Basketball is one of the fastest games in the world but unfortunately it is facing an extreme crisis in Pakistan, where cricket’s popularity has swept away the very existence of minor sports in terms of popular appeal in the country. Once a fairly recognized and familiar sport, basketball is now facing near extinction in Pakistan.
Pakistan Basketball Federation (PBF) is taking desperate measures to revive this wonderful game that stands among the three most popular sports in the world. Among these frantic steps was a recently concluded four-day training camp for boys and girls in Punjab gymnasium organised by PBF with the help of two Spanish coaches.
A similar effort was carried out by Karachi Basketball Association at Arambagh basketball courts with the help of local coaches and ex-international basketball players. Former Test spinner Iqbal Qasim was invited as the chief guest at the closing ceremony because there is no basketball icon in the country.
Basketball requires supreme athletic fitness, speed, stamina, agility, explosiveness and an intelligent mind capable of making quick decisions in split seconds.
Such team sports as field hockey, handball and even football have learnt, acquired and adopted various tactical innovations from basketball.
Basketball is not just about putting the ball into the opponents’ basket, but it’s a game where you also have to block the opponents’ attempts to score through superior defense, better ball retention, offensive and defensive rebounds, handling and distribution of the ball and through superior game strategy and use of substitute players in limited time by a thinking coach.
The speed and intensity of this game puts a lot of pressure on players as well as coaching staff. Any basketball player who lacks physical fitness, correct fundamental skills and a sharp mind can’t be spun into a superior player by any coach.
Inviting any foreign coach for a couple of days to Pakistan will not help much.
The fundamentals of basketball have to be taught at a very early age.
Pakistan is blessed with diversified sports talent that comes from its vast geographical extent. There is no dearth of tall and strong young lads who can be converted into excellent basketball players. The federation and the provincial associations instead of holding five-day camps should concentrate on school basketball programmes and the promotion of the game at grassroots.
The federation must undertake talent hunt programmes at schools, colleges and at district level, and organise coaching and referee clinics.
International Basketball Federation (FIBA) has launched many interesting and cost-effective programmes for basketball development for poor countries.
It is up to the federation to approach FIBA for coaching and sports development initiatives in the country.
The inability to forge low-cost media and marketing campaigns and develop joint ventures with donors and support agencies shows the incompetency of officials.
Basketball without Borders (BWB) functioning in India is an example. The Indian Basketball Federation invited top 66 players of the region for two months coaching clinic held in Delhi. It was organised by international coaches Corey Brewer of Oklahoma City, Thunder Kelly Olynyk of Miami Heat & Dwight Powell of Dallas Mavericks.
The Indian federation has also launched a venture with IMG Reliance USA to professionalise Indian basketball. The federation will keep its focus at school and college basketball leagues to produce fundamentally correct players in right age group. IMG Reliance will invest in developing specialised sports academies like IMG Florida in the US.
The responsibility of popularisation of basketball is the responsibility of the federation.
Sports are not developed through cosmetic measures like inviting a foreign coach for a few days. It requires thorough knowledge of the game and the capability to generate resources.
In Pakistan, federations are surviving not on their ability to vote for certain associations in the country.
In the absence of any monitoring and performance checks, a large number of federations have performed pathetically over the years.
Sports authorities in the country should study the performance of successful federations and evolve a methodology of monitoring and performance evaluation, without which no funds should be released.