The TURKISH AIRLINES EMPOWERING League is coming and it is all about passion, partnership and good coaching

Full Text Sharing

In a recent skype conversation with Nicolai Zeltinger, the Head Coach of the German male wheelchair basketball team and the Coach of the RSV Lahn-Dill, the national German champion who recently secured the 3rd place in the European Champions League, we learned how big is wheelchair basketball in Germany: “Here people, when say, they are going to watch basketball game, they refer to wheelchair basketball because the quality of the game is so high and it so entertaining that people really enjoy watching it”.

The conversation with Nicolai was part of virtual “road show” undertaken by Arthur Castro Smith that is working to spread the message of the incoming 2nd edition of the Turkish Airlines EMPOWERING League, a competitive wheelchair basketball championship here in Nepal.

In his capacity as League Out Reach Coordinator, Arthur, a graduate in Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences from Brunel University, has been reaching out hundreds of wheelchair basketball teams, federations and not for profits, asking for advices, new insights and general support to run the upcoming League.

The outreach effort has been hugely inspirational as we could learn from people like Nicolai and understand how wheelchair basketball can reach the highest levels if an enabling environment is created.

Indeed Germany is the only country in the world where wheelchair basketball is played professionally and while Nepal and many other emerging nations in the region are still very far from reaching these levels, it is very important to know that someone already got there.

This is the mission of ENGAGE, a local not for profit based in Kathmandu that is working to support the process of self-empowerment of youths living with physical disabilities.

While sport playing, in our case, wheelchair basketball, is seen as a developmental tool, at the same time, we realized that we can develop the game in a very competitive way, not just as an awareness platform on disabilities but also as a real discipline that deserves respect.

No doubts that there is a big potential to develop the sport in the country as only in the Kathmandu Valley there are six male teams and four female teams.

Every year, several tournaments are held outside the capital as the interest for the game is increasing day by day.

At the same time at the foundations of the sport here, is a volunteering coaching program where fifteen local youths, most of them studying at undergraduate level and all basketball players, commit themselves to a rigorous training program before being assigned, as ENGAGEA Sport Coaches, to a local wheelchair basketball club within the Kathmandu Valley that is partnering with ENGAGE.

Some of our active ENGAGE Sport Coaches, like Bijay Lama and Sandesh Tamang are not only great players but also, on the side lines of their studies, coach able bodied teams. With their skills and passion for the sport, their wheelchair basketball teams, are showing great improvement.

Among our coaches we have also National level female players like Rashmita Kadkha, Soni Thapa and Sweeta Tamang who simply love basketball and despite their young age, are doing a terrific job as coaches of their women’ teams.

Oftentimes the ENGAGE Sport Coaches are also an indispensible in running ENGAGE.

For example the idea of the League comes from two former ENGAGE Sport Coaches, Bikram Rajkarnikar and Utkrist Thapa while Diaya Mahararjan, the youngest coach who recently completed her high school, is interning at ENGAGE taking care of the social media.

Obviously there are mountains of challenges in running such programs, including the fact that all the teams are hosted, for their regular training, by local schools whose courts are most of the time used by their students.

Plus we should not forget that in Nepal, the traditional two days weekend is reduced to only one free day, Saturday with the consequence that is it not easy for our ENGAGE Sport Coaches to find time to train their teams.

Despite the limitations, we are trying to invest on the quality of the coaching: we have a small in-house technical team led by Raj Kumar Mahararjan that, as Head of Technical Coaching, is supervising the work of our ENGAGE Sport Coaches.

We are also counting on the expertise and support of Michael Rosenkrantz, a longtime friend and Advisor at ENGAGE who is currently the Assistant Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Coach at University of Arizona in Tucson.

Right now we are exploring the idea of raising the level of the ENGAGE Sport Coaches with a two tiers system where senior coaches, in exchange, of a small allowance, would give more time and teach and groom a new cadre of junior coaches.

The Turkish Airlines EMPOWERING League, to be played in different colleges across the Capital, is key to develop, promote and showcase all these efforts.

We were very lucky in having a strategic partner like Turkish Airlines whose Nepal General Manager, Abdullah Kececi, has fully embraced, since the very beginning, the concept, providing inputs and ideas to bring the League to the next level.

Obviously, the League is not only happening because of ENGAGE.

It is possible because of a network of partnering organizations, including the Ministry of Youths and Sport, business houses, not for profits like N.S.C.I.S.A, B.I.A and National Wheelchair Basketball Association, the Embassy of Switzerland and of course all the teams participating in the League.

In April the national wheelchair basketball movement received a tremendous boost when the Asia Oceania zone of the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation, with funding from Agitos Foundation, decided to support a small delegation of female players to attend a clinic held in Thailand.

Don Perriman, the Secretary General for the region, went all the way to ensure Nepal’s participation, a real prime!

The camp in Thailand is an example of a great partnership approach and we all know that only through more collaborations, we can ensure that the wheelchair basketball in Nepal and elsewhere can grow the “German’s way”.

Certainly securing funding for initiatives like the League is always a big challenge but we remain positive for the future.

While we are still consolidating the foundations of wheelchair basketball in Nepal, we know that for the over hundred athletes participating in the League from May 27th to July 1st, only the sky will be the limit and the future of wheelchair basketball in Nepal is certainly bright.


Follow the Turkish Airlines EMPOWERING League on

Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.