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NASSA Honoured With Plaque on DLR Train

Newham All Star Sports Academy (NASSA) has been recognised for its outstanding work in supporting young people through the Covid-19 pandemic with a plaque on one of London’s Docklands Light Railway trains.

The plaque is a tribute to NASSA’s mentoring team for its dedication to the mental wellbeing of around 500 vulnerable local young people during the Covid lockdowns and beyond.

NASSA was named as the outstanding team in the Covid Heroes Awards organised by Keolis Amey Docklands, the company which runs the DLR network.

“This is such an honour to see NASSA’s name on a DLR train. I couldn’t be more proud,” said NASSA Founder and Chief Executive Natasha Hart MBE.

“Many of the young people NASSA supports have troubled home lives. Because of Covid, they couldn’t attend their regular NASSA sessions and many of them lost focus, the motivation to do schoolwork or to look after their personal hygiene and ambition for the future.

“Most tragically of all, in the first wave of the virus, six NASSA participants lost a parent to Covid-19. Five of the parents were in their 40s, the other was in his 50s. All were from the BAME community.

“These deaths impacted not only on teenagers who, without warning, suddenly had to contemplate life without one of their parents, but also on their friends and fellow NASSA participants.

“The young people asked for help with their mental health. The coaches mentored them on an individual basis either via Facetime or a phone call. Each young person was given as much time as he or she wanted. Some spoke to a coach every day for as much as an hour. Others, a few times per week for 10 or 20 minutes.

“Each NASSA coach was spending 20-30 hours of their week mentoring young people remotely. They weren’t getting paid for it because with basketball sessions stopped, much of NASSA’s income was suspended, yet they carried on talking to the young people anyway because they knew how much they were needed.”

No subject was off limits in the confidential conversations — boredom, anger, hopelessness, drugs, alcohol, smoking, gang activity, even suicide.

The NASSA mentoring team consisted of NASSA coaches and staff members, Great Britain international and former NASSA player Teddy Okereafor and even four NASSA participants who began mentoring their friends.

The full team recognised in the Covid Heroes Awards is comprised of:

Donnie Cabrera — NASSA Head Coach / Mentor
Framaz Dar — NASSA coach / Mentor
Stephanie Facey — NASSA participant / Peer mentor
Hamza Nadeem — NASSA participant / Peer mentor
Joe Norster — NASSA coach / Mentor
Anthony Okereafor — NASSA coach / CABNAB creator / Mentor
Teddy Okereafor — Team GB international / Former NASSA player / Mentor
Reece Quinland — NASSA participant / Peer mentor
Luis Sanchez — NASSA coach / Mentor
Dan Sharp — NASSA participant / Peer mentor.

As well as offering mental health support, the NASSA mentors spent their time sourcing free short Open University learning courses to encourage extra learning within the young people.

Natasha Hart added: “I am always proud of the NASSA family, but I have never witnessed the depth of connection between the NASSA team and the young people we help as I have during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This plaque is a tribute to all of them and a fitting reminder whenever they take the DLR to attend NASSA sessions.”

Teddy Okereafor — NASSA’s very own history maker!

SIXTEEN years ago, Teddy Okereafor was taken to Balaam Park in Plaistow and handed a basketball. The sport ran in his family. His mother and grandmother had both represented Russia, but 12-year-old Teddy had never played before.

That first game changed his life, just as it did the lives of thousands of young people who have followed him onto the NASSA basketball court.

As if college basketball in the United States and a professional career that has taken in stops in Italy, Greece and now back in the UK with Bristol Flyers wasn’t enough, Teddy, now 28, will make history for his country this weekend.

If he appears against both Germany on Saturday and France on Saturday, the prize on offer will not just be for the point guard to help Great Britain’s men qualify for EuroBasket 2022.

Sunday will represent Teddy’s 49th consecutive game for Team GB, matching an all-time record set by Bill McInnes in 1976.

“It is something that I will always take a lot of pride in,” Teddy said in a week when he has been courting national headlines because of his achievement.

The pride is NASSA’s, too. That first game in Balaam Park ultimately led to the foundation of NASSA and an opportunity for young people across east London to dream big with Teddy’s career lighting the way as a symbol of what is possible.

The measure of Teddy’s continued devotion to NASSA was seen this summer when the first Covid-19 national lockdown was lifted and outdoor sports sessions were permitted again.

While participation numbers were restricted to just six per session, Teddy turned up at local parks across east London to help NASSA Head Coach Donnie Cabrera inspire the young people who are following in his NASSA footsteps.

This weekend, they will be following his actions on court from afar.

“GB is my favourite team to play for,” Teddy added in an online interview with The Mirror. “The pride you have playing for your country is something you can’t compare to anything else.”

