SUVA – Fiji is usually know for its rugged landscape of blue lagoons and palm-lined beaches. But, this small country in the South Pacific made up of more than 300 islands is now getting international recognition for reasons other than its beautiful landscape.
People from all over are standing up and taking notice, and Mai Sakaguchi from Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan, is just one of them. Mai is undertaking her Masters in Sports Sociology at the University of Tsukuba and has a keen interest in International Development through Sports. It was this interest which led to her researching global sport for development programs to find the perfect organisation to intern with.
Sakaguchi was amazed by FIBA’s Basketball Plus strategy and what the program looks like in action. She was particularly interested in how FIBA monitors this program and evaluates its successes/challenges.
"I was so impressed how basketball plus is able to bridge social development and basketball development," said Sakaguchi. "Combining the promotion of gender equality and healthy living while building the capacity of federations, increasing participation, developing basketball skills. What was most impressive is how FIBA is able to easily adjust this program to each different country with a varying set of identified social issues."
During her time with FIBA, Sakaguchi is focusing her study on the Basketball ‘+’ strategy.
The goal of FIBA’s Basketball ‘+’ strategy is to facilitate capable federations to deliver high-quality basketball programs that increase basketball participation as well as enable people to develop as healthy, contributing members of their communities. In Fiji, Basketball ‘+’ takes the form of the Hoops for Health (H4H) and ‘Mum’s a Hero’ programs. These programs are funded by the Australian Government as part of the Pacific Sports Partnerships (PSP). Both of these programs aim to deliver high-quality basketball programs which increase participation, positively impact gender equality and address issues of poor dieting and non communicable diseases (NCDs).
Fiji has been involved with Basketball ‘+’ since 2014 and the program has become so successful that BF was asked to be a guest speaker at the National Health Symposium for a second consecutive year. They have also recently partnered with a mental health awareness group to expand their Mum’s A Hero program curriculum.
FIBA Basketball ‘+’ Sports Administrator Catherine Grawich recently visited Fiji from July 9th – July 16th, to conduct a program review. During her time in Suva, Grawich meet with BF, Japanese Agency for International Cooperation (JAICA), Embassy of Japan, Australian High Commission, Scope Global as well as attending numerous H4H sessions to see the programs progression.
“It is always very rewarding travelling to Fiji and observing with interest the growth of the National Basketball Federation of Fiji,” commented Grawich. “They have set up an immensely successful basketball for development program which engages a wide audience and gives back to the community and the sport. Not to mention the simple joy you experience seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces.”
As Sakaguchi is so interested in the Basketball ‘+’ strategy Grawich decided to bring her to Fiji for a first-hand look at the program in action. Sakaguchi was tasked with assisting the monitoring and evaluating of BF’s program. She conducted a number of surveys with H4H participants in the Suva region.
“Mai’s knowledge of monitoring and evaluation is very valuable to a program like this one She was able to relate to participants on a personable level and give Basketball Fiji very helpful feedback,” said Grawich. “The guys at Basketball Fiji were able to gain new lenses with which to look at their program and they seemed excited for what lies ahead.”
There was an overwhelming theme of positivity towards the program which comes as no surprise. Since 2014, BFs Basketball ‘+’ participation as grown from 2,142 participants in year one, to 6,299 in year two and a staggering 8,079 participants in only the first 6 months of this year alone.
Basketball ‘+’ has changed the way many Fijian’s think about their diet and exercise.
“Before Hoops for Health I stayed home most of the time and was never interested in outdoors activities,” commented Miri, a Mum’s a Hero participant. “Having a proper diet was never important to me… [after participating in Mum’s a Hero] I now involve myself with outdoors activities in order to keep fit and stay healthy for my family.”