Just a little HOPE….

By Guest Blogger Matt Sagar

I remember the day like it was yesterday.  It was a moment that I had been waiting for since making the varsity squad.  We were the home team with the 3rd ranked high school team in the country coming for a visit.  Butterflies, stomach in knots, I saw my name on the starters board for the pre-game talk.  What?!  A starter?!  I can’t describe the feeling that came over me.  All of the hard work and waiting had finally paid off.  Finally, my confidence was at an all time high, which showed in my performance that night!  From a team perspective, we lost by a slight margin of 5 points to the third ranked team in the country.  As a player, the start and overall performance sparked a competitive edge that I had never felt before.  I was dubbed a starter and competing with student athletes committed to programs like Georgetown, Virginia, Kentucky, Maryland, Virginia Tech, George Mason, and Clemson.  Yet, the new competitive edge and overall confidence was not confined on the court.

It is amazing how confidence can transform just about anyone or anything.  Whether you are a high school basketball star, a professional NBA team, or a Fortune 500 company, confidence in your ability to perform is what drives competition and accomplishes goals.  When I finally got my starting position, the game played out just the way I wanted it to as a player.  As a team, that is a different story.  Every shot I took was going in, done deal!  It was a mind set that I remember distinctly, and frankly, still carry with me to this day with all of my endeavors.  Yet, sparking confidence is a lot easier said than done.  Why is it that across the country and across the world there are kids and young adults that can hit 25 foot jump shots almost automatically, but can’t solve an equation on a test?  Why is it that A+ students can breeze through their homework and tests, but struggle on the athletic playing field where they want to make it?  Where all they want is just that one chance to prove he or she can play!  Now, there are a lot of factors that have to be considered when it comes to a developing basketball player or a growing student.  But, confidence should never have to lack in either part.  The development of a successful team and athletes starts with confidence.  There has to be that trust and bond between players and coaches, as well as students and teachers.  Too many times, there are athletes and students that fall apart simply because they believe they can’t (I know by experience, because I have been through many scenarios where I just wanted to quit because I found my task to be impossible).

Failure is inevitable, but it is not the final decision that deems things to be “impossible.”  Still, many students and athletes alike lose confidence and give up when they lose a game, can’t make their free throws, fail a chemistry exam, or think the coach doesn’t know what he or she is doing. Playing the third ranked team in the nation, yes, we lost, but it was an experience that changed how I thought of myself and the team.  It was a time for everyone on the team to bounce back from the loss and get back to work.  After a hard fought game against a highly ranked team, we knew we could play with the best!  As a student, I have struggled on occasion with some tests and exams, but still managed to work hard, believe in myself, and graduate from a prestigious institution.  “Impossible” should never be part of a young student-athletes vocabulary nor part of a developing team.  As Michael Jordan once said, “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something.  But I can’t accept not trying.”

Confidence creates ambition.  MJ would not have been the player he was without his confidence and the championship teams would not be called champions without confidence in each other.  Great ambitions rule the world and Crossover is here to develop young student-athletes to have confidence in the pursuit of passions and desires on and off the basketball court.

Whatever you want to be can be done. So….

What do you want to accomplish today?

Getting Involved with Crossover

By Guest Blogger Mike Hazipanajotis

I decided to become involved in Crossover Basketball and Scholars Academy based upon two very important tenets; that education is the silver bullet, regardless of citizenship or status, and my deep respect for its founder, Shaun Jayachandran.

With India being the emerging nation and economy that it is, the success and training of its children is paramount. Throughout the world, there is always one common language or thread that brings everyone together; sport. This is especially true with children, and particularly with young boys. The mission of leveraging the potential of India’s youth with sport, while fostering their academic development, is a lofty goal worth notice.

I’m proud to stay that I am a part of something so special and would encourage anyone with interest to do the same.

Basketball, New York City and People from India

The first two and the last two go together regularly without hesitation. Combining all three – not so much. I headed down to see a tournament in New York just the other weekend, which was both normal and unusual. This tournament was different than any other I had seen, or even heard of for that matter, because all the teams comprised of athletes of South Asian descent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan). The teams came from all over North America – including Vancouver, Toronto, parts of California, Philadelphia and various parts of New York.

And let’s be honest, for half of you the thought of adult Indians playing basketball in a tournament probably brought about a mental image of computer programmers, lawyers, doctors and engineers trying not to trip over themselves and being too short to even touch the net. I’m here to say – it was completely the opposite. The competition level was fairly high for an adult league. Some of the teams even included men who had previously played at the college level (varying degrees) or who could currently play for some schools. (I on the other hand turned down an offer to join to play in the evening all-star game – I hadn’t brought my periodic table along with me to break down all the elements of the competition).