The pride is ours, Teddy.

Read the full Mirror article on Teddy here
Read the full Morning Star article on Teddy here

“GB is my favourite team to play for. The pride you have playing for your country is something you can’t compare to anything else.”

— Teddy Okereafor

New Award For NASSA!

NASSA coaches and staff were last night praised for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic at the East London Community Heroes Awards 2020.

We were announced as winners in the Health and Wellbeing category for the mentoring work we have carried out during the coronavirus lockdown and beyond.

NASSA basketball sessions were suspended in March 2020 and were not permitted again until June when six participants at a time were allowed back on outdoor courts.

The remote mentoring work carried out by NASSA coaches and staff was vital to the mental health of over 150 vulnerable young people.

Through individual Facetime sessions and phone calls, each young person was given as much support as or she needed or wanted to talk through the issues affecting them.

NASSA also streamed live fitness classes and basketball skills sessions for the young people to join in daily.
The awards were staged remotely by the Rotary Club of Stratford which commended NASSA for “transforming their position to provide effective mental health and wellbeing to young people in response to the COVID crisis.

“The challenge of supporting people with mental health issues shows initiative and energy.

“Fear, isolation and loneliness are major issues, so to grapple with them so swiftly is commendable.

“NASSA is a well-known and well-liked organisation who do amazing things. They showed focus and awareness to support young people when so many services were struggling.”

Accepting the award, NASSA Chief Executive Natasha Hart MBE praised the work of everyone within the NASSA family during the pandemic.

She said: “It is great news and so well deserved for all the NASSA volunteers, coaches and parents who made time to help young people during this really difficult period. This is an award for everybody at NASSA.

“It has been an immense challenge for myself and all the NASSA coaches, so this award will give everyone connected with the charity a boost to know that what we are doing is being valued.

“There is so much more to do and the young people need our help more than ever at the moment.”

“It has been an immense challenge for myself and all the NASSA coaches, so this award will give everyone connected with the charity a boost to know that what we are doing is being valued. There is so much more to do and the young people need our help more than ever at the moment.”

FROM NASSA TO OXFORD!

NASSA player Ilyas Dar will be swapping his basketball vest for a college gown this autumn after being accepted into Oxford University.

The 18-year-old from Leyton will study Medicine at Oriel College after passing the prestigious Oxford Entrance Exam.

Ilyas will become the first young person to represent NASSA at Oxford. His journey with NASSA began over six years ago, along with twin brother Kyan.

Born in London of Spanish parentage, when the boys first attended NASSA sessions they were very shy and not particularly physically active.

They have shone ever since, not as basketball players, but as young men dedicated to basketball as a sport in which they can pursue their ambitions. The twins have progressed through the NASSA age group teams and gained valuable sports qualifications in basketball refereeing, officiating and coaching along the way.

In December 2018, Ilyas was named alongside Kyan as the Young Person of the Year at the L&Q Foundation Awards to celebrate their commitment to the NASSA L&Q Junior Coaches Programme.
The twins’ father, Framaz Dar, became a NASSA volunteer and is now an assistant basketball coach having qualified through NASSA.

NASSA Chief Executive Natasha Hart said: “I have seen Ilyas grow into an extremely well-mannered and confident young man. To get into Oxford University is an amazing feat and everyone at NASSA is so proud of him.

“Ilyas has always looked up to older NASSA members and tried to copy their good habits. Now he will serve as an inspiration to the younger NASSA members and show them what is possible in life.”

NASSA named as finalist…

NASSA was last named as a finalist in the prestigious Directory for Social Change Awards 2020 at a ceremony held in the Houses of Parliament.

Our work was recognised in the Everybody Benefits — Long Term Enterprise Award category. It is the second time that NASSA has been recognised by the Directory of Social Change, having done so in 2013.

NASSA Chief Executive Natasha Hart MBE said: “It is so gratifying to know that NASSA’s work is being recognised nationally. As with every award NASSA receives, this is for our wonderful coaches and volunteers, and especially our young people.”

NASSA London’s Air Ambulance CABNAB For Life Programme

A party of 20 NASSA young people and coaches visited the London Hospital Helipad as part of our collaborative work with London’s Air Ambulance.

The young people were shown around one of the £8million air ambulances and given a talk by a London’s Air Ambulance staff member.

Because of restrictions on the number of people allowed up on the Helipad at any one time, the NASSA party was split into two groups. One group watched on while the ambulance was launched to attend a stabbing victim in south-west London, while the other group saw the ambulance return.

NASSA has been working in partnership with London’s Air Ambulance since the summer of 2019. Specially formulated basketball skills sessions wrap around talks from London’s Air Ambulance Outreach Manager Rhiannon Evans.

She educates the NASSA young people on the work of the emergency services, particularly in relation to victims of knife crime.

