The annual International Basketball Coaches’ Academy, scheduled to begin next week on November 6, is projected to draw 35 coaches from 12 countries to the AIA World Training and Resource Center in Xenia, Ohio, this year. This academy is just another example of the true global reach and impact Athletes in Action can have.
The academy began in 2009, born out of intense interest in learning more about the game from coaches who had been exposed to AIA (through AIA’s short-term international tours). Global sports director Eric Nelson says he would have coaches approach him at the end of a tour pleading with him for an opportunity to learn more about building a team and improving, not only their teams but the overall quality of basketball in their nations.
Coaches Receive High-Caliber Training in Skill and Leadership Development
Project director Megan Soderberg says between 20 to 25 coaches, including one female in each academy, from as many as six different nations across Africa, Asia, and Latin America, have participated in the first two academies.
“A lot (of the coaches) come because Eric invites them directly, but also our AIA national leaders in their countries promote the academy,” Soderberg says.
Once the coaches arrive for the two-week academy, they are exposed to high-caliber teaching from experts in various areas from coaching philosophy and skill development, to budgeting and leadership development.
“We bring in ‘basketball guys’ that are successful in life as well,” says Morris Michalski, who serves as program director for the academy.
The academy participants take several field trips to watch 4-5 local college and pro basketball games to see how the fundamentals they are being taught are put into practice.
“These are educational trips, not entertainment,” Michalski says. “We expect them to learn the techniques and principles we teach them. We have a final exam and they earn a diploma at the end, it’s not called an academy for no reason.”
According to Nelson, those coaches who have attended the academy have realized a certain level of success in the sport when they return to their respective homelands.
Most Return to Their Country to Dominate Their Sport
“We find that most of those who come, win their leagues and dominate the sport in their countries for a year or two after coming to the academy,” he says. “But they aren’t keeping it to themselves. When they go back, they share what they’ve learned with other coaches in their countries, and that is by design.”
In addition, and more importantly, what Michalski calls “education of the game,” attendees receive “heart education.”
“We teach personal development as well as professional development, and spiritual development is a huge part of personal development,” he says.
“The academy is some of the best direct ministry time we have”
Every day, during what is called “team time,” AIA staff share the Scriptures with the coaches and lead discussions about the spiritual aspects of life.
“The academy is some of the best direct ministry time we have,” Soderberg says. “It’s interesting to see how they open up to discussion of the Scripture and the spiritual principles—even the coaches from other religions are eager to participate in the conversation.”
Sharing the gospel is a team effort. Soderberg says all 12 staff members and their families are involved in this aspect. “One of our goals as a department is to truly love each other and be examples of Christ’s love,” she says. “That kind of love is something many of the coaches don’t see a lot of in their cultures, and we want to model that.”
Benefits AIA in Other Countries That Lack Resources for an Academy
Nelson says, “It’s a way to meet needs around the world and the way to meet the needs of local (AIA staff in those countries) who don’t have these types of resources readily available to them. It helps create a vision for ministry in their different countries. It’s like taking a mission trip to six different countries at once, not just in terms of time, but impact as well.”
Michalski adds, “The endgame is more than teaching how to win basketball games, it’s about teaching individuals how to build character and how to develop their spiritual lives (including having a personal relationship with Christ) as well.”