Para-athlete teaches dribbling and diversity to Italian children
Four CE1 classes from the Milanese suburb of Verano Brianza learned to play basketball this spring with a real pro. They also received a lesson in diversity.
Their coach for the month of May was Adolfo Damian Berdun, an Italian-Argentinian wheelchair basketball champion. Berdun, 39, lost his left leg in a traffic accident at the age of 13 in his hometown of Buenos Aires and has visited many schools over the years to discuss how he lived with his handicap.
But this time, when he enters suburban elementary school, Berdun simply wants to be a “coach”.
It was his first time in the role. He declined the suggestions of a video introduction and took to the field on day one with a blank slate, with no fuss.
“Every class that entered was staring at me open-mouthed as if they wanted to ask a question,” Berdun said. “I said, ‘We can ask questions later, now we’re playing basketball.’
The head of the sports association that organized the five-week program recalled the first day. Berdun made a simple introduction, then asked, “’Do you want to run?’ They said yes, and he said, ‘Run’, ”said Elena Sandre. And they left, hungry for action after a mostly non-team sports college year.
Over the five weeks, the children learned to dribble and shoot; passage was limited due to Covid protocols. They lined up for drills and ran a slalom course on the gym floor.
Berdun lowered two rings on each side of the basket, so kids who couldn’t throw at the 10-foot (three-meter) height of the standard hoop could get a shot.
Sandre got to know Berdun as a journalist covering wheelchair basketball in Italy, first when he was in Rome, then in Sardinia and finally when he arrived in the province of Monza in Lombardy, where he plays. on UnipolSai Briantea84 Cantù. The team won the Italian championship this year and Berdun was named MVP (Most Valuable Player) for the championship. He continues to play for the Argentina national team, but will not go to the Tokyo Paralympic Games as his team failed to qualify.
Sandre said she called on Berdun not because of his disability, but because she observed the way he was in charge of the team he was playing in.
“If you see him playing, you see he’s a coach. He manages the team. He’s a leader, “she said. He had no trouble dealing with a sometimes noisy group of seven-year-olds.
“I never imagined that in a wheelchair, with so many children, I could feel so good,” Berdun said.
Even though Berdun did not discuss his disability until the last day, the lesson of diversity reverberated. Sandre says she sees parents in social media posts talking about how “privileged” their children are to have the experience of learning from a para-athlete.
For his last day, the children gave Berdun the drawings they had made.
“But the best part is that we managed to break down the barrier between the coach with one leg in a wheelchair, and the ideal of a coach, period,” said Berdun.
“How do I know that? Because after asking me a few questions, they asked me if they could keep doing basketball drills. It means they were more interested in playing than in knowing why I only have one leg. – AP