I volunteered with Hands On Tokyo for the first time yesterday. We were able to play basketball alongside mentally-handicapped kids. The kids we were running with were already in their teens. I was feeling a little nervous because my Japanese isn't so good. But, I bought new basketball shoes (haven't worn a pair in over 5 years) just for this event.
I arrived at 国立オリンピック記念青少年総合センター (National Olympics Memorial Youth Center) near Sangubashi station an hour earlier because I was unfamiliar with the area in general. I found the place easily enough and introduced myself to one of the organizers who spoke English really well. She explained to me the things that I should do or expect while I was volunteering: 1) the kids disabilities vary widely, 2) don't worry about kids who aren't participating, 3) encourage and just have fun.
Shortly afterwards, I met a couple of other volunteers who were also coming to a Hands On Tokyo fundraiser for the first time. One of them was from California but he had traveled a lot and finally came to Japan to go to school. Another was this high school girl who could speak three languages because she lived in France before. Highly jealous, I am. Another guy was from Poland who has been in Japan for over two years already. All of them were pretty good at basketball.
For about the first 20-30 minutes, we jogged around the court, did some warm-up drills, and then stretched. The jogging already wore me out because I haven't worked out in so long. The drills nearly killed my legs because I was trying to go faster than my body would let me. All of this was a reminder of how much of a slob I've become over the years.
The next 30-45 minutes was purely basketball drills. Practicing passing, give-and-gos, and zone defense. Although these kids had some kind of mental disability, their love for the game and attention to the coaches directions were high. Our groups skills varied from very low, to very competent.
For example, in the last 30 minutes, we ran scrimmages at 3 minutes a game. My groups first game was against the girls of the group. My team wasn't allowed to swipe at the ball or jump, at all. Even though we were restricted, it was still fun. The rest of the scrimmages were normal, as the more skilled groups competed very hard.
Afterwards, we all gathered in a circle in the middle to do a small cheer as a group and went our separate ways.
From the small number of volunteers there, I believe I have made a couple new friends already and I hope to see them again at these volunteer events in the future.
In retrospect, all I really did was run around with the kids. I didn't really do any teaching, that was up to the coaches. I guess the language barrier is pretty huge for this kind of thing, especially with my low skills. Still, I hope my presence was helpful in some way. I had fun. In fact, I signed up for basketball and bowling next week with this group.
Sorry, no pictures this time, privacy concerns and all.