We not only believe that sport has the power to change lives but, through our work with our worldwide partner organisations (NGOs), we see that happen every day. I am always impressed by the powerful, worldwide impact that development through sport programmes has on the lives of the future leaders. In my position at the adidas Group, I have the pleasure to work closely together with strong partners. One of them is ‘Promo Jeune Basket’, a basketball grassroots organisation whose objective is to educate the youth of the Congo. A great project.
We just returned from Goma where, for two weeks, eight adidas volunteers strove to support PJB’s mission – education through basketball. It’s fascinating to see how a new generation of leaders both within Goma and the broader Democratic Republic of the Congo get inspired by their and our work.
Today, the programme provides not only well-organised, high-quality basketball training for over 1,000 young people on five different courts across the city, but also supports their scholastic and life education.
Through its basketball-related programmes, PJB strives to create a country led by well-informed, responsible citizen leaders who possess the discipline and skills they need to build the future they deserve.
PJB’s goal is to promote positive youth development and citizenship through high-quality basketball instruction and top-tier academic training. Furthermore, an integrated life skills programme helps to encourage young members to focus on the future, avoid risk and engage in the world with a global perspective. At the heart of all the programmes are PJB’s core values of discipline, team spirit, hard work and respect.
For PJB players, the organisation is not just a team – it’s a family. “If I cannot be with my teammates on the basketball court every day, I get stomach ache,” Christivy, one of the young leaders, told us.
And when we discussed with the girl teams about respect, they stated that the basketball court is the rare place where they experience respect in their daily lives.
With long, full days, the volunteers too become part of the PJB family. Dario Merlo, founding member of PJB: “When we created this organisation, we saw it as a movement that will create open-minded Congolese citizens, and being in touch with adidas members coming from different countries with different backgrounds and different expertise contributes to that. Every year, the volunteers bring something special and new to the lives of a thousand kids; they give their time and show love for the kids. They live with us the same way we do all year long and they fit perfectly. At PJB and adidas we share the same values.”
The application of these values through sport is building responsible youth of today and the Congolese leaders of tomorrow. Leadership in life is related to sports values – this became clear again while being with PJB.
“As a leader you should never stop training and striving to be better. You have to leave your comfort zone and push yourself constantly for more.”
In sports and in life you play to win
Sometimes you have to change the game long term by thinking beyond the next quarter and working together. Just like in basketball.
For Marceline, the captain of the girls’ elite team, PJB is more than basketball and education – it’s been a way to a new and different perception of herself. She explained: “I have become so much more responsible. I have to be able to manage and take care of the other girls. My main job as captain is to be in service to everyone. If any of the girls have a problem, I have to be able to help them solve it. As captain you need to be better, more responsible, more orderly, and always, always in service to the others.” Her work has paid off both for herself and her team. Marceline continues to be successful in school and last season led the PJB Elite girls’ team to victories at the city and provincial level.
Marceline is not alone in her learned leadership and team spirit. Inside the Promo Jeune Basket (PJB) office in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a boldly printed slogan proclaims: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” The collaboration between PJB and adidas puts this slogan into action. And again it comes back to sports: You have to team up for top results. PJB not only grows the players, but also encourages them to grow others. That means players who started with PJB years ago were developed and coached to build on their strengths and are today the young leaders for the next generation. The young leaders coach the youngsters and the baby-basket teams while also supporting the coaches during practices and games.
The partnership with PJB impacts not only their programme and members, but also our volunteers.
“Working with the coaches and the kids was truly inspiring and eye-opening for the things that really matter in life…family, friendship and happiness. Every single day at PJB you experience and feel that SPORT HAS THE POWER TO CHANGE LIVES”,
Lea Musekamp, Manager Health and Fitness
Thibault Blesbois (Clearance Category eCommerce, adidas Amsterdam) summarises the impact and importance of this experience and the shared partnership: “Our trip to Goma has been a unique experience, if not the most amazing in my life. While our main objective was to bring hope, sports skills and structure, and time to share with Congolese kids, it turned out that I received much more than I could possibly expect. The hundreds of kids, the young leaders, the coaches, the PJB staff, all taught me about appreciation, respect, team spirit and happiness. The kids participating in the PJB project are so eager to learn, making it really easy to work with them and help them in their development. Starting originally with next-to-nothing, PJB has managed to transform the lives of thousands of kids of Goma; and with the help of adidas, it has now become a very sustainable project, shaping the future of DRC.”
“In leaving their comfort zone the adidas volunteers came to not only impart their knowledge, but also to learn from the players, whose enthusiasm was contagious.”
On the compound you could hear the coaches shouting out loud the question “ready?” and the answer of hundreds of youngsters “ready!” was just a blast. Ready, that’s what they are. Ready for basketball and ready to make a change in their lives and, together, in their community and country.