International basketball coaches come to Atlanta to learn more about the game

Sports Diplomacy
A group of girls basketball coaches from Saudi Arabia and Azerbiajan observe a youth practice in Atlanta. (Emil Moffatt/WABE)

As teams of young basketball players ran through drills recently at the Chastain Park gym, more than two dozen basketball coaches from Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan sat watching in the bleachers.

Many of them listened to translation through headphones as their American counterparts explained their coaching techniques in English.

Deema Fatani was one of the coaches soaking up the information and taking notes.

“Oh I have so many notes, actually,” Fatani said.

As the game of basketball continues to grow around the world, it can serve to connect players and coaches, despite cultural barriers.

Fatani, a coach from Saudi Arabia, was among the group of girls basketball coaches that recently visited Atlanta through the U.S. State Department’s sports visitors program. Fatani has been playing the game since she was eight years old.

“So basketball was always in my life, and sports in general,” she said. “So I’m very passionate about it.”

Her story is not common, though, in Saudi Arabia where until recently, women and girls have been mostly banned from taking part in sports.

In last year’s Summer Olympics, the country sent only two female athletes.

But Basmah Al-Husseini, another visiting coach from Saudi Arabia, said more and more girls in her country are getting the chance to play.

Sports diplomacy
A sports visitors program organized by the U.S. State Department recently brought dozens of international basketball coaches to Atlanta (Emil Moffatt/WABE)

“They’re really into sports and they’re very dedicated, and it makes them happy, it makes them [to where they] can give back more,” said Al-Husseini

As part of the sports visitors program organized by the State Department and the non-profit group FHI 360, Al-Husseini and the other coaches got to attend the Women’s Final Four in Minnesota before making their way south to Atlanta and Knoxville.

“To have the opportunity to attend in the stadium and to watch the final game, it was amazing,” Al-Husseini said.

Kysah George, a former UNC Charlotte basketball player-turned Atlanta youth coach, said she’s happy to share her knowledge of the game.

“I love that they are interested in some of the stuff that we do to make sure we change the future of basketball,” George said.