MANY teenagers have behavioural issues. For Sidney Ekio, though, anti-social behaviour led to exclusion from school. His intelligence and talent as a leader were being wasted.
It needed the love of his blood family and the care of his basketball family at NASSA to pull him back from the brink and to give him a second chance.
Sidney has rewarded both of his families with his determination to turn his life around and has become an inspiration to his younger peers at NASSA.
“From primary school onwards my mum and I have always been through hard times,” said Sidney. “We’ve never had stability in our lives. We’ve always been moving around for different reasons.”
That instability led to aggressive behaviour in a Canning Town school in east London and finally expulsion.
Sidney’s mother moved them from London to Nottingham in the hope that a change of city and environment would help her son to see things in a different light.
While things did change, the time away helped Sidney to appreciate even more his other life -basketball and the Newham All Star Sports Academy of which he had been a member since he was 11.
His behaviour on and off court at NASSA had always been impeccable and he couldn’t wait to embrace the other members again and re-join his age group team.
He added: “When I moved back to London and everything had calmed down, what I realised was that NASSA has always been there for me. It’s always been that stable part of my life that I can turn to.
“I’ve never moved clubs. I’ve always stuck to NASSA. Even though I’m not the oldest member, I’ve been here for five years and I haven’t changed clubs so I’m one of the most loyal members.
“I don’t look on the younger players as being younger. I see them all as being part of my family. When I come to NASSA and the basketball sessions, I forget everything, all of the problems that I have outside. It all goes away because I have a family here.”
Throughout Sidney’s troubles, the NASSA coaches have taken it upon themselves to help him, to sit with him and offer him one-to-one encouragement and explain codes of behaviour. The mentoring of coaches Chris Facey and Aurimas Verbukas, in particular, have been invaluable in shaping Sidney’s future through a change in attitude.
Sidney applied to a different school in east London. He was accepted and, now 17, he has turned his back on his former ways.
“A lot of the time you see the NASSA coaches sitting the players down and giving them long lectures. To the players at the time it may not affect them that much but as you grow older, you realise what they are for.
“For me at first, I found the lectures boring and I just wanted to play basketball but now I can see what they have done for me and what they are going to do for the young kids.
“When the coach is talking to you, you learn from their experiences and their lives and you are able to put that into your life and work from there.
“My leadership skills have grown through basketball and through NASSA. I’m a leader on the court and when I go outside of the court now into my school and the things that I do, I’m able to be an effective leader there as well.”