By Ebony Hoffman, Former Professional Player and Assistant Coach, Seattle Storm

As a former professional player and current assistant coach for the Seattle Storm, I wholeheartedly agree that basketball has a unique ability to unite people globally. World Basketball Day holds great significance in promoting unity and camaraderie through the sport. It provides a platform for people from diverse backgrounds to come together, celebrate their love for the game, and build connections that transcend cultural and geographical boundaries. Through events, games, and outreach programs, World Basketball Day fosters a sense of community and mutual respect, emphasizing the universal language of basketball in bringing people together. It’s a day to honor the sport’s ability to bridge differences, promote teamwork, and inspire positive change on a global scale.

Mentorship plays a crucial role in the global celebration of World Basketball Day by embodying the spirit of unity, empowerment, and the positive impact of the sport. Through mentorship, experienced individuals have the opportunity to guide and support the next generation of basketball players, fostering an environment where aspiring athletes, particularly young women, can thrive and contribute to the growth of the sport on a global scale. This celebration provides a perfect platform to recognize the significance of mentorship in nurturing talent, instilling confidence, and promoting inclusivity within the basketball community.

One specific moment that encapsulates the essence of World Basketball Day occurred during my mentorship experience with the BAL4HER x African LeadHERs program. I had the privilege of witnessing a group of young women from diverse backgrounds come together, united by their passion for basketball. As one of the mentors, I observed how the sport empowered them to break barriers, embrace their unique identities, and support one another both on and off the court. Through dedicated mentorship, these young athletes were able to build resilience, develop leadership skills, and recognize the value of teamwork, thus exemplifying the unifying power of basketball.

Basketball has had a profound and transformative influence on my life, shaping my character, work ethic, and perspective in numerous ways throughout my career. Reflecting on my journey, there are several moments and experiences that stand out, illustrating the lasting impact of the sport on both a personal and professional level.

One of the most significant ways basketball has influenced my life is through the values of teamwork and perseverance it instilled in me. The sport taught me the importance of collaboration, communication, and collective effort in achieving common goals, skills that have transcended the basketball court and played a vital role in my personal and professional relationships.

Furthermore, basketball has been a source of resilience and determination during challenging times. The sport taught me to embrace adversity, learn from failures, and continuously strive for improvement. These lessons have been invaluable in my career, instilling a mindset of resilience and a relentless pursuit of excellence.

A substantial challenge I faced in my basketball career was overcoming a major injury that threatened to derail my passion for the game. Suffering from a severe injury tested my physical and mental fortitude, presenting an obstacle that seemed insurmountable at the time. The road to recovery was long and arduous, filled with setbacks and moments of doubt. However, through unwavering determination and the support of my teammates, coaches, and medical staff, I persevered.

Conversely, one of the most joyous and triumphant moments in my basketball career was when I was awarded the Most Improved Player. This recognition symbolized the culmination of countless hours of hard work, dedication, and personal growth. It was a testament to my relentless pursuit of improvement and my ability to overcome challenges. The award served as validation for the sacrifices I had made and the determination I had shown, solidifying my belief that perseverance and dedication can lead to profound personal triumphs.

To the young athletes aspiring to make a mark in the world of basketball, especially on World Basketball Day, I would like to share the following message:

Embrace the Journey: Understand that the path to success in basketball, as in life, is filled with challenges, setbacks, and triumphs. Embrace the journey, and remember that every experience, whether positive or negative, contributes to your growth and development as an athlete and as an individual.

Believe in Yourself: Cultivate unwavering self-belief and confidence in your abilities. Recognize that success in basketball, just like any other pursuit, often begins with a strong belief in oneself. Trust in your skills, work ethic, and dedication, and let that belief propel you forward, especially in the face of adversity.

Seek Mentorship: Surround yourself with positive influences and seek out mentors who can guide and support you on your journey. Learn from those who have walked the path before you and be open to receiving advice and constructive criticism. Mentorship can provide invaluable insights and help you navigate the complexities of the sport and personal development.

