The history of sports and basketball in Thessaloniki goes many years back and Vassilis Skountis is honored to host Anna Mavroskoufi, daughter of Symeon Mavroskoufis, the first Greek National to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Akis Taliadoros, the son of legendary Greek basketball pioneer Takis Taliadoros, together with Lifeguard Educator and Teacher Kostis Tsikinas, the son of Mimis Tsikinas who was another pioneer of sports in Greece.
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Symeon Mavroskoufis. a member of YMCA camps in Pelion, Greece since its foundation and an organizer of all sports as well as the director of the swimming department for years, was the Deputy Director of Physical Education at YMCA under the inspirational leadership of Lewis W. Reiss, an American director since 1926 and a graduate of Springfield College in Massachusetts, where basketball was invented in 1891. He was able to secure a scholarship to study Physical Education and Pedagogy at the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Institute of the University of Geneva where, under the guidance of eminent educators such as Edouard Claparede, he adopted the necessary tools for a long and fruitful contribution to the youth of Thessaloniki, but also to the society of the city in general. During his stay in Geneva, Mavroskoufis contributed to the founding of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and as a founding member signed the founding act of FIBA (Greece was among the 8 countries present in Geneva) on June 18th 1932. At a time when exercise was something almost unknown to the average person, the “Mavroskoufi Gym” offered fitness classes for men and women of all ages and children from an early age, as well as ballet, boxing, wrestling and fencing classes and evening basketball sessions in the indoor hall. Generations of young people were taught to swim in the summer, on the shores of Thermaikos by Mavroskoufis, while, for almost half a century and with the slogan “Stay Young”, the Gym operated up until June 1987, when at the age of 78 Mavroskoufis decides to retire. The first Greek to be included in the Naismith Hall of Fame after his death, he made a significant career as an athlete, coach, international referee and physical education teacher.
Dimitris Taliadoros was for years an athlete of YMCA involved in swimming, sailing, basketball, athletics, table tennis and volleyball. He excelled in basketball as a power forward and was the captain of YMCA and of the Thessaloniki team while he played 31 times in international games with the National Basketball team of Greece, winning the bronze medal at the 1949 EuroBasket in Egypt where he was named the best player of the tournament after scoring 55 points in 6 games. He also won the local table tennis championships in 1948, 1949 and 1950. His presence not only helped spread the sport of basketball, but also enhanced the development of the game. Taliadoros was the first player who ever launched the jump-shoot at a time when everyone was shootingwith both hands, as well as the behind-the-back dribble.
Mimis Tsikinas, born in 1917, was a member of YMCA since the age of 9, and after settling in Thessaloniki when the war was over, he joined the basketball team, as a playmaker and in 1948 he was hired as the head of the physical education department and at the same time as the coach of the basketball teams at YMCA. He was sent to the United States of America by YMCA for further training in sports and pedagogy under a scholarship and while there he attended groundbreaking seminars and courses such as Swimming Leader Examiner (Springfield College-Massachussets), Child Psychology and Issues (Lawrence City), and Basketball Coaching (Springfield College-Massachussets) with the legendary teacher, for his time, Everett Dean, a member of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame. In 1952 he returned to Thessaloniki and assumed the duties of Deputy Director at YMCA Thessaloniki, with direct supervision of the youth, men and children, of the physical education departments and the with the duties of the coach of the mixed Thessaloniki basketball team from 1955 to in 1963. In the same year (1952) the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) named him one of the first Greek international basketball referees. The advanced knowledge of technique and tactics in basketball, which he had acquired during his training in the USA as well as the application of modern pedagogical methods, cemented him as the coach of the basketball team of YMCA Thessaloniki from 1948 until 1971, nurturing basketball legends such as Petalidis, Nikolaidis, Tzikas, Taliadoros, Rodopoulos, Tsavas, Trontzos, Bousvaros, Giatagatzidis, Zoianou, Zoiros, Giaros , etc. He was the Director of YMCA Thessaloniki from 1969 to 1982 and the director of the YMCA camp in Pelion for 30 consecutive years, from 1952 to 1982, where he tirelessly applied new pedagogical systems and systematized the teaching of swimming and lifeguarding lessons to the campers.
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