BY: Ali Jorgensen
Basketball has been a part of my life since I was five years old. My passion for this sport has taken me from playing competitively, to coaching, and now to an entirely different part of the world.
For the past two weeks, I was given an amazing opportunity to travel to Vietnam and coach basketball in three different cities with the local non-profit Pinnacle Hoops International, founded by former Redmond High School (RHS) graduate, Guinness World Record free throw holder, and a good friend of mine, Ashley Graham.
To me, basketball is way more than just a sport. I’ve learned countless life lessons and my goal is to share those lessons with young athletes and communities all over the world. Within the past two weeks, I’ve been able to witness the incredible impact basketball can make in different countries and cultures.
The goal of Pinnacle Hoops International is to provide free basketball camps in communities that may lack the equipment or infrastructure to offer high level training. Throughout our journey in Vietnam, we reached over 250 kids, coached 10 camps, and met incredible people along the way. We started our journey in Quang Tri, a small province in the middle of Vietnam. This area is still recovering from the Vietnam War with daily efforts being made to clean up the destruction that occurred. In Quang Tri we worked with middle school and high school aged girls and boys who were very new to basketball. It was incredibly inspiring to see how much they all learned in such a short amount of time. We were on a beautiful outdoor court that was built by a volunteer group from Duke University in August. The coolest part about our time in Quang Tri was that we helped the community start a basketball program. On the last day we were there, paper work was signed to create the QT Tigers Basketball Club. Basketball will continue to be a part of that community and also grow in the surrounding provinces.
Our second set of camps were in the even smaller town of Phong Dien. The community there was full of joy and appreciation for what we were doing. The teachers cancelled school that day so all of the kids could attend our camp. Additionally, many other kids and parents came to the school to watch and support the wonderful work we were doing.
Our third and final camp was at the NYX sports complex in Hue. Many of the kids here were more experienced basketball players so we were able to push them harder. It was really fun working with a group we could challenge with higher intensity drills.
Throughout the camps we coached with a couple professional basketball players currently playing in Vietnam. It was amazing to see the impact they made on the kids throughout the camps and how much the young campers looked up to them.
The reason why this is all worth it is because of the smile on the kids’ faces. The pure joy that comes from making a basket or successfully executing a crossover is why I do this. Even when there is a language barrier, you can still teach the fundamentals and create something that is fun for the kids. The smiles, the laughter, the honest joy and appreciation is why I love this game and will continue to have it be a part of my life. Even the smallest interactions can create a huge impact in these communities and be a lasting memory for everyone involved. :)