The games were certainly motivational and intense. Each one was played with competitive spirit and grit. I couldn’t help but crack a smile every few minutes in seeing so many athletes who had broken the same stereotype that I had during their life about South Asians and sports. And so many who were passionate and adamant about how basketball had positively impacted their lives, whether they were born abroad or here in the US. The life lessons go well beyond the basketball court.

Akshat Tewary, one of the co-directors of the tournament (who also competed in the tournament), and is an immigration lawyer who had previously played basketball at Columbia as an undersized power forward (with a lot of technically sound post moves) spoke considerably about the far reach of the tournament and how there are events all over the country. He could not emphasize enough how big basketball was to the South Asian community and that Crossover was an idea that had an immense amount of potential. Akshat himself was 7 when his family moved to New Jersey from India. Really – do people still want to say that kids from India can’t ball?

And just like at any tournament there were definitely some high fliers in the group, some big bigs and some shifty guards. It was, spoiler alert, a strong basketball tournament with what happened to be a bunch of guys of Indian descent. Basketball is alive and well in the South Asian communities. Now, even more so, I can’t wait to help open more educational doors for students yearning for opportunities still in India.

Crossover Tip Off Puts India, Basketball at Forefront of Efforts

Crossover’s Tip-off event was awesome. Attendees included those with interests in India (Chennai), Basketball, Education, and wanting to find a way to volunteer or get involved. I want to once again thank Ajit Verghese for his unbelievably kind introduction, as well as The Lansdowne Pub and their marketing manager, Meghan Harrell.

I cannot express how wonderful it was to see such a strong turnout of supporters who believe and value the idea of Crossover Basketball. While I am not the most excited person to jump up and give a speech, I do feel like everyone left feeling empowered to take an active role. This project goes far beyond myself and therefore the more ideas, hands, strength, and resources that we can combine, the more we willbe able to accomplish.

So what will your role be? How can you help this project truly flourish? Do you want to volunteer to help within the organization, commit to speaking with people about this great project designed to helping students gain access to educational opportunities, and are you going to help us meet our financial goals to make this endeavor a success?

Who are you going to be?

On a side note – I want to share a note of sadness on the passing of a former Bishop Ireton student who had returned to join the faculty this fall in his first year out of college. Rob Sagar was a model student, citizen, classmate, and athlete (ran Division 1 Cross Country and Track at William & Mary) and had a positive impact on every person he crossed paths with. His twin brother Matt played for me and carries all of these qualities and to this day remains the best shooter I have ever coached. My prayers and thoughts go out to the Sagar family.

Thinking About Coaches…

It’s funny – you hear so much growing up about the influences a coach has on this player or that player and as a kid you wait for it. But it’s something that doesn’t appear right away. Not every coach instantly becomes ingrained in someones brain and heart. Sometimes it takes time, or perspective to understand the lessons being taught before they can be learned.

A huge influence in my life, on and off the playing field, has been my father. But as my soccer coach, he taught me invaluable lessons about being a leader and about seeing beyond the exterior of a person. The lesson that I have never forgot is the one of how to be a leader. It was a regular practice for our indoor soccer team on our way to an unbelievable season (we went 24-1-1 with a silver medal in the Provincial tournament), but during this early season practice one of my teammates was off fooling around by shooting baskets with the soccer ball (ironic isn’t?). As my dad walked over to issue the amount of laps he was going to have to run he also called me over and issued the same punishment.

I was confused and hurt but ran the laps regardless and finished our practice. On our way home, after my dad dropped off probably four of my teammates, I finally mustered the courage to question my father’s decision about making me run the laps for someone elses lack of focus. He looked at me and in that way that dad’s can speak to the soul of their child and said,  “A captain is the leader of the team and is responsible for his teammates. You can’t just be the face of success without being responsible for every member of your team.”

Truer words have not been spoken. Leaders need to be willing to meet their teammates and help raise them to the level of play that is expected. Playmakers may need to make plays, but the greats will make sure that others around them are raised to that same level of play.

I have had the pleasure of being influenced by some amazing men and even more so in having been coached by or coached under – and I hope to speak more about these influences who have helped shape my vision.

Thanks Dad!

Do you like apples?


Photo by Venkat Srinivasan

One of the best feelings I have been experiencing lately has been in hearing/seeing/reading the reaction of people to the theory and concept behind Crossover.

