creating a sporting community to increase the awareness of sports and maximise exposure for the young talents.”

The schools taking part in the launch chapter of the High School Basketball Championship were Jumeirah College, Al Mawakeb School, Dubai International School, International School of Chouiefat, Australian International School, Victoria International School, St. Mary’s Catholic High School, Bradenton Prep, JESS and Dubai College.

The tournament also featured alternative competitions for students to take photos and write reports on the high school championship and be considered for end of event prizes for photography and sports journalism.

On the administrative side Abdalla was on the senior sports committees of Adgas when he started working after his US/Sharjah studies; coached the American University of Sharjah basketball team; and was a senior administrator with the Sharjah Club.

“After many trying moments in various roles while making untiring efforts to implant the idea of stringent sports management with fund raising openings especially when I was at Sharjah Club, I decided on starting my own firm. It took long hours of work and a lot of persuasive skills both here and in the Capital before 3SM was floated. The department that helped facilitate my company’s creation is Shaikh Mohammed Establishment for SME Development.”

Immediate priorities

One point a reader might ask is why Abdalla is not directing his energies in improving basketball in public schools at the same time?

His reply was: “Basketball in public schools is nearly non-existent. So setting up a tournament and inviting them is pointless as we did not design it to teach them how to play but to highlight and promote the youth who already excel at it and providing opportunities for existing players.

“Having said this we do have a future vision of visiting public schools an providing free clinics to raise awareness and introduce basketball to them.”

“The long process in getting events and coaching camps cleared are long and time consuming plus there are many other factors involved.

“We have them in mind but for the time being the process in getting youngsters to come and play is easier and less formal with the private school sector. For the next event, we may include a girls section as well.”

Parents and institutions

On parent-student-institution relationships when it comes to sports Abdalla said: “I believe in the old traditional way, the tried and tested method where the parent must be willing to accept that there are ways for their ward to make it to the top through sports. Even if a student does not have it in him or her to make the required grades in sports, one can still continue playing competitive sports at school and university.

“On the student’s part, the responsibility is equally high. Neglecting studies to play sport, I don’t comply with no matter what the talent and skill levels are like. The school has to play the guiding and motivating roles here which is pivotal.”

Team kit

“For the school championship this year we even made room for teams without proper kit to take part by providing them with outfits and shoes free of cost. Most of the schools even among the top finishers do not have transport arrangements for those who stay back late after school hours. The same school managements have appreciated the effort and are likely to back their teams next year,” Abdalla continued.

Being sensitive to the needs of the sportsperson is what administrators need to be rather than act high and mighty, Abdalla said, saying: “The nursery for talent must be spotted and nurtured carefully with a lot of emphasis for funds which should be the responsibility of good marketing techniques,” the livewire administrator said.

Strategic Sports Development, the motto which 3SM stands for, explains in brief what Abdalla and his partners are working for.

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