NASSA has been working in partnership with London’s Air Ambulance since the summer of 2019. Specially formulated basketball skills sessions wrap around talks from London’s Air Ambulance Outreach Manager Rhiannon Evans.

NASSA and Mayfield School Basketball Academy

After partnering with Mayfield School in Ilford in September 2019 to launch our first basketball academy, the NASSA Academy team has just completed a highly successful first season competing in the Academy Basketball League.

The academy draws young people aged 16-18 from across east London to combine their studies with specific work on the basketball court.

Sessions run by NASSA Head Coach Donnie Cabrera allow the young people to schedule between 8-12 hours of training time as court time under the auspices of the ABL (Academy Basketball League), run by Basketball England.

In addition, the NASSA Academy enjoyed an extraordinary run of success in its first ABL season, finishing 5th out of 10 teams despite the players being thrown together in September from an initial intake of just 12-15 players.

ABL games are played on Wednesday afternoons. The hastily formed NASSA team narrowly missed out on the end-of-season play-offs and aims to build on that remarkable platform in coming years.

Each basketball session is now attended by 20-25 participants with another 30 local young people on a waiting list to join the NASSA Academy.

The current participants include young people from Newham, Leyton and Redbridge, as well as Ilford, while students from the Boroughs of Lewisham and Tower Hamlets are on the list to join in coming years.

For more information how to join please contact our Head Coach Donnie Cabrera by email.

Guard of Honour to New Flight at London City Airport

THREE young NASSA players enjoyed VIP treatment at London City Airport as they welcomed a new early morning charter flight from the Lithuania capital of Vilnius.

The boys — Alanas Stvolas, 14, Matas Juodeikis, 11, and eight-year-old Tomas Sarakojis were invited to form the reception committee on the tarmac. The trio were chosen because they all have family members who come from Lithuania and because of NASSA’s strong partnership links with London City Airport.

Accompanied by NASSA Chief Executive Natasha Hart MBE and NASSA Head Coach Aurimas Verbukas, who hails from Lithuania himself, they were whisked through airport security and were given a short talk about the new flight.

They welcomed each passenger as they stepped off the flight. Then it was a quick change back into their school uniform and off to lessons for the day. Natasha Hart said: “It was a wonderful experience for the boys and a reward for all the commitment they show both at school and on the basketball court at NASSA.

“They were a credit to NASSA on the day and will no doubt be telling the story of their morning for a long time to come. I would also like to thank their headteachers for allowing the boys to attend this event and showcase NASSA in such a positive light.”

NASSA Men’s Team are Division 3 Runners-Up!

The East London All Stars team, made up of players from NASSA and the University of East London (UEL), have exceeded all expectations by finishing as runners-up in National Basketball League Division 3 South.

Following a tense wait after their final game of the season, a 97-68 victory over Oxford Brookes University on March 17, the All Stars have been confirmed as runners-up with 13 wins from their 18 games.

The men’s team, which is a unique partnership squad reflecting NASSA’s long-standing collaboration with UEL, also made it to the quarter-finals of the Patrons Cup earlier this season.

It has been a remarkable turn-around from a disappointing 2016-17 season in which the All Stars lost every game and were relegated from Division 2.

The success can be largely attributed to new coach Joshua Tackey, who instilled belief in place of last season’s losing mentality. In addition, he has drawn huge contributions from every player in his squad.

Here’s to more success next season!

Anthony and Tyrees are named as local heroes

Newham All Star Sports Academy has received the perfect early Christmas present with two members of the NASSA family being recognised as community champions.

Carry A Basketball Not A Blade (CABNAB) creator Anthony Okereafor and player Tyrees Garrod collected their awards on Thursday night at the coveted KeolisAmey Docklands Community Champion Awards 2016.

The awards, which are in their second year, celebrate individuals and groups in the communities served by London’s Docklands Light Railway.

Anthony said: “It is a great feeling to win an award, but we must not forget all of the young people who have lost their lives through knife crime and we have to carry on our work. My dream has always been to spread our CABNAB work all over the country.”

NASSA men’s team player and sports coordinator Anthony collected the Outstanding Service to the Community award for his work promoting NASSA’s CABNAB initiative. Anthony came up with the idea of educating young people on the dangers of knife crime and gang culture in 2008, the year in which two of his friends died in separate knife-related incidents.

Canning Town schoolboy Tyrees was named Young Achiever of the Year category for his stance against bullying. A victim himself in the past, Tyrees now stands up in classes to give anti-bullying talks to pupils of all ages and also offers advice to the younger NASSA members at training sessions.

Tyrees said: “It’s amazing to be given this award. I didn’t set out to win anything. I just wanted to help other people not have the experience that I had.”