Emphasize Teamwork: Understand the significance of teamwork and collaboration both on and off the court. Basketball is a team sport, and the ability to work cohesively with teammates, coaches, and support staff is fundamental to achieving success. Foster a mindset of camaraderie, respect, and collaboration, as these qualities are essential not only in basketball but also in life.

Stay Committed and Resilient: Remain committed to your goals and resilient in the face of challenges. Success in basketball, as in any pursuit, often requires dedication, perseverance, and the ability to bounce back from setbacks. Understand that setbacks are opportunities for growth, and use them as fuel to drive your passion and determination.

On World Basketball Day, remember that basketball has the power to unite, inspire, and transform lives. Embrace the opportunity to celebrate the sport’s unifying spirit and the positive impact it has on individuals and communities around the world. Let the joy of the game fuel your passion, and let your love for basketball serve as a catalyst for personal and collective growth.

Happy World Basketball Day!

Ebony Hoffman

Basketball transcends the boundaries of a mere sport; it becomes a profound reflection of passion, growth, and community. For as long as I can remember, my life has always revolved around the sport, providing a place where I could escape reality.

The profound love for basketball extends beyond personal experiences, acting as a universal language that unites people from various backgrounds and surpasses geographical boundaries. Mentors play an integral role in molding well-rounded athletes, aiding us in reaching our highest potential. Creating a connection with a prominent figure in the basketball community, someone as influential as Ebony, stands out as a transformative experience in my journey. Ebony’s experience in the game, coupled with her genuine passion for basketball, made our connection not only significant but also very impactful. What made our interactions truly meaningful was the genuine interest she took in my journey. Through our conversations, Ebony became not just a mentor but a confidante. She listened attentively to my challenges and concerns, offering thoughtful advice and practical solutions. Her ability to instill confidence by uncovering strengths I didn’t realize I had become a real motivator, inspiring me to pursue excellence both on and off the court.

Throughout the entirety of this trip, I was fortunate enough to connect with several influential figures who introduced me to a whole other side of basketball I had yet to be exposed to. One of the highlights of my trip was visiting the NBA Headquarters in New York, where I met up with Adia Klein. I had the incredible privilege of receiving a tour from her, during which she introduced me to several remarkable individuals working in the NBA and WNBA. The day didn’t conclude with just seeing an actual NBA championship trophy; I was then invited to my first-ever NBA game. No words could capture the emotions I felt; my childhood dreams came true in a way that surpassed my wildest imagination — the people, the atmosphere, everything was fantastic.

Flying to Seattle and meeting up with Ebony Hoffman for the first time after months of video calls deepened our connection as we got the chance to really get to know one another. The Seattle U Men’s Basketball game was quite the experience; the entire environment was quite foreign to me. The different coaching styles were truly enlightening, which reshaped my perspective on the significance of athletes’ mental health, affirming that prioritizing mental wellbeing is not only crucial but is the foundation for optimal performance on and off the court.

Touring the Seattle Storm facility was another surreal experience. The pictures hung on the wall narrated the team’s victorious history, and it was evident in every shot how significant this sport was to them — an emotion I deeply resonated with. The trip ended with something I never thought I would ever experience: assisting in a professional player’s practice — Jordan Horston, top of her rookie class. You could feel her passion just by watching her play. Some of the different drills she completed were very different from what I’ve previously experienced, her consistency was mesmerizing, and I left the facility truly inspired, not just by her but also by her coaches.

This program has left an unforgettable mark, creating invaluable connections that I’ll continue to treasure. The memories made discovering the different sides to the sport I’ve always loved have been truly amazing. I’m deeply grateful to have been given this opportunity to explore, excel, and strive towards reaching my highest potential.

