At first, they were renting the basketball court from Pearly Dew Higher Secondary School in Jaiaw, Laitdom, but financial difficulties struck soon and they were brought to a state where they were no longer able to pay rent and the principal of the school were kind enough to allow them to use the court in the evening hours after school.
This is not a story but the beginning of new dawn in the Basketball landscape of Meghalaya, where one academy is overcoming all hurdles to raise and nurture talented basketball players and provide them with a professional platform to showcase their skills.
“The formation of the club is done by one of my closest friends Ialambha M Kharbhih who is a police officer. So, during a tournament in Shillong in 2015 many players didn’t have a proper team, so he led and formed a team that won the tournament, said Dulon Banjop, Head Coach & Co-founder, Tyllilang Basketball Academy in an exclusive interview Meghalaya Times.
After winning the tournament in 2015, Kharbhih wanted to do more for basketball in the state and as there were no platforms for the youth to learn and play basketball through a proper system and with a group of friends Kharbhih established a coaching centre which they named as Tyllilang basketball Academy.
“Our main objective is to provide a platform and guidance for the youth when it comes to the game. Apart from the game, we have helped many kids get admission to colleges in the city through sports quota and which allowed them to pursue their academic dreams.” He added.
Without any support from the government, Banjop said running an establishment like this is very difficult. “We try to get local businesses to sponsor us and in return, we advertise their brand but we don’t get much. And the group of friends who started this academy usually pool in money to manage whatever we can to arrange all facilities for our players, but participating in tournaments is an expensive affair, and we always find it difficult to raise funds to manage the academy and then taking all the players for the tournaments.”
Talking about, how they managed to start from a rented basketball court, Banjop said, “At first, we were renting the court from the school but due to financial difficulties we are not able to pay rent and the principal of the school saw how important our activities are and offered to help the youth and allowed us to use the court in the evenings after school hours.”
About the basketball infrastructure in the state, Banjop said that there are few facilities available, but their condition and usability can be put under consideration as they need proper maintenance.
“When it comes to basketball, the infrastructure is there, but accessibility is a bit difficult. Basketball grounds don’t occupy a lot of space so many schools in the city build them, but they don’t build them the right way. Maintenance of the facilities are not done properly therefore open facilities like the locality basketball courts are not in good shape as they were built, but not maintained. We have enough basketball courts in Meghalaya, but we must build a system that these courts are not being wasted and being maintained properly.”
Basketball in Shillong has a very rich culture right from the time when the late Clive Dunai who was the president of the Meghalaya Basketball Association, pioneered in developing this game in the state. He was a student of Dr Grams Homes Kalimpong and after his studies, he became an avid leader making his peers play and take part in many national competitions.
Dulon Banjop said Meghalaya is a sports-loving state and the government should focus more on developing and flourishing each sport discipline in the state when children and parents are gradually showing more interest in sports as a serious career option.
“We have seen that parents are more open-minded in sports and sending their children for exercise and playtime. We have seen many children who are multi-talented and use our program to build their fitness and physical condition which they use to excel in other sports. I believe that all kids should be allowed to play especially this generation now where they are much influenced by mobile devices and other gadgets. Sports, not just basketball give these kids another outlet where it will make them healthier and develop focus.”
He said it is important to have a holistic approach in conducting sporting activities in the state and the Government should look after that rather than letting it run on individual and personal interests.
“Currently, we do not have any system. Competitions are conducted with personal interests and if we don’t have a holistic approach to this it will be very difficult for players to grow and reach their full potential.”
“Financially when it comes to sports parents will not trust their child’s future if it is not certain, so not only players with difficult backgrounds have this problem, even our city children cannot invest in building a career with sports due to the uncertainty.”
“To carry this sport forward, it’s not up to individuals but the interest should be shown by the government and governing bodies of the respective sport to improve the system and compete at the highest level,” Banjop added.
Talking about the future competitions Banjop said, he is looking forward to two upcoming competitions, one in Siliguri to be held on September 24. And after that, there is one more tournament coming up in Jagiroad Assam.