Basketball: Most of the National Sports Federations in the country today lack a standing national team. Only during times of international competitions, provisional teams are formed ad hoc.

This, according to federation officials, compromises on the quality of the teams and results in poor performance on the international stage.

In an attempt to build a stronger foundation for quality national teams, the Bhutan Basketball Federation (BBF) initiated a long-term training programme starting this year.

Over 100 young basketball enthusiasts are taking part in the yearlong programme that began earlier this month. The training is categorised into five groups: Under-12, Under-14, Under-16, Under-18 and the senior national team.

The federation starting this year will consider players aged 25 and below for the senior national team. An official from BBF’s planning division, Lhendup D Dorjey said that the federation wants to focus more on developing the grassroots and grooming young talents.

Lhendup D Dorjey said that every year it is the senior players who make it into the national squad deterring the younger players from participating during the national team selection try-outs. “It is the same faces we see every time in the national team. It’s time we provide opportunities to the young talents,” he said, adding the programme aims to encourage younger participatants to produce quality players in the future.

In the absence of a professional team and since most of the senior players have jobs of their own, the federation is confronted with a challenge to retain the players. “We don’t have a full-time national team today. Only during times of competitions, selections are conducted and then a team is formed.”

However, the commitment issue still remains with most of the trainees being students. Lhendup D Dorjey said that for students who are in Thimphu, the federation can still continue the training after school hours but for those students coming from outside Thimphu, he said, the problem still remains.

“If we had an academy where we could keep the players and train them like some of the other federations, it would be very helpful,” said Lhendup D Dorjey. “However, we have plans to visit some of the dzongkhags to scout talented players and invite them for our summer and winter coaching camps.”

Lhendup D Dorjey said that although there are potential players in the camp, the standard of basketball has gone down. “We are hopeful that the programme will make a good impact in the long run,” he said. “With the Korean coach’s assistance and the dedication from the young players, we should produce good players in the near future.”

Younten Tshedup