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.”

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 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.

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!

2016 Charity Times Awards!

Our Carry A Basketball Not A Blade (CABNAB) initiative has been recognised for its impact at the 2016 Charity Times Awards.

CABNAB was given a Highly Commended award in the Community category at a glittering ceremony at London’s Park Plaza Westminster Bridge hotel.

The accolade is due recognition for CABNAB’s role in helping to save lives in east London by educating young people on the dangers of knife crime and gang culture.

It was set up by NASSA after one of our players, Anthony Okereafor, lost two of his friends in separate knife-related incidents in 2008.

Anthony wanted to do something positive in memory of his two friends to try and ensure that similar tragedies would not affect other communities in the London Borough of Newham and beyond.

Anthony was present at the Charity Times Awards evening. He said: “It is amazing that CABNAB has been recognised in this way. The message that CABNAB gets across is a powerful one but we need to keep reaching and educating more and more young people.

“Being highly commended in these awards is great. It means we are doing something right, but we need to keep going.”

CABNAB mentoring talks are included in the school basketball sessions that NASSA lays on in schools across east London, which means that over 2,000 local schoolchildren are educated on the subject of knife crime every week.

The programme is working. Metropolitan Police figures show that no young person lost his or her life as a direct result of knife crime in the 12 months to August 2015 — down from 11 and six in the previous two years.

NASSA Chief Executive Natasha Hart MBE said: “There were so many amazing charities at the Charity Times Awards all doing such wonderful work, so for NASSA to be singled out in the Community category speaks volumes for the work done by Anthony and all of the NASSA coaches and supporters.”

NASSA receives minibus from Dennis and a visit from the Russian Ambassador

In the tenth anniversary year of its first informal basketball session in an east London park, Newham All Star Sports Academy (NASSA) has received its first minibus, from former Chelsea and England footballer Dennis Wise on behalf of the Dennis Wise and Frankham Consultancy Group Trust.

The 17-seater vehicle will be used to transport NASSA’s seven age group teams to away Basketball England National League fixtures. It will also be used to help support disabled young people who attend NASSA’s inclusive wheelchair basketball sessions.

With many of NASSA’s 100 club members in attendance, as well as NASSA founder and Chief Executive Natasha Hart and Head Coach Chris Facey, the presentation of the minibus was made at the University of East London’s SportsDock building. The ribbon was cut by a special invitee to the event, the Russian Ambassador to the UK, Mr Alexander Yakovenko.

Dennis Wise said the choice of NASSA as recipients of a minibus marked a departure from the Trust’s usual policy, but added that the east London welcome he and his fellow trustees Steve Frankham and Becky Bosman had received from the NASSA coaches, parents and players confirmed to them that they had made the right decision.

He said: “Everything we do is for kids, so that was an important factor. We normally donate minibuses to special needs kids and Down’s Syndrome kids, but we know that Natasha has been trying for a long, long time to help the situation at NASSA.

“As a group, we looked at it and we felt it was a good cause. Coming here today, seeing the bus and all of the kids, as well as seeing Chris the coach, who’s fantastic, you can see it’s going to be a worthy cause. We’re really pleased that we have done this today. Good luck to them all.

“It’s lovely to be part of the NASSA family now. Natasha’s invited us to come back in September for their 10-year anniversary event. If I’m around, I’d love to pop back to say ‘Hi’ and make sure that there are no dents in the bus!”

Natasha Hart added: “We cannot say thank you enough to Dennis, Steve and everyone at the Frankham Group Charitable Trust. This minibus will make a huge difference to NASSA and to all of the players’ parents who have spent so much money over the years helping us take the teams to games.

“It is a really special feeling that they thought of us as worthy of receiving one of their minibuses and we will always have a smile on our faces when we see their name on it.”

Mr Yakovenko said: “It’s a great pleasure for me to be a guest at this very special event today. Team sports are all about uniting people regardless of their religion and race and the Newham All Star Sports Academy (NASSA) is a perfect example of a charity that does just that.

“Having won all the existing awards in this sport, the Newham All Star Sports Academy has been hugely successful, and most importantly, it has played a transformational role in the lives of local young people, providing high-quality community service in East London.

