TARAWA/MAJURO - As part of FIBA's commitment to growing the game of basketball around the world, FIBA Development Manager - Oceania Annie La Fleur recently travelled through the North Pacific. Her goal, to train the next generation of basketball coaches and officials, develop local competitions and introduce FIBA's exciting new competition structure.
First stop on La Fleur's journey was Kiribati, an island republic in the Central Pacific, comprising of 33 coral atolls stretched along the equator. With lagoons and white sand beaches, many of its islands are uninhabited.
Yet, while most people could not point Kiribati out on a map, this is not stopping its people from striving to compete in basketball at the highest level possible. The Kiribati Basketball Federation (KBF) has been significantly ramping up basketball activity in country and have their sights fixed on the 2018 Micronesian Games.
FIBA has recognised KBF's commitment to competing at the next level and offered its support for this goal with former-Australian Opal and Olympic silver medallist La Fleur.
During her time in Kiribati, La Fleur mentored local referees and conducted a workshop for 14 eager coaches. The coaching workshop covered the fundamentals of the game - basic skills, offensive and defensive structure, plus the role of a coach on and off the floor. This workshop will ensure that the youth of Kiribati have the resources to learn how to play the game of basketball.
La Fleur also met with the KBF National Basketball Development Officer (NBDO) Iotia Paul, Ministry of Women, Youth and Social Affairs (MWYSA) Sports Officer Willy Uan and Kiribati National Olympic Committee (KNOC) Secretary General Kautu Temakei and CEO Rota Onorio to discuss KBF's development and how FIBA’s new competition system affects Kiribati.
Having more than doubled the number of people participating in basketball in the last 12 months, KBF are gearing themselves up for the next Micronesian Games.
"It's an exciting time for basketballers in Kiribati," said La Fleur. "They have developed competition at a local level, and now KBF are providing them with opportunities to represent their country at a regional level."
After Kiribati, La Fleur was off to the Marshall Isalnds where she was welcomed by the newly-elected Marshall Islands Basketball Federation (MIBF)'s board of directors.
The Marshall Islands are a sprawling chain of volcanic islands and coral atolls in the central Pacific Oceania, between Hawaii and the Philippines. With just 181 square kilometres of land, the population of just over 72,000 make do with what they can to remain physically active and happy.
During her visit, La Fleur attended the Arno 3x3 Tournament where many local children received new basketball shoes through an extremely generous donation.
"People don't realise the affect a small gesture can have. These boys were so excited when they got their new shoes, it was amazing to see how much joy basketball can bring," La Fleur explained.
She also met with the MIBF and Marshall Islands National Olympic Committee (MINOC) board members to discuss FIBA's new calendar and Oceania sub-zone championships.
"The MIBF is very excited about the possibility of competing at the Micronesian Games. This goal is fantastic because it will help accelerate the federations development of their players, coaches and referees to ensure that they are prepared for this competition," said La Fleur.
In order to assist the MIBF in its development, La Fleur worked with 10 local Laura Village referees and 9 local score bench officials to increase their knowledge of their chosen area. These referees participated in both theoretical and practical learning sessions; focused on fundamental rules and positioning.
"The referees were so responsive, all of them were very eager to learn and it really showed through their improvement is such a short time," she enthused. "None of the participants attending had ever even filled out a scoresheet before this workshop.
The MIBF NBDO Rickiano Antibas jumped at the opportunity to pick La Fleur's brain. The two worked closely together discussing MIBF's development plan, 3x3 basketball and the Micronesian Games.
"The Marshall Islands is filled with passionate people wanting to make a difference through basketball. I am looking forward to seeing the amazing things that are in store for the basketball community," commented La Fleur.
La Fleur is currently visiting the Saipan Basketball Federation before moving onto Guam and then heading home.