Natasha Hart, MBE – by Royal Appointment!
June 12, 2015 – Natasha Hart, founder and chief executive of Newham All Star Sports Academy (NASSA), has been made a Member of the British Empire (MBE) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for services to Sport in East London.
In the 10 years since Natasha took her sons to Balaam Park to teach them basketball, NASSA has become one of the most successful and caring basketball clubs in the country.
Established as a charity in 2006 with just £20 in the bank, NASSA has made a huge impact on community sport in east London. It was the first basketball club in London to be awarded 5-star Club Mark status by Basketball England, while NASSA teams have won 16 National League titles since 2007.
Natasha’s aim has always been to produce good citizens as much as great basketball players. The mentoring talks delivered by NASSA coaches under our Carry A Basketball Not A Blade (CABNAB) initiative have educated 2,000 young people every week about the dangers of knife crime and gang culture.
Natasha moved to east London from her native Russia 25 years ago and holds the unique distinction of having carried torches at consecutive Olympiads. She carried the Olympic Torch for the London 2012 Games and was then chosen to carry the Paralympic Torch ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Games.
On being awarded the MBE, Natasha said: “I’m bursting with pride. This is beyond anything I could ever have imagined. I was truly shocked when I opened the letter to tell me about the honour. I am so grateful.
“It was the farthest thing from my mind when I took my sons to the local park to show them basketball, the game I love, ten years ago. I just wanted to give them and their friends somewhere to play in a safe environment and something to look forward to each week.
“I want to personally thank everybody in the NASSA family for all of their hard work and dedication. If I could, I would share this honour with everyone in the NASSA family because the players, the parents, the coaches, the volunteers, they all deserve it.”
NASSA goes East – for a day and an honour
June 1, 2015 – Visiting the Kensington residence of the Russian Ambassador to Britain was a world away from their daily lives for 40 young people, parents and coaches of Newham All Star Sports Academy this week.
Suited, booted and keen to impress, the 40-strong NASSA party was hosted by Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko as part of his commitment to the work done by NASSA founder Natasha Hart, who moved to the UK from her native Russia 25 years ago.
Mr Yakovenko laid on a guided tour of the residence, which has hosted heads of state, including former Prime Ministers Harold MacMillan and Sir Winston Churchill. The NASSA guests were then treated to a Russian tea party.
Players on NASSA’s Under-14s National League team received their 2014-15 league winners’ certificates from Mr Sergey Nalobin, Counsellor for Bilateral Relations at the Russian Embassy. Those Under-18s present received their 2014-15 league runner-up certificates.
In return, Mr Yakovenko was given a NASSA basketball jersey signed by all of the players in the NASSA delegation.
Natasha Hart said: “It was an amazing experience for everyone from NASSA and I want to say a huge public thank you to Mr. Yakovenko for the kind invitation.
“Our young people at NASSA are called All Stars for a reason - for their dedication to basketball, their schoolwork and to the causes they support like our anti-knife crime initiative CABNAB and anti-bullying. One of the great joys I have is being able to give them experiences like this as a reward.”
NASSA’s Under-14s are still one of the country’s best
May 5, 2015 – NASSA’s Under-14s maintained their marvellous record of achievement with a third-place finish at the Basketball England National Final Fours competition at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield.
It could have been even better for the side which has won the national title three times in the past four years. The NASSA team, coached by NASSA Head Coach Chris Facey, led their semi-final against London Greenhouse Pioneers South by as much as eight points in the third quarter. In the end, a heartbreaking 67-65 loss in the final seconds cost NASSA the chance to defend their title in the final against Worthing Thunder.
The NASSA side showed commendable spirit to overcome their disappointment and defeat Manchester Magic 69-61 in the third place play-off.
NASSA Chief Executive Natasha Hart said: “It is a great achievement for NASSA to have the third-best Under-14s side in the country and, with a little luck, it could have been even better. What pleased me most of all was the sportsmanship and the mature attitude our players showed.
“At NASSA we always say that we want to create good basketball players but that it is even more important that we create good citizens. Having said that, we want our national title back and we’ll be doing everything we can next season to win it again.”
NASSA receives minibus from Dennis Wise and a visit from the Russian Ambassador
March 19, 2015 – In the tenth anniversary year of its first informal basketball session in an east London park, Newham All Star Sports Academy (NASSA) has received its first minibus, from former Chelsea and England footballer Dennis Wise on behalf of the Dennis Wise and Frankham Consultancy Group Trust.