Basketball has always been a sport that goes beyond the court. It has been an agent of change, breaking racial barriers and promoting sustainable development around the world. As a basketball coach, I have witnessed firsthand how this sport has the power to unite individuals of different races, backgrounds, and walks of life.

Growing up, I was always fascinated by the game of basketball. However, as a young girl from a conservative community, I was often told that it was not a suitable sport for girls. But I refused to let these stereotypes stop me from pursuing my passion.

Through the BAL4HER x African LeadHERs mentorship program, I had the opportunity to meet amazing female leaders from different parts of the world and learn from their experiences. It was inspiring to see the passion and dedication of these women in their respective fields and how they are using their platforms to empower other women. Moreover, through this program, I was able to connect with other young women who are also striving for greatness and breaking barriers in their own communities.

My mentor, Allison FEASTER, a respected female leader in the basketball industry, played a crucial role in shaping me not just as a better coach but as a better person. She showed me that there are no limits to what I can achieve if I believe in myself and work hard towards my goals. She empowered me to challenge gender stereotypes and be a role model for young girls who aspire to pursue their dreams.

As a result of her mentorship, I am more confident, resilient, and driven to succeed. My mentor has been a constant source of inspiration and motivation, and I am grateful for her guidance and support.

I also had the opportunity to travel to the United States for the first time as a young coach, and it was a dream come true. As part of this trip, I had the privilege to visit the Boston Celtics and attend their practice and also their game. It was a huge achievement for me, and I was filled with excitement and admiration as I watched the players in action.

But what made the experience even more memorable was seeing how a successful basketball organization like the Boston Celtics uses their platform to make a difference in the community. From their initiatives for sustainable development to their outreach programs for underprivileged youth, the Celtics are not just a basketball team but a source of hope and inspiration for many.

In conclusion, basketball has not only shaped me into a successful person, but it has also opened doors for me to learn, grow, and make a positive impact. Through my participation in the BAL4HER x African LeadHERs mentorship program, I have gained valuable experiences and perspectives that will stay with me for a lifetime. I am proud to be a part of a sport that goes beyond the court and has the power to make a positive change in the world.

« Through my participation in the BAL4HER x African LeadHERs mentorship program, I have gained valuable experiences and perspectives that will stay with me for a lifetime. I am proud to be a part of a sport that goes beyond the court and has the power to make a positive change in the world. »

Fatuma Mukamugema

« That’s a two-pointer… that’s goaltending!! » I used to hear these foreign terms when my father watched the Lakers, and I did not know what they meant. Basketball was less common when I was growing up than it is now. We were told that basketball was not a girly sport; play volleyball, they said.

Basketball is not just a sport; it is a lifestyle. This is a quote I saw when I visited the Boston Celtics office, and I couldn’t agree more. Basketball is a unifying way of life. Teamwork makes the dream work. I had the opportunity to wine and dine with different individuals from all walks of life, which gave me an appreciation of the sport. Basketball has been an eye-opener. It has helped me understand individuals from different backgrounds and cultures and how the environment affects their daily lives. My major highlight was re-learning and unlearning ways in which basketball can magnify societal issues. It is an all-rounder.

Additionally, basketball has ensured I can actively follow my passion for empowering women and girls in my community. It has brought fresh air to advocacy. I have used the opportunity to elevate women within the sports industry. Who thought basketball could be used to empower and encourage girls in my community, from giving them opportunities to learn the sport to providing a spark to their flame. This was made possible through the B.A.L X S.U.A. mentorship program led by Marie Laurence and Maelle Ba. This was a new experience; I have learned a lot. I interacted with five ladies from across Africa with different basketball experiences, who I now call friends. I have learned how to embrace change from Doussou, to play basketball from Fatuma, to be fearless from Ghada, to take leadership from Lama, and to be as relentless as Fatou. The program has aided me with 21st-century skills that have opened up ways of viewing advocacy and the power of basketball. I have effectively articulated my thoughts and effectively ideated ways to empower women in Africa. The program structure and the speakers have been instrumental in my personal growth by employing ‘life hacks’ and equipping me with skills to help me fulfill my passions and goals.

