A Bit Worried…

By John Gillespie (@JohnG703)

I’ve been here in India for just under 4 hours now. So far in the little amount of time I’ve been here, I can already tell this is like noting I’ve ever experienced before. I’m exhausted as I’m writing this due to the time 9.5 hour time change, along with not getting much sleep on the plane.


I left Washington, D.C. Friday evening at 6 p.m. Between my flight from D.C. to Boston where I met up with the rest of the Crossover team, the six hour flight to London, and the 10 hour flight to Chennai (along with the time difference and layovers) we got to the houses we’re staying in around 6 a.m. Sunday morning in Chennai. I was a bit worried about whether or not I’d like the food here, but we had two Indian inspired dishes on the plane and they were really good.

Upon leaving the airport we drove through Chennai on our way to our housing. It’s very obvious the two financial extremes in the population. The poor seem to be very poor, and the rich seem very rich without much middle ground between the two.

The Crossover team has gone over briefly what our basic schedule will look like, and to say I’m excited would be quite an understatement. I’m looking forward to meeting the kidstomorrow and hope I can impart some useful information to them. I wish I was able to stay for the full two weeks, as I feel like this week is going to just fly by!

Growing Pains

By Hannah Bitzer

As the plane descended towards our final destination, I could remember the sensation of my nerves starting to act up and my stomach churning. This is my typical reaction when I decide to leave my safe, known life behind and prepare to dive into the depths of the unknown—going from the United States to Chennai, India. Everything I’ve known to be back in the states doesn’t necessarily apply here, a frightening notion as I try and learn an entirely new and different culture from my own in only a short amount of time. Until I stepped out of Chennai airport and into the humid, damp 5 a.m. morning air, I truly had no idea what I was going to see or experience.  The unknown of Chennai is intimidating and scary for me but this trip will provide me with the opportunity to open new doors which, while it is frightening, is important. Growing pains, whether literally or physically, are a necessary evil in life—a person must struggle before they can truly learn and grow.

The decision to come to India was a difficult one, especially for me, a comfort-zone freak. As I spoke to my family about the trip, they helped me understand the advantages that it could provide, in the work place and personally. My deciding factor was simple: passing up an opportunity like this would haunt me for the rest of my life.  It seems like a daunting, scary statement but as we get older, doing trips like this and visiting other countries becomes less and less possible, something my parents have emphasized over my life.  My parents have always stressed how much going abroad can change a person—a sentiment others have reiterated to me as I prepared to leave for these two weeks to Chennai.

I want to meet new people, eat new foods, see amazing sites and ultimately, after these two weeks, arrive in Logan a different, changed person.  My goal for India is simple: have fun, don’t hold back and see where these two weeks lead me!


Unseen Goodbyes

By Akshay Mundra

From the time that I said my final goodbyes in the U.S, friends and family were not the only things that I left behind. I’ve also said farewell to my bad attitude and selfishness, as well as the part of my mind that doesn’t delve deeper and just sees things on the surface. I’ve stopped being overly cautious and started to fully invest myself in this great opportunity. I brought with me an openmind and the idea that I should look deeper and see what really is, not what my mind wants.

Go With The Flow

By Neha Soneji Contractor

As I sit to think about what I left behind I realize there are a number of material items but, what I enjoy most is leaving

At American International School of Chennai - day 1

At American International School of Chennai – day 1

some of the everyday tasks I know I need to do back in the states.  However, the biggest thing I would have to say I’m doing my best to leave behind is my ego. Especially coming from a place where I feel I have everything I want and going to a third world country where we may not have everything we’re use to having.  On the flip side I think it’s crucial to have an open mind / go with the flow type of attitude as things may not go as planned.

