According to Degou, PPI has three programs in South Africa — a primary program for students in grades 6 and 7, a more-in depth leadership development program for students in grades 8 to 12 and a professional development program where players who have come up through the ranks can be elevated to coaching and mentor positions. One of the main goals of the program is to develop leaders.
“Basketball is the perfect tool to teach things like self-discipline, teamwork and leadership,” said Degou. “We try to harness the power of sports to do that.”
“There’s not a lot of employment and educational opportunities in South Africa, so we try to let the kids have a vision for the future,” Degou said. “Basketball gives them an opportunity to excel in something in life and hopefully get them on the right path.”
Degou, who is in charge of PPI’s leadership-development program, doesn’t do a lot of hands-on coaching, concentrating instead on mentoring the older coaches to develop their skills to teach basketball correctly. Because the skill level varies significantly among the young players, Degou says the coaches keep instruction simple.
A made basket or lay-up is reason for a smile and applause. Drills are constantly being related to life.
“We might say to a player, ‘If the basketball hoop is your goal, who do the defenders represent in your life?’” Degou said. “We want them to make an analogy between the game and life.”
Lessons are also taught off the court. Life-skills education is a part of the curriculum, touching on such subjects as teenage pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, crime, gender issues and the threat of HIV/AIDS.
Soccer and rugby are the sport staples in the country, but basketball is starting to make inroads.
“I think it’s growing,” said Degou. “They just started showing NBA games on South African TV, so people are starting to see it more and read about it.”