I visited my wonderful mentor, Taylor Kielpinski, in Boston, which opened several doors for me. Taylor held my hand and has inspired me through my passion for advocating for women within the sports industry using communications. I interacted with successful women at the Boston Celtics, which helped me understand the power of unity and womanhood. I also picked up her leadership traits as she led her team through their daily activities. This trip was very crucial for our relationship. I built a stronger relationship with Taylor, and we communicated effectively. Other than that, I built an emotional connection, which helped us understand and learn from each other. Going into the mentorship, I had high expectations, but the experience exceeded my expectations. It was a rich experience. I have gained professional experience through skill development and networking, which has put me ahead on my career path. I have gained a deeper knowledge of basketball as a sport and lifestyle, and now I am part of the community that wants to make a dent in the world.

Basketball has ensured I can actively follow my passion for empowering women and girls in my community. It has brought fresh air to advocacy. I have used the opportunity to elevate women within the sports industry.”

Cindy Kolenyo

I would like to take this opportunity to share my story of being part of the Bayine Sports Initiative, which utilizes basketball to serve the marginalized segment of the Egyptian African community – the African refugees. We are proud to operate under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). What does this have to do with the mentorship program in the NBA Africa office? It has a lot! I have been fortunate to live through a 3-day immersion experience, witnessing grassroots NBA programs in South Africa and gaining insights into all the operations behind the scenes.

As World Basketball Day dawns, I stand taller, not just as a mentee but as an advocate for community upliftment through sports. The lessons learned, the connections forged, the stories shared – they echo within me, a testament to the transformative power of basketball and the NBA Africa program.

Kornelia, my partnership mentor, spared no effort in making those three days a masterclass in organizational finesse. My takeaways from her include organizational skills, attention to detail, and time management. I was fortunate to be part of her team, assisting with tasks and contributing my insights.

Beyond the visual meetings, I acquired on-the-ground skills, learned self-awareness from her perspective through open discussions, and gained insights on clearer direction. The entire program made me more humble, teachable, and facilitated connections among my fellow mentees as I learned from them and their insights. It enhanced my ability to listen actively and with openness. Moreover, writing reports occasionally and committing to professionalism under the supervision of Marie and Speak Up Africa staff was beyond great.

This mentorship was my manifestation since I shifted my career into sports, so it is a huge pride milestone for me. It held many learning experiences and broadened my perspective with numerous success stories heard through the invaluable networking I made. Each person along this journey affected me in one way or another. The different modules we went through till present, I see them well-crafted for us and fitting seamlessly into my personal growth and essential life skills for any mentee in the sports field.

The NBA Africa mentorship wasn’t just a program; it was the culmination of my career shift, a dream realized. Each encounter, each lesson learned, was a priceless gem, an inspiration that continues to shape my path.

« As World Basketball Day dawns, I stand taller, not just as a mentee but as an advocate for community upliftment through sports. The lessons learned, the connections forged, the stories shared – they echo within me, a testament to the transformative power of basketball and the NBA Africa program. »

Ghada Elzend

Writing about basketball comes naturally to me because it’s been a huge part of my life, my first love, you can say. I remember asking my parents one afternoon to let me play. At the time, I was still very young and skinny, but I loved the game. I went every day and dribbled on the side of the concrete court right around the corner from my house until I earned my spot on the team.

Basketball has been my escape from a chaotic world where I sometimes feel like I don’t fit in. It taught me the importance of wanting something and working hard to achieve it. I took this benefit for granted because now, in my adult life, I have noticed that this is not a given. Many soft skills that have come more easily to me because I decided to pick up a basketball are not easily acquired by other people.