As I was here during Crossover’s Inaugural trip last year, my expectations / experiences may be a bit different than most others.  This year has already started off so different than the previous year just with the simple fact that we have 10 more people on this trip.  Since we will be working with some of the kids from last year, I would like to see some continuation of what we taught from the previous year.  Really connect with the students and bring out the best in them.  This is our chance to show what we remembered about them, knowing what their strengths and weaknesses are.  I’m really excited to be working with these kids again.

A Parentless Adventure

By Zach Fitzgerald

When I left my comfortable home in Boxford, Massachusetts, to return to India for the second time, I had expected to come back to exactly what I had left just three years earlier.  What I left behind in the United States was the beneficial guidance that my parents had provided me with.  Prior to my departure of the U.S., I was advised through any task that I could be helped with.  I was aided until I wished not to be.  At this point, my parents are not by my side, they reside back in America, and I am on a parentless adventure, in the ever-changing land of India.

Ripped From Our Comfort Zones

By Maggie Brown (@MagsonWags)

Because the only travel I have ever embarked on outside of the United States involved white sand beaches, crystal clear ocean water, and fruity drinks under the sun, I had no idea what the city of Chennai would have in store for me upon our arrival in India this summer. Having studied India in a good amount of depth through several of my courses at Phillips Academy, I imagined what the journey may end up being like, but the words and descriptions of another person can ultimately only go so far in shaping your own preparedness for such a trip. I knew the nation was home to over a billion people, and that many of these people lived in extreme poverty while also dealing with devastating disease epidemics, but I had no idea what it would truly be like to call India home. While certainly not my home, our two week journey to Chennai with the Crossover Basketball program will give me a great sense of what life in India is like from the perspectives of numerous people who actually call India home.

Because I had absolutely no experience with foreign travel, I left the only way that I know how to live behind in the United States, ultimately traveling to India knowing nothing about the native way of life. Everything I know about the world I have essentially learned from growing up in one nation, and have only learned about other nations through educational endeavors and popular culture. Coming to India is my first chance to see another culture firsthand and see how one of the world’s largest populations of people live on a daily basis.

With this said, it will also be intriguing to see how I learn about the people of India and Chennai, given that the only way I know how to live is the American way. Already, in just a few short hours, I have realized that by giving up my American style of living, the daily tasks of life have become more difficult in India. For example, I cannot simply run my toothbrush under the sink whenever I need to brush my teeth, and I cannot just walk into the shower and expect hot water to rain on me. Furthermore, I cannot simply walk down the street at my own leisure without wandering into a risky venture, and I cannot leave the airport with gardening a hundred intense stares. These simple tasks that we take for granted back home cannot be done in India, and therefore they all constitute a portion of the lives that we have temporarily abandoned for the next two weeks.

I guess to sum it all up, the biggest thing that stayed behind in the United States as I boarded the British Airways flight bound for Chennai was the sense of comfort that comes from living in a place that is familiar, homey, and understood. Here in India, we have been ripped from our comfort zones and the life in which that zone existed, and placed into a situation destined to make us uncomfortable while also teaching us to adapt through learning. Because the trip has just begun, I do miss these comforts, and wish I could snap my fingers and make them re-appear. But, I know as the trip progresses the things that are uncomfortable will become more familiar, and in two weeks may even become something we see as normal despite our residence, and not only associated with living in another country, specifically the nation of India.

As India Approaches

By Jon Metzgar

As my journey to India approaches, thoughts of excitement and fear are appearing my head. As I have never been in a developing country before, I really don’t know what to expect and I still don’t know what I am getting myself into. The reason why I am nervous is because I have never even thought of going to this part of the world before, and like I said, really don’t know what to expect.

My excitements include helping out the kids and coaches, visiting places I have never been before, learning new things about teh world, and maybe, just maybe  trying some new Indian foods. I am still nervous to do these things but I know that I need to do them in order to grow as a person and become more well-rounded and aware.

