By RACHEL SYIEMLIEH | April 16, 2018
Unlike football, one can say the game of basketball in the state of Meghalaya is simply not as popular. Some even call it a ‘dying sport in the hills’. In a community where sports is gradually being welcomed into the fold as part of a holistic learning experience for children rather than a mere form of “time-wasting”, comes two friends, Dulon Kharsati and Ialambha Kharbhih, who saw that the talents possessed by the youth of Shillong will only go to waste if there isn’t a certified coach to familiarize them with FIBA guidelines, imbibe in them the spirit of team-work and competition and expose them to various leagues in the region. Tyllilang Basketball Academy was, thus, born. Unlike their counterparts that provide training in football, basketball and other sports in the city, Tyllilang is the first academy whose focus is exclusively on the game they know well: basketball. TNT- The Northeast Today brings to you an exclusive interview with co-founder Dulon Kharsati who recently brought former American Basketball coach and NBA India’s Senior Director of Basketball Operations, Scott Flemming and the junior NBA to the Academy.
TNT- We’ve all heard of Tyllilang Basketball Academy (TBA) currently based in Jaiaw, but what we don’t know is how you guys got started. What motivated you guys to start such an initiative?
DK: What motivated us to start Tyllilang Basketball Academy was simply the fact that we cared about the current situation: we could see youth and kids not getting enough opportunities to play this game without any supervision and guidance in how the game should be played. Me and my co founder Ialambha Kharbhih had learnt a lot from basketball and the values that the game has given us has changed our lives not only in the field of basketball but in our personal and professional lives.
This sport has so much to offer especially for the youth and kids to be occupied and get away from social evils such as alcoholism, drug addiction, and many other things that could harm a child’s mindset or their well being. What we have both learnt and want to share to our students is more than just basketball – we have designed a curriculum not only to enhance their skills in the game but to build their character with such values as team work, discipline, communication and respect for one another. These are our core values that we focus on in Tyllilang Basketball Academy and these are what motivates us to make sure kids learn the game the right way every single day.
TNT- Tell us about your coaching staff and the Academy’s approach model to coaching and training youngsters.
DK: At the moment, we are a group of three certified coaches who completed the FIBA world association of basketball coaching as well as a few senior basketball players of the state that have helped us groom the kids.
Our approach is really simple. The parents contact us directly by phone or they directly come meet us at our centre and we explain what the academy offers to their child.
Being certified coaches we are following the curriculum advised to us by our FIBA instructors.
TNT- Enlighten us on the kind of basketball you’d like to see the Academy’s youngsters play.
DK: We want to see our youngsters have fun while playing basketball. It’s very important that they communicate with each other, that they build team spirit and play together as a team and learn the basic fundamentals of the game the right way. We give huge importance to the development of mutual respect among the children as we design drills and games that have everyone involved irrespective to their skill levels.
We also believe that basketball and education go side by side. Consequently, we make sure that each student secures a pass percentage academically. We like to indirectly motivate our kids to do well in their academics. If the pass percentage is not met, we suspend them till they achieve that goal.
TNT- What was the overall reception to your initiative? Have the parents and locality fellows been supportive?
DK: Yes, they have been really supportive. Not only the parents but different institutions such as churches, schools, colleges have always supported us in multiple ways.
TNT- We are aware of a little visit paid to you by Scott Flemming, former American basketball coach who played a crucial role in the NBA’s Development League back in the US as well as India’s first ever basketball victory against China in 2014. Now hired by NBA India as Senior Director of Basketball Operations, he’s brought the Junior NBA to your academy. What was it like hosting the first ever Junior NBA camp in the city? How has this benefited the kids enrolled?
DK: We are really blessed that such an event took place at our academy as we never expected that Coach Scott would spare his valuable time to spend with our kids personally.
It’s not only the kids that benefited when the Junior NBA came here but teachers from different schools got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take part in the workshop with Coach Scott. He brings more than coaching values to the table; but also the understanding that basketball is more than just a game.
Our kids got more motivated as Coach Scott was very inspirational and taught them his own personal drills to our kids during the session.
Another benefit that Shillong received when the Junior NBA came here was the skills challenge competition. 453 kids from different schools took part and 22 got selected for the next challenge that will be held in Kolkata in the near future. This brings exposure and a sense of competition here in Shillong where basketball is almost considered a dead sport.
TNT- With the United Basketball Alliance having been started in 2015, do you see any players from the state playing in the league any time soon?
DK: We are not only aiming for our kids to end up in the UBA as our FIBA instructor has advised us to build international calibre players. Our work, at the moment, is mainly focused on development at the grass root level.
TNT- We understand that professional basketball in Meghalaya is in the nascent stage in comparison to north-eastern states like Mizoram (with its Mizoram Super League). What do you think are some of the biggest problems that plague Meghalayan basketball today?
DK: No comments on Mizoram basketball as their operations are different. The major issue that we face in Meghalayan basketball is that we as a state is not taking part in the nationals conducted by the Basketball Federation of India for the under-14(sub junior) , under-16(youth), under-18 (junior) and senior level. These competitions happen annually but we hardly take part in them.
TNT- How would you like to see basketball in the state grow? What are your hopes for Indian basketball as a whole?
DK: Like every other sport we need to work. If we only sit and think or plan without any execution, we will never grow as a state. So my point is we need to make actions speak as basketball is a very complex sport and it’s evolving every year. So we have to work hard and make things happen for the kids like proper coaching in a proper facility.
TNT- What is the next step for Tyllilang Basketball Academy? Will we see any expansion in the city and its outskirts?
DK: Yes, we are planning to expand as many centres as possible in both urban and rural areas.
TNT- We know that the Academy had, only a few months ago, organised their first ever basketball league in Jaiaw. Tell us more about that. When can we expect a second season and how different will it be from the first?
DK: First of all, we would like to mention the purpose of the league. The main reason we started this league is that there are very few tournaments in our state and kids would practice the whole year and would not be able to showcase their talent. That being said, what I meant is we want to create a platform for the youth every year so that they will get an opportunity to play. We have decided that the league will take place annually during the winter holidays as most of the students are free then and would be occupied with the game rather than roaming around. In this way, it would be good for them to be more productive when the winter comes.
TNT- Thank you so much for giving us your time. We wish you all the best for your future endeavours and hope to consequently see massive improvement in Meghalaya’s sports scene.