The 17-seater vehicle will be used to transport NASSA’s seven age group teams to away Basketball England National League fixtures. It will also be used to help support disabled young people who attend NASSA’s inclusive wheelchair basketball sessions.
With many of NASSA’s 100 club members in attendance, as well as NASSA founder and Chief Executive Natasha Hart and Head Coach Chris Facey, the presentation of the minibus was made at the University of East London’s SportsDock building. The ribbon was cut by a special invitee to the event, the Russian Ambassador to the UK, Mr Alexander Yakovenko.
Dennis Wise said the choice of NASSA as recipients of a minibus marked a departure from the Trust’s usual policy, but added that the east London welcome he and his fellow trustees Steve Frankham and Becky Bosman had received from the NASSA coaches, parents and players confirmed to them that they had made the right decision.
He said: “Everything we do is for kids, so that was an important factor. We normally donate minibuses to special needs kids and Down’s Syndrome kids, but we know that Natasha has been trying for a long, long time to help the situation at NASSA.
“As a group, we looked at it and we felt it was a good cause. Coming here today, seeing the bus and all of the kids, as well as seeing Chris the coach, who’s fantastic, you can see it’s going to be a worthy cause. We’re really pleased that we have done this today. Good luck to them all.
“It’s lovely to be part of the NASSA family now. Natasha’s invited us to come back in September for their 10-year anniversary event. If I’m around, I’d love to pop back to say ‘Hi’ and make sure that there are no dents in the bus!”
Natasha Hart added: “We cannot say thank you enough to Dennis, Steve and everyone at the Frankham Group Charitable Trust. This minibus will make a huge difference to NASSA and to all of the players’ parents who have spent so much money over the years helping us take the teams to games.
“It is a really special feeling that they thought of us as worthy of receiving one of their minibuses and we will always have a smile on our faces when we see their name on it.”
Mr Yakovenko said: “It’s a great pleasure for me to be a guest at this very special event today. Team sports are all about uniting people regardless of their religion and race and the Newham All Star Sports Academy (NASSA) is a perfect example of a charity that does just that.
“Having won all the existing awards in this sport, the Newham All Star Sports Academy has been hugely successful, and most importantly, it has played a transformational role in the lives of local young people, providing high-quality community service in East London.
“NASSA’s trainees not only achieve athletic excellence but what is equally important, practice teamwork and understanding. They learn how to surpass themselves and how to win, how to think big and put their dreams into reality. These invaluable lessons in life will surely secure a better future for every young person involved. As a diplomat, I can fully appreciate the importance of this charity’s truly inspirational activity and I am especially proud to know that Ms Natasha Hart its founder and leader, is my compatriot.”
NASSA plays its home games at SportsDock as part of its community partnership with the University of East London (UEL). David Cosford, Director of Sport at UEL, said: “Today has been another milestone event. NASSA has been a great supporter of our institution and without NASSA’s commitment, our SportsDock home would not be the facility it is today. I hope that we can enjoy another 10 years of sporting success together.”
CABNAB receives support and recognition from 10 Downing St
January 7, 2015 – Newham All Star Sports Academy (NASSA) player Anthony Okereafor has received an award from the Prime Minister for his work in using basketball to combat knife crime.
He has been named a Point of Light by the Rt Hon David Cameron for the Carry A Basketball, Not A Blade (CABNAB) campaign he established in 2008 after two of his friends were stabbed to death within weeks of each other.
In a letter to Anthony, the Prime Minister wrote: “Sport has a fantastic power to change lives. By founding Carry A Basketball Not A Blade you have given young people a safe place to be and are raising awareness of the dangers they face if they choose to carry a knife. You have engaged an impressive number of young people and schools in your important campaign.
“I believe it is my duty as Prime Minister to hold up examples of great volunteering and service as an inspiration to others. Through your hard work and dedication you are making our communities stronger and our country a better place. On behalf of the whole country, I hope this Points of Light Award can be a small way of saying thank you.”
Over the past six years, the unique CABNAB sessions, which incorporate mentoring talks from NASSA coaches about the dangers of knife crime and gang culture, have reached 15,000 young people across east London.
