Basketball can give youth hope and faith, says Mo Walker

According to Leicester Riders forward Mo Walker, basketball’s inclusive philosophy can help guide youth from diverse backgrounds through the ongoing pressures on their mental health and physical well-being.

As the riders prepare for their upcoming Basketball Champions League qualifiers in North Macedonia, the club’s charitable foundation continues to work to engage the local community and support social change.

After helping the Riders to national success in the British Basketball League Championship and Play-offs and BBL Cup last season, Canadian-born Walker is determined to make a difference off the court.

Walker works with the Riders Foundation team to write and develop a mentoring program to be rolled out in schools and community groups, and works with Leicester City Police to engage and support young people.

“It’s all about giving back,” said the 6ft 10in power forward, who graduated from the University of Minnesota and then played across Europe in Latvia, Italy and France as well as with the Worcester Wolves.

“I’ve been through a lot in my career, with a lot of ups and downs, not only gained a lot of experience in basketball but also in life.

“I just want to share that, pass it on to the youth and maybe help them get through some things a lot easier than what I’ve had to go through.

“A lot of kids don’t really get the opportunity to see someone like me up close and personal. That interaction so they can see someone succeed in front of them gives them hope and makes them believe that they can be successful too.”

Walker, 30, added: “It’s about giving them lessons to learn from and take with them for the future – like on diet, taking care of their body, mental health, managing stress and opportunities to overcome that.

“With things like social media, it can be a lot more stressful for kids – they look at it all day and maybe doubt themselves, there’s a lot of cyberbullying. Nowadays it’s just an extra challenge for kids.

“It’s also about dealing with different people and personalities, because you don’t always get along with everyone you go to school or work with. It’s just a matter of finding ways to avoid negative interactions.

“When a person drops out of the Riders, which is a great club, and does the school visits themselves, it attracts more kids to be interested in the sport and maybe start playing the sport, so ultimately be more active and healthier.”

The Riders take on Romanian team CSO Voluntari, who are hosting one of the four qualifying round tournaments, in their opening match on Wednesday in Skopje. The eventual winners of each event will join 28 other teams for the regular season of prestigious FIBA ​​competition.

“We’re going to play some tough teams and it’s going to be a new environment for pretty much all of us,” Walker said.

“It will be a learning experience and hopefully we can be successful. The squad is developing pretty well. We had time together (pre-season) so the chemistry is there.” Basketball can give youth hope and faith, says Mo Walker

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