The Optimist Citizen

An accidental sports entrepreneur who is helping downtrodden kids dribble their way to success

In the past few years of identifying and writing impact stories, we have often come across people who enter into social entrepreneurship ‘accidentally’. It’s always about that one moment, one event or one incident that triggered an emotion and led people to become ‘accidental social entrepreneurs’. This time we came across another such story in the form of Pradyut Voleti, the founder of Dribble Academy who has changed the lives of over a thousand ‘at-risk’ children from across 3 villages in Noida through a simple game of basketball.

Dribble Academy (File Photo)

Pradyut, a masters in clinical psychologist started to pursue the profession of a basketball trainer mainly because of the lack of quality trainers in the country. Trained under USA’s leading Basketball Skill Development Trainer Ganon Baker at Elev8 Sports Institute, Florida, Pradyut has been closely mentored by Cody Toppert, currently Assistant Coach to the Phoenix Suns. After his graduation, Pradyut began training in a well-off society in Noida. Soon after he started training, he found himself visiting a nearby village in Noida. While driving through Gehja, a small, filthy village next to Noida, he was appalled to see that there was no infrastructure to play any sport at all. The kids had nothing to do and their parents had no time for them. This triggered a series of emotions and he instantly realised a need to do something there. The experience developed a newfound vision for Pradyut to alleviate the dismal conditions of the village children by introducing basketball. He then started Dribble Academy in 2015 to bridge the gap between underprivileged children and their access to sports.



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With Dribble Academy, Pradyut ensures that the children are provided with a healthy and convivial environment which not only improves their game but influences other life skills as well. “The children come from downtrodden families affected with alcoholism, domestic violence and abject poverty. In fact, some of the children previously indulged in unscrupulous activities like eve-teasing, but after joining Dribble Academy, they transformed into better human beings,” says Pradyut.


Dribble Academy offers an after-school mentorship program which helps students develop key life skills with the help of sports. “I want to use this sport to help the children move further in life, and not just think of it as a place to become a professional player. I want to help them realize that even if they don’t become a professional player, that doesn’t mean that they are nothing,” informs Pradyut. Before moving onto the court, the children are given an opportunity to widen their horizon through different co-curricular activities, such as taking part in discussions on current affairs, watching a documentary or brainstorming on an activity. On the court, the children engage in fitness and learn the values of teamwork, sacrifice and discipline while playing basketball. Post-training, they unwind by taking part in activities such as making innovative things, painting and thinking out of the box. 


With a team of about 8-10 trainers, Dribble Academy now has two courts in the villages of Shahpur and Hajipur and two more courts in two different locations in Gehja. Not only this, but Dribble Academy has also made their kid’s far-fetched dreams blossom into reality by making them travel across the country to play in tournaments. Two of their students, Dinesh and Sachin, who recently represented India in the Jr. NBA World Championship in Orlando, Florida, USA! 


The academy is not only utilising the energies of downtrodden kids in unprivileged communities but also breaking gender stereotypes attached to sports. Interestingly, 45% of Dribble academy’s students are girls. Pradyut envisions to reach out to around 10,000 children across the country by 2020. He is candid about the impediments regarding funding for apparel, nutritious food and expenditure incurred for travelling to attend tournaments. He is also on the search for compassionate volunteers who share the same vision and purpose to attain the goals he tirelessly works towards. Yet, his spirit is implacable and he continues to touch more lives as the number of children who come to Dribble Academy is only increasing.



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