Anthony and NASSA have also formed close links with the Metropolitan Police office. Police officers regularly visit the club to deliver presentations to the young people on the dangers and consequences of carrying a knife.
Through NASSA, Anthony has rolled out his campaign to the neighbouring London Boroughs of Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Redbridge and Waltham Forest. In the next few years he is looking to take turn CABNAB into a national campaign.
Anthony said: “Too many young people are dying just because they happen to walk into the ‘wrong’ area. If we can get to the youth of today before they slip into gangs or are involved in gang culture itself, getting them to do something positive and constructive like basketball, the impact will be lives with great prospects. To change just one young life is an achievement. CABNAB has inspired many.
“It is amazing and very humbling to receive this award from the Prime Minister but it really belongs to everyone at Newham All Star Sports Academy (NASSA) for their commitment to our young people.”
It’s official – Coach Chris is the UK’s best community coach!
November 20, 2014 – Everybody at NASSA already knew about our amazing Head Coach Chris Facey and now the whole of Britain does, too, after he was last night named as the Community Coach of the Year at the UK Coaching Awards 2014.
Chris received his trophy from HRH Princess Anne, The Princess Royal in front of the UK’s leading sports coaches at the City Chambers in Glasgow on Wednesday evening. He later returned to the stage and was given a standing ovation as he picked up a special runner-up trophy in the overall Coach of Year category, beaten only by Gary Street, who led England to their Women’s Rugby Union World Cup triumph.
The UK Coaching Awards are the country’s most prestigious coaching awards and Chris, whose first name is actually Kelvin although he is universally known as Coach Chris, was both shocked and humbled to be recognised by his peers.
“I didn’t think I was anywhere close to winning the award,” he said. “They called out my name and I didn’t hear it really. It was called out two or three times and I said: ‘Me?’ I was very emotional. I don’t know how I held myself together. Community Coach of the Year in the UK? I wasn’t trying to run in any race, I was just given a job to do. And I realised that if I wanted to better the kids, I had to better myself in a certain way. I’m overjoyed and I’m coming back to work even harder now.
“As a community coach you have to work hard like any young man but you also have got to have some kind of passion and just love what you do. There is not too much money in being a community sports coach but passion is what you need to teach.
“It was a special evening. I loved sharing my thoughts with the other coaches and hearing theirs. And I got a chance to shake a royal hand, too. Meeting Princess Anne was so great. I couldn’t have imagined ever having a conversation with her, but she gave me this amazing smile and I felt like I had known her from yesterday. She just asked me to keep pushing myself. I felt very comfortable talking to her and I invited her to come and see what we do at NASSA and the kind of kids we have here. She told me she would love to if it can be arranged.”
For most of NASSA’s 100 club members, Chris is NASSA. He coaches them basketball skills and mentors them through their teenage years in one of London’s most deprived boroughs. He is passionate about their commitment to school work, gives the NASSA young people the drive to get extra qualifications at school and broadens their horizons.
NASSA player Sidney Ekio said: “We’ve had a lot of deep chats and I feel like Coach Chris isn’t really my coach, he’s more of a family member, somebody that I look up to and really respect. He’s an extremely good basketball coach as well. I’ve played under a few coaches, at regional level and for England and I haven’t come across another coach who has got his experience or his people skills. He’s able to put across a complex idea in a very simple way whereby everyone on the team, whatever their ability, can capture it instantly and work with it.”
The parents of the NASSA young people are just as grateful to Chris for the influence he has had on their children.
“Chris doesn’t just talk about basketball to the kids, he talks to them about life. That is the difference between him and other coaches,” said Jenny Mendioro. “Coach Chris has the patience to teach the kids basketball on the court and behaviour off it. I know that my son is being mentored by someone who can teach him how to be a good man.”
Another NASSA parent Marina Gunn is equally effusive in her praise for Chris. She said: “What Chris does as a coach that no-one else does is gives himself. Young people want to play basketball because of him. He treats every kid as his own. He prioritises schoolwork and being respectful to your parents over basketball. That’s the greatest thing of all because not every kid is going to play in the NBA, but he tries to get them to have an education. He lives and breathes it all. He’s absolutely fantastic.”
Read Chris’s story here.
Hollywood star Ving Rhames visits NASSA
October 16, 2014 – Mission Impossible star Ving Rhames made a surprise visit to NASSA, giving coaching tips and inspiring the young NASSA players.