One supporter from DC said “This sounds like a terrific organization – and one that has real potential to create change.” Obviously, you’re here reading our blog and that means that your curiosity is piqued. People see the benefits in the concept of basketball education for children in India, that the theory behind it makes sense, and that it could have a profound long term effect.

Basketball is now more popular than cricket in Chennai. In my own travels there – my parents are originally from Chennai – I have seen the roots of interest as far back as nine years ago when I found outdoor pick-up games (let’s just say it was good for the ego). This author, writing in Indian sports blog Sportskeeda, agrees with me: “Tamil Nadu – Where Basketball is more than a game.”

And that interest in basketball all starts with the youth. Did everyone hear me? Time for someone to actually connect the dots. If basketball has jumped to being the most popular sport in Chennai, then we’re going to the right place. We won’t need to convince players or the city of the validity of the sport. And the beauty is that while other brands simply felt like it was necessary that they had to tap into the Indian market place and simply go to the cities that people in the US automatically may have heard of (but not too many – let’s be honest), Crossover is going over not only with a mission to use basketball beyond the lines on the court but also taken a strategic plan towards choosing the best location and overall interest to build our program.

For every person that has also shared with me that basketball is not going to be popular in India or that Indian kids won’t even recognize a basketball, I say: do your homework. And when you’re looking for talent, why wouldn’t you go to the hot spot of the sport? In the basketball world (I know that not all of you love a rotating defense after a hedged double team on a screen and roll) talent grows from competition and passion. Just look at the most competitive high school leagues in the US (both the DC and NYC Catholic School Conferences). The time is now my friends.

“Look, Mr. Zen Master, you may be in tune with the ice universe, but when it comes to my kid, “I just know” doesn’t cut it!” – The Mighty Ducks

Ideas don’t work just because you market the heck out of them with a ton of money, just look at New Coke, and the same is true in developing a basketball culture that fits within the framework of India. So let’s all find our inner peace and put on a full court press.

If you’re not moving forward…

Grinding. That’s what it feels like right now. Just like those fall workouts where it seems like the games are forever and a day away and you have to find the inner passion to self-motivate. Get to the gym, get up shots, work on your handle (dribbling), and conditioning. None of those seem particularly exciting some days and yet that’s what produces results – the work done before the team is all-together; before the plays are drawn out or the scouting reports prepared – the grind.

So here we are at CBSA, through most of the paperwork, website up and running, donations being passively accepted, have made a great connection with Pat Burke of ebasketballdrills.com (very cool concept – excited to have them involved), volunteers starting to join, but we’re still in a bit of a self-motivating phase. The best news was not only reconnecting with my friend David from high school (my first coaching stint was with him as juniors and seniors coaching 11-12year olds in Falls Church, VA) but the fact that he is working at the US Consulate Office in Chennai! The public launch/kick-off event is going to happen in October (special thanks to Meghan Harrell at the Lyons Group), the advisory group phone call is also a month away and we’re in limbo mode waiting to hear back from the shoe companies.

But just because we are past the initial buzz of the organization does not mean the hustle has ended. And if you have ever tried to get in touch with the Indian Association of Greater Boston – you would know that it takes some hustle. For an organization who just threw a great India Day event on August 15, I was shocked that their email address kept bouncing back emails. And even though the website has been set-up, now the goal is to increase our presence through social media by increasing the number of people globally who both “Like” our fan page on Facebook (search Crossover Basketball and Scholars Academy) and following us on Twitter (@CrossoverBBall). As of writing this post, we are at 76 and 37 respectively.

So the momentum and onus is on us (yes, I’m including you who are reading this as part of the solution) to generate interest, to bring us up in conversations with friends and not let the wheels slow down. We have a chance to change the world for not just students next year but to help set the tone of how athletics and education can coexist without either being sacrificed.

“Great ambition and conquest without contribution is without significance. What will your contribution be? How will history remember you?” – William Hundert “The Emperors’ Club”

I believe that if you are reading this blog – you are already interested in finding a way to contribute to what we are trying to do. So get in touch, fill out the online forms, decide that you will not only make a donation but also reach out to others about our work and encourage their involvement.

How will history remember you?

“My team’s on the floor!”

So to make sure CBSA was moving forward at full speed – I decided a day trip into the heart of NYC would only seem appropriate. The day’s two most important meetings were to be with a founder of Hoops India and later with JD Walsh. The other pieces were to try and actually speak to a person at Adidas and Nike as well as get some information on NPO bank accounts.

