Behind the Scenes – what happens in Hi 5 when 30+ teams participate in tournaments:

By: Usha Sundar
Hi 5 is one of the largest grassroots programs in the world. Participation in tournaments is a “mega event” every time in Hi5. People often wonder how difficult it really is to participate in a tournament. Although most schools in the country do it effortlessly.

Participation in youth sports such as basketball offers many potential benefits for children and adolescents. Youth sport participation provides an avenue to develop peer relationships, self-esteem, and leadership qualities.

For underprivileged youth, Hi 5’s “Hope through Hoops” has become a life changer sport. Basketball in India once offered only in private and elite schools, today with Hi 5’s entry into the game in India, it has become one more fast paced high end sport for the underprivileged.

Moreover, do you know how many professional teams the NBA currently have? 30 teams I guess. I would request you to pause for a minute and do the math – how many teams do you think an organization like Hi 5 Youth Foundation would have?

We train children in over 20 centres and schools across the country in 3 different states. Most of the children at school level are categorised as Under 12, Under 14 and Under 16 for tournaments. Hi 5 caters to both; girls and boys in all schools and each centre has a different school.

How many teams are in Hi 5?? For a moment, if you can think through – here is the math:

20 centres X 3 categories = 60 teams

60 teams X 2 (includes both; boys and girls) adds up to a total of 120 teams……which is a massive number!

I am proud to state that we are larger than many football clubs around the world. Furthermore, have you ever wondered what really goes on behind the scenes when a tournament is announced? We would like to walk you through the process we have established in Mumbai since it is one of our most matured programs.

When tournaments are announced, there are 3 things that are specified:

  • 1. Name of the player/student
  • 2. School
  • 3. Most importantly their age
Each student submits 3 to 4 different identification proofs. The age criteria’s are also different for each tournament. The coaches submit their team list to the Hi 5 office in a way that the best fits are selected and bifurcated for each age category. Tournament organizers sometimes may specify that only 4 to 8 teams will be allowed to participate. Some bigger tournaments like DSO or SFA allow a larger number of Hi 5 teams to participate.

In a recent SFA tournament, 25 teams participated which makes it close to 300 children in total. In spite of the fact that one needs to scan such a large number of children, we use a strict 4 step verification process to ensure it is done appropriately. Most tournaments ask for 3 different types of identification proofs to verify the player’s identity at the venue. This includes the birth certificate, the aadhar card (national ID), school ID, etc.

Once again, let’s do the math – 300 children X 3 types of documents = 900 pieces of information. Phew! That’s a whole lot of information and data.

We have laid out our systems and processes as efficiently as we could. We have documented systematic profiles of all children in our database (collected when they first joined Hi 5). The children in each team are filtered as per tournament guidelines. The first set of identification proofs that the children submit at Hi 5 are safely documented and locked in our system. The date of birth being the most important aspect here.

Few days prior to the D-day, the tournament coordinator from Hi 5 submits these 900 pieces of data to the tournament organizers. The coordinator patiently spends days with the organizer and secures an authorization on every piece of the submitted documents. If there is a flaw, he/she comes back to the office or reaches out to the concerned child or the school to fix it. The senior team at Hi 5 takes charge and about 4 to 5 team members’ double check each document for any inaccuracies. Final copies are printed and handed over to the respective coaches who will eventually travel with the children for different tournaments.
On the game day, our children travel via public transport with a coach and their sports coordinator. 30 teams on board different public buses from different areas to reach one final venue. The audience often wonders why and how the same “green Hi 5 team” is playing all day long – not realizing that Hi 5 has 30 teams from different schools who have entered the tournament from far away schools in the city.

I am also excited to share with you all that Hi 5 children are trained so well that sometimes 2 of our own teams end up playing against each other in semi-finals and finals. Hi 5 children have regularly finished in the top 3 positions in these tournaments. Since 2018, Hi 5 teams have topped most of the tournaments in the city. Many other players and their coaches from sports and international schools have accepted the fact that they can be beaten by municipal school children – which was pretty much never the case before.

In India, basketball has always been an elite sport and the underprivileged society members were never given the opportunity to enter and play a sport like this before.

If Tiger Woods can change the game of golf in the world, Hi 5’s underprivileged children can definitely change the prospect of basketball in India.

Hi 5’s basketball program also has an extensive network of interschool, invitational, outstation tournaments which provides student-athletes with exposure unlike anywhere else. During pre-season or in rigorous Hi 5’s summer camps, children-athletes undergo evaluation to determine their current level as well as their strengths and areas in need of development. Hi 5 places a significant emphasis on strength and conditioning during camps, before progressing towards game preparation and team strategies during the season. Throughout the year, coaches place an emphasis on individual skill development, small group training, and team workouts, practice matches and instruction.

Hi 5 children play with the ultimate “do or die” attitude when it comes to winning in a game. Life has not been easy for them and they have survived so long only with basic necessities, but on the field, they are more than equal to many players. They now strongly believe that sports brings in equal opportunities for all.

Yes, we truly believe in a famous quote by Nelson Mandela – “Sport has the power to change the world”. It definitely closes the gap between the rich and the poor, the privileged and the underprivileged! We are championing “Hope thru Hoops” to 2100 children in Hi 5 Youth Foundation, and this is our story!