Young ballers get electric

CNP Thunder head coach Thabo Marotola demonstrates the finer points of the game during a coaching clinic.

While Youth Day, June 16, is usually remembered as the day the apartheid police shot at protesting students in 1976, a group of basketball players used this year’s commemoration as the ideal opportunity for shooting of a different kind – shooting hoops.

And, CNP (Crossroads, Nyanga, Philippi) Thunder – which is affiliated with African Grassroot Hoops – was one of a number of clubs from across the city who were put through their paces on the day.

A former pupil at the Athlone-based high school, Marotola, 42, joined up with Giovanni Freeman, founder of African Grassroot Hoops, and used the coaching clinic to get young children off the couches and onto the courts for a game of hoops.

Over 120 young players swaggered out onto the high school’s double court.

Some were eager to learn new skills, while others were craving a ball in their hands to shoot some three-pointers and throw down a few dunks. Marotola’s experience with children was evident in his enthusiastic approach.

He kept every player aware, focused and energised throughout the training session.

“In my experience, when you tell the children you are going to teach them life skills and educate them about why Youth Day is important, then they won’t pitch up.

“But, we call them through the sport. And, once they are here, that’s when we get our message across to them and teach them life skills and their history.

“I’d say the event was more than just a basketball clinic,” said Marotola.

“I got involved in this clinic through my friend Vincent (Ntunja), who’s a professional player and is always involved with these type of projects.

“And, I’m fond of developing young children to become better people, so it didn’t take much convincing for me.

“Most of the children were under-12 players, which is a good stage to get them to start learning the basics.

“By the time these players reach the age of 15 and 16 years old, then they are at a level where they can start competing,” he said.

Marotola started playing and coaching at the school.

“I was 14 years old when I started playing at the school.

“The following year our coach died, and I took the guys for training sessions and became a player coach.

“I enjoyed it and have been involved in coaching ever since,” said Marotola.

“In 1998, I left with a group called the Score Outreach Programme to the Netherlands for a six-month training camp. That was a big learning curve for me, and it was also my first time outside of the country.

“When I got back, I joined up with Grassroots Sports Outreach and got assigned to use my skills in the Eastern Cape for two years.

“When I got to Cape Town, that’s when I joined Hopes for Hope,” he said.

Marotola founded CNP Thunder in 2007. The club started with two teams made up of 10 players – five boys and five girls for the respective under-14 teams.

“The club has grown to over 65 members with two teams in each of the under-12, 14 and 16 divisions.

“So far, we’ve had nine players come from the club to represent the senior national basketball team.

“Four of them are still active and part of the national squad.

“Also, two of our players turned pro and play with Vincent in the Western Cape Mountaineers team,” he said.

Marotola said the club’s women’s teams had excelled the most and had a great run in 2011 and 2012 – when they made the Western Cape representative team and won the national championships on both occasions.

* For more information about the club, call Marotola on 081 873 9410.