The American actor, who is in London filming Mission Impossible 5 and who has also starred in Pulp Fiction and Con Air, spent four hours with us.
He praised the NASSA youngsters for the level of their fundamentals skill and for their commitment to the game of basketball.
Ving met Carry A Basketball Not A Blade (CABNAB) creator Anthony Okereafor to learn about what the initiative is doing to help reduce knife crime in east London.
He will return to Newham next month for a basketball challenge with NASSA players. The tournament will be dedicated to CABNAB and to the six young lives in Newham lost as a result of knife crime in the past 12 months.
NASSA Director Natasha Hart said: “It was amazing for the young people to have a Hollywood actor come and watch them play. It is really great to have the support of Mr Rhames and we are already looking forward to his next visit.”
Metropolitan Police Commissioner presents award to NASSA
July 7, 2014 – NASSA has become the first community sports project in Newham to receive a special award from Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe ‘in recognition of NASSA’s outstanding work with young people in Newham.’
Sir Bernard spent two hours watching the NASSA training session at Rokeby School in Canning Town, talking to coaches, parents and players as well as attending a knife crime workshop. The Commissioner was told about NASSA’s Carry A Basketball Not A Blade (CABNAB) initiative, which reaches out to 2,000 young people in 65 local schools and colleges across Newham every week, and met its creator Anthony Okeareafor.
Sir Bernard said: “The Metropolitan Police award we made to NASSA is not something that we give to everybody. I’m really impressed by the project. Clearly the young people are enjoying it, keeping themselves fit and getting the sport that they can take part in.
“It’s very well organised. To get 2,000 young people involved in this project is fantastic. They are getting some positive messages about not getting involved in knife crime and not getting involved in the gangs, which is good. I’m glad to see that Newham Police are getting involved and contributing. If we can help, we will do.”
NASSA founder Natasha Hart said: “It’s amazing to receive such an award and it was such an honour to have the Metropolitan Police Commissioner come down to Newham to see what we do here. He took the time to speak to a lot of people and asked a lot of questions about our work.” Read the full story here.
CHARITY OF THE YEAR! – NASSA is on top of the charity world
June 13, 2014 – Newham All Star Sports Academy (NASSA) has received the ultimate accolade by being announced as Charity of the Year in The Charity Awards 2014 – the most prestigious awards programme in the charity sector.
The highly coveted honour was announced last night at a star-studded awards evening hosted by comedian Stephen Frost at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel.
Earlier in the evening, NASSA was chosen as winner of the Children and Youth category because of the impact that our Carry A Basketball Not A Blade (CABNAB) initiative has had on our young people and the local community in east London.
The overall Charity of the Year was then selected from the 10 category winners. For NASSA it is the highest possible praise for the work that began with an impromptu basketball coaching session in an east London park in 2005.
Charity Awards judge Sir Christopher Kelly described NASSA as “a really energetic organisation doing substantial things to help the local community.”
NASSA founder Natasha Hart said: “We are used to winning on the basketball court but we could never have imagined winning off it in such a manner. This award is for everyone connected with NASSA – our wonderful coaches, our dedicated volunteers, the parents who entrust us with their children, the community partners who support us, our patrons, the Rt Hon Stephen Timms, MP for Newham and Rt Rev Mgr John Armitage VG and, of course, our young people. They are the reason we do what we do and they have achieved so much.”
The Charity Awards, which celebrated its 15th year last night, is a year-round programme run by Civil Society Media in partnership with the Charities Aid Foundation. Read more about NASSA’s night of glory here: http://www.charityawards.co.uk/winners-2014/
Following The Charity Awards, NASSA founder Natasha Hart was interviewed on the Gaby Roslin Show on BBC London 94.9. Listen to the interview here:
NASSA coaches honoured at London Sports Awards
June 5, 2014 – The dedication of coaches Chris Facey and Aurimas Verbukas was recognised last night at the Lee Valley VeloPark, formerly the Olympic Velodrome, on a stunning evening of success for NASSA.
Both earned top honours at the London Awards for Sport & Physical Activity 2014 organised by London Sport, The Sport and Physical Activity Partnership for London. Chris was named as Coach of the Year, while Aurimas picked up the Volunteer of the Year award. Each of them beat stiff competition in their respective categories to earn a well-deserved reward for all of their tremendous hard work at NASSA over the past 12 months.