Court at St. Patrick's School

Court at St. Patrick’s School – Chennai

My fears include the dirtiness of where we will be, the diseases swarming the country, the dirtiness of the water and some foods, the crazy heat and humidity that comes with it, and the fact that, if need be, I will be 24 hours away from home by plane. The distance from home factor is probably my biggest fear, knowing that I wont be able to see my family for over two weeks.

However, with all these fears in mind, I am excited to undertake and overcome them with George (Baldini) and Coach Jay (Shaun Jayachandran).

A Little Nervous, A Little Anxious

By George Baldini

By George Baldini

By George Baldini

As the summer days fly by and our trip to India that once seemed so far away is now just around the corner, I’m not going to lie: I’ve started to become a little nervous, but anxious as well. I’ve never experienced something like this before. However, at the same time, I am very eager to take part in such a life-changing trip. Teaching, mentoring, and coaching are all aspects I’d like to pursue in my future. While simultaneously trying to listen and ignore my dad’s consistent advice about safety and health, this trip will be a great challenge – but a fun one; one I can’t wait to experience and achieve. I am thrilled to go with my classmate, teammate, and best friend Jon Metzgar, along with my coach, teacher, and new advisor. Having these two guys with me will lessen my feelings of homesickness, nervousness, and the like. I also can’t wait to meet the others going with us and develop new and lasting friendships. Another one of the aspects that convinced me to go on this trip was the fact that I’ll have the opportunity to meet these young, aspiring kids, change their lives, and create unique and lasting friendships with them as well. A passionate photographer, I’m going to bring my camera to try to capture hopefully all of these special moments.

I can’t wait until this Friday comes and we take off for such a life-changing experience.

By George Baldini

By George Baldini

90% = 172 Million

In India – 4 percent of children never start school, 57 percent don’t complete primary school and almost 90 percent — around 172 million — will not complete secondary school.

Many of us have been blessed to have had people in our lives from a young age who have taught us not just the 3 R’s but also the skills to be successful in academic settings. Leadership, teamwork, communication, and character are integral skills in order to find success in the classroom beyond just the raw intelligence needed to succeed. Having worked in private schools for 10 years, I can attest to the success and failures of underprivileged students who have been provided openings at schools. And the difference between these has always been the educating of students to these ingrained skills that help them win in the game of education.

Let’s get this figured out – and continue to push Hoops Creating Hope through Crossover to the next level.

The Mind Game

By: Kaustubh Garimella. Kaustubhis a sophomore at Northwestern University and has previously volunteered in India helping students learn basketball.

Basketball is just as much a mental exercise as it is physical one. Coaches often talk about basketball IQ as an important factor in a player’s development. Whether it’s knowing where to be on a defensive rotation or knowing how to orchestrate the pick and roll, every player has to be a student of the game to be successful. There’s a reason why Duke has always been a successful college program, even though they often don’t have NBA talent. But that begs the question, how do you refine your basketball IQ?

Crossover Students with Coaches – Summer 2012

Basketball is a team sport at its core, and that’s where most of the mental learning begins. Listening to your coaches and your teammates is the only way to all be on the same page come tipoff. Great teams will always cite communication as the number one reason why they win.
In addition, it’s important to study opponents as well. If you’re sitting on the bench, or watching game film – watch the opposing players, especially the ones who play your position. See if they favor their right hand or left, or have a favorite move in the post. Check if they aggressively go for the steal, or lay back into the paint. Understand their game so as to maximize yours against them.

Most importantly, basketball IQ affects how you perform in crunch time situations. When the game is on the line, even the slightest mental mistake has a huge impact on the game. When the clock is ticking, you as a player have to able to combine what you’ve learned in practice and what you learned by observation to execute the current play without hesitation. Shield the ball handler away from his strong hand, call a teammate over for a trap, get a steal and run the break.

Communication and teamwork all help build the pyramid of success both individually as a player and leader, and as a team. Let’s everyone have a great season and go get those W’s.

Edited with contributions by Shaun Jayachandran – Founder of Crossover Basketball and Scholars Academy

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