Shaun Jayachandran is the founder of Crossover Basketball, a non-profit organization that provides educational opportunities for Indian students though basketball programs. Jayachandran recently returned from the foundation’s second summer academy in Chennai (which you can experience through the group’s Vine videos). He took the time to connect by email and tell us about his career, his long-term hopes for Crossover, and his take on the NBA’s outreach in India.
Tell us about your personal history with basketball.
I started playing half way through the eighth grade and played through high school. I had the fortune of playing for Bill Sweek who himself had played for Coach John Wooden. Being able to learn about the Pyramid of Success and how it applies beyond the court truly helped me see the game in a different way.
I began coaching while in high school for two years and coached for the past ten years in a school setting. Currently I coach at Dexter School in Brookline, MA (just outside of Boston).
How is India different from other countries when it comes to sports like basketball? How does that affect the NBA’s outreach to the country?
India as a whole is a population that values education above all else. The simple fact of Tuition every night for most children, even those in government schools, increases the value that families feel that education is the way to advance their children.
In other areas where the NBA has expanded, they have always attempted to create basketball as a profession, find a centerpiece figure, and revolve all marketing and sales around this figure. And while they are trying to create that figure from teenager Satnam Singh Bhamara the missing factor is that sport is still seen as a hobby and essentially a waste of time to most parents.
What Crossover does is show the connection between academics and sports. That a rebound in basketball is the capturing of a missed opportunity and that this same piece exists in real life — to rebound a missed opportunity in school or in life and create a new opportunity from this miss.
The long term goals are to create a tuition-free boarding school for low-income and slum families in Chennai — using basketball as a central vehicle of change and connection for the students through high school and eventually college.
There is a great void that exists for basketball and education programs who care about the whole child and student. From our experiences, and surveys of our students, this is something that can help increase education rates.
With 1 in 5 children in the world currently in India, and graduation rates hovering around 10 percent, the poor and marginalized are often left behind and are at an even greater risk of falling behind. Through leadership, communication, teamwork, and character, we believe at Crossover that we will impact India’s youth and create future leaders.