The first meeting of the day with Neel of Hoops India was great. We met up at Aroma Cafe on Houston Street just off of Broadway. Interesting spot that was so close to all the tourists and yet not a single tourist was there to my knowledge. The coffee was great and so was the meeting. Hoops India is a for profit company that wants to build up the popularity of the sport in India. Neel had some great insights into navigating the terrain and definitely was great to meet in person and get to know.

Meetings with the banks; not such an easy task. Each bank has their own policies of course, while one woman at a Bank of America branch essentially told me that there were no specific programs for NPO’s. Not believing her led me to a different branch and some much more clear information. This “simple” experience of meeting with various banks to gather information proved to be quite the study of personalities. While some banks had no one around to greet me, and most seemed prepared to offer a lot of overviews and “should we start the paperwork now” only one took the time to get to know what we were about, what prompted the idea and actually asked questions about the execution. Guess who left the best impression. Want to meet with one more bank up here in Boston before opening the account (ie – give me another few days before everyone starts flooding us with wire transfers and checks).

I ended my time in NYC getting to sit down with JD Walsh. I had met JD before both via social media and in person. If you don’t know about JD – you should. Here is a man who has been praised by former United States Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage for his outstanding efforts in international public diplomacy for his work in China, India, Israel, and Kashmir along with having been awarded a grant from the State Department. He’s both a businessman and a committed humanitarian and is easily considered a friend. We had a great talk about camps in India; the common pitfalls and difficulties of sustaining a successful business over there. Regardless of your role, JD Walsh is hopefully a name you will remember is certainly someone who will be kept in the loop as CBSA moves forward on this endeavor.

Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to catch up with Peter Robert Casey or Susan Shan but there are still plenty of days to do that. There are only so many hours in a day.

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” Lao Tzu

This journey is only just beginning but nothing great ever started without those first few steps. So who’s up for going on this walk?

Full Court Press

Welcome to the first blog entry of Crossover Basketball and Scholars Academy. This has been an idea in my mind for the past two and a half years in trying to find a way to incorporate my love of teaching and basketball and combine that with wanting to continue to learn more about my parents history and culture. Having been born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, Canada (on the Rockies in Canada) before moving to the US in the middle of high school by parents from India, the emphasis on education is unparalleled in any other culture. This extreme emphasis by the first wave of immigrants usually prevented most children of Indian backgrounds from participating in any major group/team events as it is seen as distraction away from the overall goal of individual academic accomplishments. But as the world continues to move further towards a globalization of all cultures, the ever changing India will need to begin developing leaders and citizens who will be able to use this harness this methodology of teamwork and camaraderie to lead the future.

This venture into applying the basic theory of sport in America and Canada to a foreign country seems so simple and yet is so far removed from what other organizations offer. The concept of providing opportunities for those in India has been modeled in my family for years. My father and mother have forever been committed to helping those still in India and made sure to remind my brother and I about how blessed we were to be in Canada and the US. The resiliency of my parents in sacrificing and committing themselves to ensure a future full of opportunities and possibilities for us resonated beyond just the classroom and playing fields but into the fiber of our beings. For that I am forever grateful to them and this project would not even have been started without their love and guidance.

Many days were spent in my science department office the last three years considering and debating the best practices for creating a model towards an all-encompassing learning experience with my good friend, the late Cliff Goodband. Cliff had been the Head of the Upper School for nearly 20 years prior to my arrival and quite literally took me under his wing to follow and expand our similar ideology of education and continue to develop my teaching style all while battling cancer for nearly two years – and a refusal to not be forced into not teaching. That strength and determination, almost identical to that of my father in building a life in Canada and the US while only starting with $6 in his pocket upon landing, are traits and skills of men who are committed to doing things the right way, to teaching the right way and to making others better around them with very little fanfare.
So why can’t sport be a combination of ideas that goes beyond attempting to create a superstar for marketing purposes but rather a classroom for leadership, teamwork, character, principle, discipline, improvement through effort and time and all those pieces of society that we are in the midst of missing with the corruption that occurs in business and government. Why can’t the principles of John Wooden continue to be preached and taught to an even wider audience rather than just in books? Why can’t young men and women be taught the “right way” to do things rather than society just assuming that some people just don’t understand? Why can’t we use sport, like it has so often in the past, connect education and people in a way that goes beyond competition?

So here we are – making history and starting a program that combines all of my passions in a way that should help the future of many. Crossover Basketball and Scholars Academy is on the cusp of starting something that while interested in short term results is also excited about being around for many years to come. Thank you for visiting CBSA’s website, for having an interest in a more global society that values other countries not just for what they can do for us but how we can share with them.

“You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.” – John Wooden

Let’s try and have a few perfect days.

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