“NASSA’s trainees not only achieve athletic excellence but what is equally important, practice teamwork and understanding. They learn how to surpass themselves and how to win, how to think big and put their dreams into reality. These invaluable lessons in life will surely secure a better future for every young person involved. As a diplomat, I can fully appreciate the importance of this charity’s truly inspirational activity and I am especially proud to know that Ms Natasha Hart its founder and leader, is my compatriot.”

NASSA plays its home games at SportsDock as part of its community partnership with the University of East London (UEL). David Cosford, Director of Sport at UEL, said: “Today has been another milestone event. NASSA has been a great supporter of our institution and without NASSA’s commitment, our SportsDock home would not be the facility it is today. I hope that we can enjoy another 10 years of sporting success together.”

Metropolitan Police Commissioner presents award to NASSA

NASSA has become the first community sports project in the Borough of Newham to receive a special award from the Metropolitan Police.

The award was presented by Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, who visited a NASSA training session. Read more here.

Sir Bernard spent two hours watching the NASSA training session at Rokeby School in Canning Town, talking to coaches, parents and players as well as attending a knife crime workshop.

The Commissioner was told about NASSA’s Carry A Basketball Not A Blade (CABNAB) initiative which reaches out to 2,000 young people in 65 local schools and colleges across Newham every week. He met Anthony Okearafor (below), who set up CABNAB following the death of two of his friends from knife crime in 2008, and NASSA Head Coach Chris Facey, who was recently named as Coach of the Year in the London Awards for Sport & Physical Activity 2014.

Sir Bernard said: The Metropolitan Police award we made to NASSA is not something that we give to everybody. I’m really impressed by the project. Clearly the young people are enjoying it, keeping themselves fit and getting the sport that they can take part in. It’s very well organised. To get 2,000 young people involved in this project is fantastic. They are getting some positive messages about not getting involved in knife crime and not getting involved in the gangs, which is good.

“I’m glad to see that Newham Police are getting involved and contributing. Very clearly Coach Chris is doing a great job, while Anthony’s idea of Carry A Basketball Not A Blade is a good one. You have a lot of families who are coming along to support unpaid, giving their own time and I’m sure spending some of their own money. It’s great to see.

“I’m really impressed and I wish it all the luck in the world. If we can help, we will do.”

The Metropolitan Police award was made ‘in recognition of NASSA’s outstanding work with young people in Newham.’ In return, Sir Bernard was given a NASSA T-shirt which he promptly put on.

NASSA founder Natasha Hart said: “It’s amazing to receive such an award and it was such an honour to have the Metropolitan Police Commissioner come down to Newham to see what we do here. He took the time to speak to a lot of people and asked a lot of questions about our work.”

NASSA is on top of the charity world

Newham All Star Sports Academy (NASSA) has received the ultimate accolade by being announced as Charity of the Year in The Charity Awards 2014 — the most prestigious awards programme in the charity sector.

The highly coveted honour was announced last night at a star-studded awards evening hosted by comedian Stephen Frost at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel. Read more here.

Earlier in the evening, NASSA was chosen as winner of the Children and Youth category because of the impact that our Carry A Basketball Not A Blade (CABNAB) initiative has had on our young people and the local community in east London.

The overall Charity of the Year was then selected from the 10 category winners. For NASSA it is the highest possible praise for the work that began with an impromptu basketball coaching session in an east London park in 2005.

Charity Awards judge Sir Christopher Kelly described NASSA as “a really energetic organisation doing substantial things to help the local community.”

The Charity Awards, which celebrated its 15th year last night, is a year-round programme run by Civil Society Media in partnership with the Charities Aid Foundation.

Learn more

NASSA founder Natasha Hart said: “We are used to winning on the basketball court but we could never have imagined winning off it in such a manner. This award is for everyone connected with NASSA — our wonderful coaches, our dedicated volunteers, the parents who entrust us with their children, the community partners who support us, our patron, the Rt Hon Stephen Timms, MP for Newham and Rt Rev Mgr John Armitage VG and, of course, our young people. They are the reason we do what we do and they have achieved so much.”