By Kasey Hartung
As I return to India for my second year with Team Crossover, I still can’t help but press my face against the bus window and absorb the lively sights with a sense of awe. I feel as though I’m a child experiencing a new and intriguing world for the first time whenever we travel the vibrant and culture-filled streets. I don’t believe I’ll ever truly get used to everything here and I don’t mind that feeling because these constant novel sights and special people on the streets of Chennai truly transcend the norm in my mind and force me to step outside of my comfort zone. But the fearless jaywalkers, fast and furious rickshaws, and bustling city don’t even compare to the splendor of a young camper’s toothy smile or hearty laugh that I observe every single time I place a ball in his or her hands, flash them a simple smirk, or give them a caring embrace.
I vividly remember a moment on the first day of camp this year when I observed one aspiring student-athlete who donned sandals on her feet and a fresh smile on her face, examine a simple basketball with a sense of wonder and appreciation in her eyes that I hadn’t quite seen anywhere since camp here last year. Overwhelming gratitude was expressed by every child I saw and it was so profoundly prevalent as it quickly filled the air I breathed and evoked a lot of emotion within me that forced me to focus even harder, because I knew I had to do something for these kids.
Now that the sun has set on a truly successful week one, I’ve had ample time to reflect on camp and the impact I’ve been making on the kids, but more importantly, about the effect they’ve had and will continue to have on me. Whether I was teaching the eager and enthusiastic campers about teamwork or leadership in the informative classroom sessions or running sprints and doing hurdle work with them in the conditioning station, we’ve been collectively sharing stories about who we all are, where we come from, and how we all are bonded by our shared love of the game and our communal vision of a “better” India for our future generations of leaders (whether it’s on the court, in the classroom, on the streets, at home, or in the work force).
These children see basketball as an opportunity—an opportunity to work with peers, learn how to take the initiative by using strategic problem solving, and develop skills like good character, self-discipline, accountability, and dedication that improve their ability to succeed in a classroom setting. This furthers Crossover’s sense of promoting the idea of a well-rounded and educated individual because when sports are combined with education, it encourages children to not only stay in school, but also to strive to reach their full potential in all aspects of their life due to their now competitive nature.
With week two of camp just around the corner, I hope to continue inspiring the campers the way my own teachers and coaches from home have encouraged me and changed my life by helping me discover my own passions. Through special talks with my kids, I’ve come to the conclusion that the harsh reality of most of their situations cannot be ignored—it’s something that I personally can’t overlook, nor should the rest of the world, because all of these children deserve an education and a chance. They have already taught me so much about resilience and staying positive and I can’t even begin to thank them enough for that. I will never forget when a little boy told me, “I’ve been knocked down a few times, but I still keep gett
We are all a part of this mission and we are all truly a part of the same team: Team Crossover.