Passing through the undulating slopes of Tafira Alta, a residential area in the center of the island of Gran Canarias, you cannot imagine that one of these spacious colonial-style houses -with a large garden that invites serenity- in fact concentrates a powerful passion flow roaring from dawn. This is the Canarias Basketball Academy. There, youngsters coming from the most diverse corners of the world are willing to transform their dreams into reality: to become outstanding basketball players. Adrian, our son, has been attending the academy for just 6 months; and went back home for Christmas. But we met guys who have been there for two to three years without having the opportunity to visit their families so often since they are far away from their countries. Whilst few others have the blessing of being able to see their relatives every week because they live on the Island.
Hard work, discipline, perseverance and good guidance seem to be the infallible formula to overcome all challenges and improving sport performance. At least, this is the approach of Rob Orellana, a former player of the United States university league (NCAA) and former coach at international level who stablished this high-performance basketball center on the Canary Islands. The first time I heard of the academy was through the TV program Robinson Report which Adrian, our son, used to watch constantly, as in his veins flows basketball instead of blood. Basketball has constituted his passion for more than eight years now. Actually, people wonder why, because he is not that tall. However, he takes advantage of other important skills for his position which he has developed doing gymnastics and playing soccer since he was 4 (speed, peripheral gaze, high jumps and agility in his movements). Anyhow, he is aware that he still needs to improve a lot. And looking for options to achieve such a goal he discovered the CBA. Then he met the team personally at one of the national basketball competitions and he knew exactly where he wanted to go. Participating in the CBA summer camp in 2015 did confirm his suspicion.
And there he is! Sharing bedroom with Toño (a Mexican two meters tall and with a ton of sweetness in his eyes!) like the brother he always wanted to have. And sharing also with all others for whose stories and traditions he is interested: Sven, Luis, Maodo, Roger, Azael, Quique, Marcel, Yoram, Samu, Haarry, Edu, Kjell, and so on. We were not only introduced to them gradually (their names were already familiar by the stories and photos that Adrian had shared with us) but we had the opportunity of talking to some of them, asking about their experiences of being in the academy, longings, challenges, aspirations… And we observed happiness in their eyes due to the fact of being able to pursue their passion. We also appreciated a good cheer among them. This multicultural environment is just perfect for Adrian as he considers himself a citizen of the world. He was born in Venezuela and his life has elapsed between Belgium, Denmark and four different communities of Spain. But beyond the cultural richness multiculturalism gives, I think those comradely relations are a fundamental asset for the boys, because the fact remains that they have chosen a sacrificial life path and, in the absence of their relatives, they support each other a lot.
The CBA family cheering the team at the Sunday 13th, 2016 match.
The great discipline and commitment that those youngsters demonstrate is admirable. They have leaved the comfort of their homes to assume an intense and demanding regime. However, they seem to be happy. As I mentioned, I guess it is so because they are doing what they like most. In addition, they are weaving fraternities with streams of solidarity and empathy, jumping over cultures and languages and becoming a big family. I love how the short film Dodo captures the essence of these guys live. In just a minute and a half it shows the meaning of their consecration.
Training. March 11th, 2016.
Besides the sport-related demands, they have the responsibility of their studies. These boys devote a few hours every day to attend school and do home-works, write essays, prepare for exams, etc. Fortunately they have the support of two tutors doing a commendable job. The one dealing with Spanish speaking schools is Ana Rosas, a charming and super well prepared girl: she´s got a Degree in Education, another one in Marketing and Public Relations, and she is also a Journalist. As if that was not enough she has also been a basketball player. With such a professional profile she is the ideal person for the job. It is very difficult to express in words our deep gratitude, both for the academic support to the boys as well as for her kind attention with us. She did not only took us to the Institute to meet some of the teachers but also shared information and insights relevant for us as parents.
We were delighted that in a few days we could even talk to Rob himself and to some of the coaches, each of them with professional backgrounds and breathtaking experiences. It was fantastic watching them in action during trainings and matches, striving to develop the talents of each of the players. It was also great to meet the rest of the team of professionals taking care of crucial aspects for achieving the objectives of the institution such as logistics and the administrative areas. An example was to personally meeting Arancha, with whom I have had long telephone conversations since the beginning of this dream. We greeted the ladies responsible for dealing with the essential kitchen, Conchi and Mari; and Manolito, who is a character. The kids show him great appreciation, for his kindness and good heart. Nevertheless, we missed to meet others, for example, the physiotherapist or Gerard Damià Soria, who was initially our interlocutor in his capacity as Recruiter.
The parents of Adrian´s teammates who live in Gran Canarias deserve a special mention. Thanks to Arancha´s initiative to create a WhatsApp group we had begun to have first contacts with them interacting a little more during matches, learning a bit about the boys evolution, and, of course, to delight with “the Danilo´s magic”. Danilo does not only messes with his whole soul into the game from the stands, but also reports matches in a unique way: each basket, free throws, foul shots, triples, some special moves, and even the mood of the players or the arbitral performance. The fact that the team had two matches this weekend gave us the opportunity to see the team and Danilo in action, although our conversations distracted him a bit! This visit allowed us to establish a closer relationship with the parents. The friendliness of the islanders is well known but we are nevertheless infinitely grateful to Esther, Tere, Danilo and Antonio (who is also assistant coach of the team). While sharing with them during sunday lunch, in the middle of that cordiality and good humor with which we were introduced to the Canary culinary culture, I felt I knew them for a long time… It might have been the spirit of my Tenerife ancestors…
We did not have much time to enjoy the scenery of the island or its culture, just a short walk through the historic center and a short stroll along the beach to watch the sunset, but it was great to have the opportunity to wander among nationalities (I think there are over 70 boys from 35 countries) characters and different yearnings, but all of them, however, sharing the same dream: to unleash their passion for basketball with discipline and determination. Persevering to become better sportsmen, and along the way, becoming a better person, mature and responsible. My admiration for those youngsters who at such an early age have clarity regarding their life path and dare to go out of the comfort-zone to have an unforgettable experience with the expectation of achieving success as professional basketball players.