By Shilpa Agrawal


Akka*, where do you go home? (Akka means “older sister” in Tamil).

I live in America.

Akka, what do you eat at home?

Idlis, dosas, curd.

Really? Are you Indian?

At 3:45pm more than 300 children started streaming in, some wearing shoes, some wearing elaborate salwars, some wearing school uniforms, some with their teachers, some returning participants, some who don’t speak any english, but all with a huge smile on their face.

Akka, are we playing basketball today? They just couldn’t wait.

The American International School in Chennai, is a school that mirrors the preppiest schools in the US in looks and price. With a large indoor gym, a full-sized swimming pool, tennis courts, a learning center, and so much more, the school feels like an escape from the streets of Chennai. During the two weeks of Crossover, the school generously donates its facilities for the camp. For the participants, this is astounding. Many of the Crossover participants have never before experienced A/C, or washed their hands in such clean water.

“Today we are going to learn shooting, passing, and dribbling. Can someone tell me what that is?”

Goal, throwing, and bouncing, miss!

That day my partner, Kiran, and I ran the basketball station in the indoor courts. We took four sets of ~40 kids each through a 25-min workout of passing, dribbling, and layups. Given that it was the first day, we were not prepared for the chaos that would ensue. Whether it was the fact that the students had spent the entire day in the classroom and now they wanted to get all their energy out, or the fact that students could not understand English at a high enough level so it took 2-3 explanations and demos to finally convey the message, or the fact that students were just so excited to see basketballs and hoops and the number of coaches was no match for the number of students that were there. Despite all of this, it was nothing but rewarding to see each student end each drill with a huge smile on their face.

The Crossover program is based on 4 pillars: Leadership, Character, Teamwork and Communication, and on the first day we emphasized the importance of teamwork. Most of the students came in with little concept of gender integration and supporting each other. They were mainly interested in pushing to the front of the line to do the drills or trying to shoot the ball with every opportunity we got.

No matter how tired we were, we ended each session by thanking the students and letting them know that their presence was noticed and valued.

Thank you for being good teammates! Give the person next to you a high five!

Thank you for having fun with us…BASKETBALL ON THREE!


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