This sport has even helped me pursue my education when my father couldn’t afford to send me to private school anymore. It was stressful transferring to a public school a year before I had to take the Baccalaureate exam in S2 (Science major). But I set a goal to get a scholarship and to continue my studies in the United States. I worked hard on and off the court. I had a very hectic schedule, but I knew that to gain what I wanted, I had to persevere through the hardships. I am grateful because I accomplished every goal I set for myself with basketball.

Sadly, I had to cut my career short due to a knee injury. This pushed me to rediscover and redefine myself. It was tough to step away from the game and figure out who I was without it. People say that God works in mysterious ways, and I have found that to be incredibly true. I needed the experience of losing basketball to lock in and make the final push to obtain my bachelor’s degree in Pre-Med. After obtaining it, I went on to work in the medical field for a couple of years before coming back home to Africa.

Coming home, I knew I wanted to set new goals but didn’t know exactly where to start. Through faith and perseverance, I found myself reuniting with my first love. Today I work as the women’s program coordinator at the NBA Academy Africa and as part of B-Ops. I also coach when time permits. I am humbled and super grateful to have come full circle. It is so fulfilling to get to help kids chase their dreams like I did. As a 27-year-old, I am close to them in age, which allows me to connect with them on a similar level and provide a unique life perspective.

Being selected for the mentorship program and meeting Chrysa was a true blessing. As I have mentioned before, meeting her was the highlight of my year. She is an incredible woman and someone I respect and look up to for her honesty, her genuineness, and her capacity to be an anchor in the face of challenges. She helped me through one of the toughest times of my life, which happened in the middle of my visit to New York. She has been more than a mentor to me. Life has a funny way of testing us, but it also provides us with the right people and tools to overcome these challenges.

I’m grateful to organizations like SpeakUpAfrica and The BAL for giving young women like us (the mentees) opportunities to grow and succeed. We will continue breaking down barriers and occupying space in sports. We don’t take for granted the platform that has been given to us and the opportunity we have to grow our network. We will continue discovering our full potential, gaining confidence, and using the provided support and guidance to persist in setting goals and reaching them.

Through this mentorship program, I have been able to align the two biggest parts of my life: Basketball and the Sciences and decided that I want to start providing counseling to athletes. I have taken a keen interest in sports psychology and have begun taking the first steps to explore this avenue. A new chapter of my life is beginning, and I am extremely humbled and excited to see how far I will go and what is in store for me.

“We will continue breaking down barriers and occupying space in sports. We don’t take for granted the platform that has been given to us and the opportunity we have to grow our network. We will continue discovering our full potential, gaining confidence, and using the provided support and guidance to persist in setting goals and reaching them.”

Ndeye Dossou Ndiaye
Dans une résistance retentissante contre les violences basées sur le genre (VBG), les joueuses de basketball s’unissent pour affronter ce problème omniprésent de front. L’activité, dirigée en collaboration entre la Basketball African League (BAL) et Speak Up Africa et son initiative Voix EssentiELLES, met en lumière la nécessité impérieuse de s’attaquer aux VBG en Afrique.

L’Afrique affiche l’un des taux les plus élevés de violences basées sur le genre au niveau mondial, avec 31% des femmes déclarant avoir été victimes de violences de la part de partenaires intimes à un moment de leur vie. Selon le Fonds Monétaire International, pour chaque augmentation de 1% du nombre de femmes victimes de violences basées sur le genre, les activités économiques nationales diminuent jusqu’à 8%. La corrélation entre les violences basées sur le genre et le développement économique souligne l’urgence de combattre ce problème pour que l’Afrique prospère.

Le 10 décembre marque non seulement la Journée des droits de l’homme, mais symbolise également la fin de la campagne annuelle internationale « 16 jours d’activisme contre la violence basée sur le genre envers les femmes et les filles ». Initiée en 1991 lors de l’inauguration de l’Institut international pour le leadership des femmes, cette campagne vise une mobilisation mondiale pour la prévention et l’élimination des violences envers les femmes et les filles. Le thème de la campagne des 16 jours pour cette année est « Investir pour prévenir la violence à l’égard des femmes et des filles », soulignant l’importance d’investir dans différentes stratégies de prévention pour mettre fin à la violence dès le début.