Chris, NASSA’s head coach, has been with us since we started in 2006. He spends all of his time – whatever he’s got – coaching as many sessions as NASSA can fit in for him. He coaches up to 20 hours per week in the extra-curricular schools and college sessions NASSA runs. Chris also gives 25-30 hours of his time on a voluntary basis to the NASSA club programme.
As a mentor for the young people, many of them who have troubled home lives, he is like a dad. He is also requested for at every school he goes to. They all say: “We want Coach Chris.” Read Chris’ full story here.
Aurimas came to NASSA for three months to improve his English when he moved to the UK form Lithuania. That was five years ago. He gives up over 30 hours each week to coach our basketball teams. What makes this especially remarkable is that he combines this with his full-time job as a supervisor for a postal company. He truly has NASSA in his blood.
Aurimas is coach of NASSA’s Under-18s side. He is also assistant coach to Chris for our National League champions Under-13s boys side. Read Aurimas’ full story here.
NASSA also received an Honourable Mention in the Community Sport Project of the Year category.
Sad news from the NASSA family
May 15, 2014 – It is with great sadness that we have to pay tribute to our NASSA coach, volunteer and friend Zawdie Ogunseye (Zoodie), who has passed away suddenly at the age of just 33.
Zoodie has been involved with NASSA for the past three years. Only last week he was with us at the University of East London SportsDock at an event he organised to present certificates to our National Champions Under-13s boys’ side. Zoodie contributed hugely to the NASSA family, starting as a volunteer, driving and travelling with junior and senior teams across the country, organising events and sharing in our many successes.
He will be hugely missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with Zoodie’s wife and three children.
The NASSA family
NASSA Under-13s are National Champions again!
April 7, 2014 – Newham All Star Sports Academy’s (NASSA) Under-13s basketball team have been crowned national champions for the third year in succession. Led by coach Chris Facey and assistant coach Aurimas Verbukas, they won the 2014 England Basketball National Final Fours competition at the Worcester Arena on Saturday, beating Leicester Warriors 117-62 in the final.
The victory marked a third consecutive triumph in that age group for NASSA captain Enoch Denkyirah who first played for the Under-13s side when he was just 10.
Speaking of the win, NASSA ‘s director Natasha Hart said: “This is phenomenal. It is only our seventh year of competing in the National League and we have won the Under-13s championship three years in a row.”….. Read More.
NASSA shortlisted in the Business Charity Awards 2014
April 1, 2014 – Newham All Star Sports Academy (NASSA) has been shortlisted for its partnership work with Tate & Lyle Sugars in the Business Charity Awards 2014.
We have been shortlisted in the Community Partnership Award category for our work with Tate & Lyle Sugars on our Carry A Basketball Not A Blade (CABNAB) initiative.
The winners of each category in the Business Charity Awards will be announced at an awards ceremony to be held on Tuesday 13th May 2014 at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane…. Read More.
NASSA Founder Carries Sochi 2014 Winter Paralympics Torch
Accompanied by British Paralympic Association Chairman Tim Reddish, Natasha held the Paralympic Torch aloft on a specially constructed stage in front of 8,000 people as part of the annual Russian ‘Maslenitsa’ festival. The Torch was then handed over to be flown over to Sochi where it will light the official Paralympic Flame at the opening ceremony of the Winter Paralympics this Friday, March 9, 2014.
Natasha, who was born near to the city of Sochi in her native Russia, was chosen because of her work with NASSA helping young people in East London. She said: ”It was an amazing experience, such an honour for me being Russian by birth.”
London Basketball Charity Recognised in Social Change Awards 2013
The basketball charity offers the young people of Newham, east London the opportunity to become active in sport, to play basketball on both a recreational and competitive basis and to increase awareness locally about the dangers of knife crime in London.
It was recognised in the ‘Everyday Impact – Long Term Enterprises’ category at the awards ceremony in central London in December 2013.
NASSA founder Natasha Hart collected the runner-up award at the ceremony. She was presented by DSC’s Chief Executive Debra Allcock Tyler and guest speaker Alex Swallow, Chief Executive of the Small Charities Coalition, with a specially commissioned cartoon drawn by Private Eye cartoonist Grizelda…..Read More.