PH International

All Big Changes Start Small!

Georgia | Georgian Police as Leaders in Athletics for Youth | 24 Dec 2015

“We were quite sceptical about the whole concept of School Resource Officers (school wardens) and Police Officers working together in the beginning,” admitted, Natalia Chrelashvili, Head of Administration of the Office of School Resource Officers, “but we are starting to see some real results and an unbelievably high level of motivation from both students and their coaches; SROs and Police Officers that are really busy in their regular work and are not paid a penny to take on this extra responsibility. What can I say? Go GE PLAY!”.

“I’ll be happy to help but I have no idea of how to couch a basketball team; I don’t know even the basic basketball rules,” stated Tea Galakhvaridze, Tbilisi Main Police Department District Police Officer, when the GE PLAY program team approached her for the first time and requested her to participate.
Two GE PLAY Basketball tournaments and a gold medal later, Tea has a lot to say about coaching a school-based basketball team, about the problems and needs of 3x3 street basketball in Georgia, youth counseling and the tricks on how to make them study and behave.
“I was intrigued when I first heard about the program concept, but also very skeptical about the role of the police officers in the program and of how all the pieces would actually fall into place,” admits Vladimer (Vova) Boisa, Vice President of Georgian Basketball Federation. “I received my first shock during the exchange to the United States, where we saw the tremendous commitment of the police officers towards youths as well as the work and the scope of projects implemented by the Police in Athletics League organization. I even wrote it in my blogpost that I was considering changing my profession and becoming a police officer.”
“Since our return from the United States, we (the members of GE PLAY working group) have been in constant contact with each other” says Tea Galakhvaridze. She remarked that, “Guys from the Basketball Federation have been a tremendous help. Vova is a really busy person and spends a lot of time abroad, but whenever he’s in Georgia he still finds time to come by and attend our trainings at Tbilisi School #143, play together with the kids, give advice and just inspire!”
“Having Boisa attend our trainings is what having Pele coach them would be for amateur football players”, admits Giorgi Isaaki, a student from School #143 in Tbilisi. “He is our role model; we all want to be like him when we grow up and the fact that despite his busy schedule he still finds time and desire to come play with us and give Coach Tea some advice makes us want to do our utmost, our very best” he concludes.
“It was my friend, Giorgi that persuaded me to enroll in the program” admits Dimitri Metreveli, an 11th grader from School #143. “If about a year ago somebody told me that I would accept a female police officer for my basketball coach, I would laugh hard, but I promised Giorgi I would give it a try and I don’t regret a thing. Coach Tea has been an exceptional support not only as a basketball coach, but also as a life counselor. We always nag her with our stupid everyday problems but she always finds a way to put us on the right track,” he laughs. “The weirdest part of all is that we all started to study better. Coach Tea has some “rules.” She checks our grades and talks to our teachers and then gives us hard time if she gets negative feedback. So, we try to behave. What can we say, she’s found a way into our hearts and I think into our brains too!” he laughs again.
“It is usually the small-scale individual efforts that prepare the ground for a larger scale change,” remarked Giorgi Zabakhidze, Director of Super-league and Age Specific Leagues of the Basketball Federation of Georgia. “GE PLAY has started something unique and effective. I know the although the program has come to end I ‘m not sure that any of the police officers or school resource officers enrolled in the program will find it in their hearts to quit. They have come a long way since the start of the program; not only that they influenced the youth, but also that the youths influenced them. I am sure the majority of the GE PLAY school based teams will continue to function and the Basketball Federation of Georgia will do its best to support them.”