Learning to Play, Having Fun Playing

Una jugadora del club Macasta lanza un tiro de tres puntos / RAFA BUETTNER-SALIDO

In Seville, as in any other place, sport can be a very competitive field. But there are exceptions: Antonio Delgado, president of CB Macasta, a basketball club in the San Julián neighborhood, believes that the important thing is that players enjoy themselves, learn to be part of a team and incorporate fundamental values, not only about the sport, but about life.

Imagine you’re training a basketball team. What comes to your mind? Maybe a group of men, running and sweating in a suffocating indoor court? Or maybe a coach with a red face of fury as he shouts at the players and blows the tireless whistle in his mouth? Now, erase these two stereotyped images from your mind and try to accommodate a completely different scene. In it, on two outdoor courts, two teams of children and young people train with passion and follow the instructions of their coaches, who, far from shouting and pressing them on with the whistle, motivate them. Around the two courts, are the parents of the players, who encourage their children and chat with each other. This scene is real, and you can see it for yourself every afternoon at the Sor Ángela de la Cruz School in Seville, home of the Macasta Sports Club.

It is seven o’clock in the evening. Standing between the parents, watching the training, there is an older man with white hair. On his jacket, which matches his athletic pants, he sports the blue and white logo of Macasta. His name is Antonio Cayuela Delgado and he is the club’s president and one of its coaches. Passionate about basketball since he was a child –his first steps were in the mini-basket category, at the age of five– his life has always revolved around this sport. He played on several teams, although he recognizes that he was never one of the best. “But this never mattered to me. For me, it was just a hobby. I wanted nothing more than to do what I liked…” This passionate while unambitious attitude toward basketball has accompanied him for more than 50 years and has helped him to always  be in close contact with his biggest hobby, both on the court and from the sideline.

Delgado was not the founder of CB Macasta, but has been involved in it since its inception in 2010. At that time, the club –which today has 2,030 children between the ages of eight and 18– had only 40 players. Its objectives, both then and now, are the same: first, that children see basketball, first and foremost, as a game they can enjoy and that, from there, they understand it as an alternative to the king sport in Spain. “The most important thing is that they have a good time and that, by playing, they realize that there’s more to team sports than just football.” Its second objective is to help change little by little the culture of competitiveness in sport, which is considered especially toxic in the field of children’s competitions. “We are not here to win the games, to be the first or the second classified. We do not teach how to win, but how to play basketball. This is our first responsibility: the fundaments of the sport, the technique… And from there, we’ll see where we can go…”

Learn to play and enjoy playing. This is the sports’ culture that Delgado cultivates in his work at the head of CB Macasta, a vision of basketball that marks the difference between his club and many other clubs in Andalusia. With this, Delgado moves away from the traditional perspective –based on competitiveness and the struggle for the prize; in sweat and pain– and convinces those around them, players and parents, that there is a different and better way of experiencing the sport.

This vision also convinces those who put it into practice with children and young people: coaches. You can see one of them –a big, athletic man with a three-day beard and black hair brushed back– talking to his teammates in the middle of the court. His name is Humberto Quispe, and he trains the female Cadete team. Like everyone else at CB Macasta, he echoes the feeling of Delgado that the first thing that a coach must ensure is that players enjoy the sport. Although this implies that, instead of 10 players –five against five, as usual– there may be more: “If we have 15 girls on a team, they all stay and have a good time. If we do not have children, we do not have a club.”

“Yes, but you also have to instill values in those children…” The person replying is Curro Carmona, another of the coaches who is in the group with Humberto watching the children play. Curro, who has just finished his training with the Blue Benjamin Group team, agrees with the Macasta philosophy that the first thing is for children to have a positive experience with basketball and have fun. At the same time, as the rest of the coaches, he finds it important for them to learn the life lessons that being part of a team can teach them: companionship, respect for others, punctuality, or commitment. “And the basketball court is a very effective place to do this learning. For us, basketball is an instrument to also train not only the athlete, but the person. It is true that this mentality is not the most effective if what you want is to win trophies, but trophies are not the priority for CB Macasta.”

Understanding the sport in this way has positive effects on the players, as many of them recognize: the CB Macasta is a place where they can relax and forget about their problems. So it is for Elena Carbona, one of the players who has just finished her training with the female infantile team where, from her point guard position, she leads her teammates and orchestrates the team’s offensive. During the last hour and a half, Elena has been zigzagging between the defenders of the rival team, scoring points from all sides and giving precise and effective assists to her teammates. Although being a point guard implies an enormous responsibility, Elena does not feel pressure at any time; on the contrary, it feels very comfortable. “When I play, what I do is enjoy. I clear myself, I forget other things, like highschool or the conservatory.”

It is eight o’clock in the evening. Elena says goodbye to her colleagues, Humberto, Curro. In the distance, Delgado is saying goodbye to the parents. Practice is over for today, the children and young people will return to their homes and the courts will close until tomorrow. More than a basketball club, the Macasta is a refuge for all those who are part of it, a team in which to learn about basketball, but also about life. It does not only form athletes but, above all, people. It is likely that the new generations, in the future, will remember their club as well: as an extension of their own family.