Para athlete teaches dribbling and diversity to Italian children

Four second-grade classes in Milan suburb Verano Brinza are learning to play basketball from a real professional this spring

His coach for the month of May has been Argentine-Italian wheelchair basketball champion Adolfo Damien Burdun. Burdun, 39, lost her left leg in her native Buenos Aires in a traffic accident at the age of 13, and has visited several schools over the years to discuss how she has lived with her disability .

But this time, when he entered a suburban elementary school, Burdun wanted only to become an “instructor”.

It was his first time in a role. He rejected suggestions of a video introduction, and courted himself with a blank slate on the first day, no backstory.

“Everyone in every class looked at me with an open mouth as if they wanted to ask a question,” Burdun said. “I said, ‘We can ask questions later, now we play basketball.’ “

The head of the sports association, which organized the five-week program, recalled the first day. Burdun gave a simple introduction, then asked: “‘Do you want to run?’ They said yes, and they said, ‘Run,’ “said Elena Sandre. And they left, hungry for action after an academic year mostly after team sports.

In five weeks, the children learned to dribble and shoot; Passing was limited due to the COVID protocol. They stood in line for practice, and navigated a slalom course on the gym floor. Burdun lowered two rings on either side of the basket, so children who could not throw to the 10-foot (three-meter) height of the standard enclosure could land a shot.

Sandre came to know of Burdun as a journalist covering wheelchair basketball in Italy, first when he was in Rome, then Sardinia, and finally when he arrived in Monza Province in Lombardy, where he plays in Unipollsai Bryantia 84 Canto Huh. The team won the Italian Championship this year and Burdun was named MVP for the championship. He continues to play in the Argentina national team, but will not go to the Paralympics in Tokyo because his team failed to qualify.

Sandre said that he saw Burdun not because of his disability, but because he commanded the way he played the team.

“If you see him playing, you see that he is a coach. He manages the team. He is a leader, ” she said. He had no problem handling the sometimes noisy group of 7-year-olds.

“I didn’t imagine that in a wheelchair, with so many children, I could feel so good,” Burdun said.

Even though Burdun discussed his disability until the last day, Variety’s lesson tricked. Sandre says she sees parents talking in social media posts about how “privileged” their children are to learn from a para athlete.

For their final day, the children gave Burdun his drawings.

“But the most beautiful thing is that we were successful in breaking the barrier between the coach with one leg in a wheelchair, and the ideal of a coach, period,” Burdun said.

“How do I know about this? Because after asking me some questions they asked if they could continue to practice basketball. That meant they were more interested in playing than knowing why I only had one leg. is.”


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Barry reported from Milan.


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