En solidarité avec l’initiative mondiale, la Basketball African League et Speak Up Africa, à travers l’initiative Voix EssentiELLES, ont pris des mesures proactives pour lutter contre les violences basées sur le genre. Les deux organisations, qui collaborent depuis le début de l’année 2023, ont organisé une session de formation sur le genre pour les jeunes joueuses de basket et lancé une campagne de sensibilisation numérique disant « Non aux VBG ». Les objectifs étaient de renforcer le partage d’expériences entre les bénéficiaires de Voix EssentiELLES au Sénégal et les jeunes athlètes de la BAL, le renforcement des connaissances des participants sur les VBG et la « masculinité positive », et l’augmentation de la visibilité des 16 jours d’activisme grâce à des campagnes sur les réseaux sociaux.

L’experte en genre, Marietou DIA, mobilisée pour la formation, a souligné que peu d’athlètes sont sensibilisés de manière adéquate à la violence basée sur le genre lors des sessions de formation. Malgré les différentes formes de violence répandues dans la communauté sportive, les victimes restent souvent silencieuses par peur de représailles, de honte ou de tabous. Il est crucial que l’ensemble de la communauté sportive se mobilise efficacement et lutte contre toutes les formes de violences sexuelles et basées sur le genre.

Les points forts de l’activité

Les activités comprenaient un camp de basket à l’Académie NBA, offrant l’occasion à la BAL d’identifier de jeunes filles talentueuses pour le camp U23 au Rwanda. Un atelier de formation sur le genre a réuni 20 jeunes joueuses de basket, cinq entraîneurs femmes de la BAL et deux représentantes de Voix EssentiELLES du Sénégal – Sylvie Diack, coordonnatrice du Club des jeunes filles de Kolda et Fatimata SY, activiste et Secrétaire Générale de l’Association Sénégalaise pour l’Avenir de la Femme et de l’Enfant (ASAFE)—en tant que co-animatrices. Les discussions ont porté sur des concepts liés au genre, les stéréotypes de genre, la dynamique du pouvoir, les normes sociales, les types de violences, les structures de référencement des victimes et survivantes de VBG, etc. Des groupes de discussion dirigés par les Voix EssentiELLES ont été formés, et des études de cas ont été réalisées sur un thème spécifique pour encourager l’échange et le partage d’expériences, motivant ainsi les joueuses à s’impliquer dans la lutte contre les VBG. Un des succès majeurs de cette activité a été de favoriser la création d’un espace de dialogue et de partage d’expériences entre les participantes. Les jeunes filles ont bénéficié d’outils pratiques de plaidoyer et de gestion des cas de VBG. À la fin, elles ont élaboré des slogans pour dire « Non aux VBG ».

En conclusion, il est primordial de créer des  espaces propices au dialogue et au partage d’expériences entre les femmes provenant d’horizons différents. Les jeunes athlètes ont reçu des outils pratiques de plaidoyer et ont appris à gérer les cas de VBG. Il est impératif de mettre en place des mesures préventives, de former les encadrants sportifs et de promouvoir des valeurs d’égalité, de respect et de non-violence au sein de la communauté sportive.

Comme le déclare avec justesse la formatrice, « en travaillant ensemble, nous pouvons contribuer à mettre fin à ces violences et créer un environnement inclusif et sécuritaire pour tous. » Voix EssentiELLES ouvre la voie, signe d’espoir pour un avenir débarrassé des violences basées sur le genre.

Ce blog est signé par Papa Djibril Faye, Chargé de Programme et Kadidiatou Madina Bah, Chargée de Communication Stratégique

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