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Assistance to the Vladimir Region Basketball Program

The end of the Soviet Union in 1991 brought on shortages in just about every part of Russian society-especially in the area of extracurricular activities such as sports.

Vladimir State Pedagogical University basketball team with their donated Western Michigan uniforms

With the help of Bob Kief (retired Illinois State University Athletic Trainer) and Joyce Kief (ISU Physical Education Professor), the first stage of our efforts to assist the basketball program in Vladimir involved the donation of uniforms and some inexpensive basketballs. Uniforms were provided by Western Michigan University (where former ISU coach Bob Donewald was then coaching) and Illinois State University High School.

In 1996 we sponsored the first "4th of July" Street Ball Tournament-coinciding with the anniversary of the dedication of the American Home in 1992. The next tournament was held in 1998. From 2000 through 2009, the tournament was held every year on the Saturday before or after the Fourth of July.

In April 2000 we managed to get Illinois State University High School varsity head coach, Cal Hubbard, to Vladimir. In the previous 10 years his teams had advanced to the state finals seven times, winning the championship in 1995. He put on very well attended four-days of clinics. In addition to his expertise, he brought a substantial number of good quality balls-which were still very difficult to find in Russia (and very expensive)-T-shirts, an electric pump, and other basketball related items.

"I learned about Russian basketball and how they run their programs for high school age students. In turn, I was able to share high school basketball as it is played and taught in the U.S. During the clinics, we were able to teach fundamentals, American-style, and how to adapt skills and philosophies to fit the game as it is played in Russia. Our entire visit was a great learning experience, and it did much to bridge the gap between the two countries in terms of basketball." Cal Hubbard

Coach Hubbard talking with Russian coaches in Vladimir

In June 2001 a senior Vladimir basketball coach, Alexander (Sasha) Vlasov, and an English-speaking student, Alexei Ananiev, who was studying to be a coach, traveled to Illinois to observe Coach Hubbard's spring clinics. They stayed with the Hubbards-and learned a great deal. In February 2002 Sasha Vlasov put on a well attended one-day clinic in Vladimir drawing on Coach Hubbard's instructional approach. The demand for the clinic was so great that it had to be repeated in March.

In October 2002 a well received three-day clinic was organized by Coach Vlasov who teaches at the Vladimir Juridical Institute. He also currently coaches three young women's teams. (Sasha would very much like to come to the US to do research for his "Ph.D." dissertation. He wants to compare the Russian approach to "physical education" to the American approach.)

Sasha Vlasov, an interpreter, and Cal Hubbard,
April 2000

In 2003 we were given four dozen smaller "girls" balls by the Illinois State University women's team. The balls had been given out during summer clinics-and were left over after a coaching change.

It took more than two years to get all of the donated balls hand carried to Vladimir-where they were very much appreciated. (Among other places, the colorful balls were given to the Youth Colony (juvenile prison), the basketball summer camp (along with t-shirts and other "prizes" for their tournament), another summer camp, and several different schools.)

Initially, girls had to use the larger men's ball. They now use the smaller ball.

In June 2005 a sixteen-year-old Vladimir basketball player, Roman Mekheikin, spent a month in Bloomington-Normal attending two of Coach Hubbard's clinics, as well as ISU and Illinois Wesleyan University clinics. He had a great experience-and both of the host families he stayed with wanted him to return. This didn't work out. But he went on to play for one of the best university teams in the Vladimir area. They made it to the Russian national finals several times.

As noted above, in 1996 the American Home sponsored its first three-on--three Street Ball Tournament. One of the major attractions of this invitation-only tournament was the prizes we were able to come up with. These included good quality "special design" American basketballs that could not be found in Russia. Many of the prizes were donated. For example, a member of the 2005 "tourism development" tour group from Arizona donated several Phoenix Suns items, including some signed photos.

In July 2009 we hosted our final men's Street Ball tournament. We will be replacing that with a tournament for under-18 boys.

In September 2009 we cosponsored a Street Ball tournament for girls teams with the city sports department and the regional basketball association. Ten teams participated, including one from the Moscow region-which won the tournament.

The ISU women's basketball program provided a number of items, including small souvenir "basketballs" which were given to each of the participants. The two top players who received high quality basketball shoes were especially pleased.
The tournament was very well received by both the players and coaches. They all wanted it to become an annual event. We are going to make every effort to oblige them.

Slam dunk contest
Only the outdoor baskets can handle dunking. Both the outdoor surface and the gym floors leave a lot to be desired. When Coach Hubbard gave his clinic, he mentioned that players should always be looking around when dribbling-not looking at the ball. It was pointed out to him that given the condition of the gym floors, his advice was impractical.

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