This week’s post is written by Nasiphi (Nas) Khafu, Durban-City Area Coordinator and coach extraordinaire, who recently returned from a US State Department sponsored exchange in Washington, DC and Nashville, TN – USA as part of a group of 12 South African coaches .
Being overseas for me was always just a dream; I never thought it would happen so soon. When I found out I was one of the twelve coaches from South Africa selected by SportsUnited for their exchange program to the United States, I couldn’t believe it. I was so excited to represent my country and PeacePlayers International. I started putting thoughts together of what America must look like. I could not wait to go; I counted every day and every second! My goal was to absorb all the knowledge and culture that I possibly could.
The sponsor of our trip, SportsUnited, exceeded all my expectations for the programme. It went beyond anything I could have imagined. We were all blown away, especially by the coordinators of the programme Kelli Davis, Daniel Nieh, and Socrates Manuel. We were introduced to all levels of basketball from the elementary level, to AAU programmes, high schools, college, all the way up to the professional NBA! Everything was extremely well organised and they made sure that we were exposed to the many levels of American Basketball.
For the SA coaches, this was like living a dream. Basketball is such a huge part of the American culture. This was evident just by seeing the standard of the facilities and the amount of indoor courts available to play in. Even when turning on your television at the hotel, all you see is basketball games! This was unreal to us; we have never seen anything like this before. We all realized that there is still so much to be done to develop the game in our country. We were also fortunate to visit during “March Madness,” the famous NCAA Basketball Championship where colleges around the US participate in a huge tournament; fighting to win the National Championship. All these games are televised and people go crazy for the month of March!
This experience showed me that sport in the US is taken very seriously: It’s not just a game, it’s a business. This really made me think, and I realised that South Africa still has a long way to go. Our government and society needs to be willing to invest in developing sport in South Africa. There are many organizations, including PeacePlayers, that are working to develop basketball here. There is so much opportunity to create sustainable growth; we need a more defined, regulated system of basketball in our country to help achieve this goal.
I want to extend my gratitude SportsUnited for seeing the importance of basketball in my country, and for doing everything possible to make sure that we had a positive and beneficial experience. I will do everything I can in my organisation, in high schools, communities and universities to help and share this knowledge that I have received. Thank you to the PPI family for this wonderful opportunity, I hope more opportunities like this continue to come in the future.
For more photos from Nas’ time in the US, check out SportsUnited’s full album of the trip.