Phil Matthews is the former player, assistant and head coach, and General Manager of Newcastle team, Australia. In 1986 he won as head coach of this team the top Division Championship. Baskteball Australia, the national federation, Administrator of the Year in 1997, he is now Baskteball Australia General Manager Participation.
2002 was a defining year for basketball in Australia. The accomplishment of the One Basketball philosophy began and central to this new management structure was the development and implementation of a National Participation Program for primary school aged children throughout Australia - Aussie Hoops. After 10 months, Basketball Australia is beginning to see the fruits of its labour, but participation growth requires vigilance, patience, flexibility, passion and constant servicing.
- Basketball Australia, the governing body for basketball in Australia, had previously focused primarily on developing internationally successful National Teams.
- The Federal Government, following Sydney Olympics 2000, launched their new sporting policy “Backing Australia’s Sporting Future”. For a variety of reason the Government incorporated a new initiative - Targeted Participation Growth Program. The Federal Government established participation as a priority for all sports.
- Competition from other sports and other leisure options. Not only did basketball need to compete with a multitude of other sports, the computer age was impacting on the lifestyle of our youth.
- Due to the challenges from other sports and lifestyle changes, local associations were looking to Basketball Australia to provide a blueprint for increasing participation.
- Because of basketball’s focus on international success, our sport began to develop an “exclusive” mentality (i.e. Basketball catered for the “athletic elite”). Basketball needed a philosophical adjustment in thinking. Many people simply enjoyed playing basketball, they may not be good but they loved the game. Participation focused on increased membership.
1. Basketball Australia needed ONE BRAND to
- Compete with rival sports
- Reduce market confusion
- Maximise the benefits of a unified approach
2. Basketball Australia was required to meet the Australian Sports Commission’s participation criteria to obtain funding from the Federal Government.
3. Basketball Australia under the One Basketball philosophy, needed to develop a tripartisan participation program (supported by 8 state / territories and 500 local associations). Aussie Hoops was predicated on
- National Association (Basketball Australia) DIRECTING
- State / Territory Associations COORDINATING
- Local Associations (500 Associations) DELIVERING
4. Basketball Australia needed to provide TRAINED, ENTHUSIASTIC COORDINATORS in each state / territory to drive the program
5. Basketball Australia needed an INCLUSIVE APPROACH. An approach which provided opportunities for all.
6. Basketball Australia needed a flexible, simple and affordable model. A model which was practical for
- Large (over 3000 members) and small associations (less than 50 members)
- Urban and rural associations
- Indigenous people
- Disabled athletes
- Boys and girls
- Schools and associations
- Rich and poor (socio-economic diversity)
7. Above all else, Basketball Australia needed a program that was fun-focused. To understand participation for primary school aged children it is a prerequisite that you understand children and therefore you need to listen for their views, their wants, their desires. Children (aged 6-12) want to have to fun. They want to enjoy their sport. A life-long participant underpins growth and development of basketball in Australia. A positive, enjoyable basketball experience is the best advertisement for our sport.
8. Flexible entry points - To allow children to enter our sport at anytime
AUSSIE HOOPS - FUN TIME
School based activity to introduce children to having fun with basketball
AUSSIE HOOPS - PLAY TIME
Association/club based activity to develop their enjoyment of basketball
AUSSIE HOOPS - GAME TIME
Modified game of basketball, which allows children to experience the fun of playing basketball
AUSSIE HOOPS - BIG TIME
Mini-ball competition where children play their first real game of basketball.
The model was adaptable, flexible and customer friendly. Children can start at any stage, the association could set the duration of the program, length of each session and the cost to children.
To assess, encourage, motivate, monitor and assess the Aussie Hoops program, Basketball Australia in consultation with the States/Territories, established projected targets.
- Exposure Numbers - The number of participants, who received an Aussie Hoops (Full Time) session: a total of 182,500 schools in all 8 State/Territories.
- Membership Numbers - The number of participants who joined the Aussie Hoops program: a total of 22,812.
The primary focus of the Aussie Hoops program is to increase membership numbers.
AUSSIE HOOPS IS NOT
- A new product... but it is a new way
- About a takeover of what local associations have done... but can offer a partnership
- A universal answer to recruitment.. but is an opportunity
- A financial driven haven ... but provides substantial derived benefits (more teams)
- A guarantee... but is has possibilities
- A quick fix ... but it is a long term strategy
AUSSIE HOOPS IS
- About helping
- About one brand
- About unifying
- About competing with other sports
- About assisting local associations
- About sharing better practices
- About increasing numbers of kids playing and enjoying
- About improved delivery
- About a long term strategy
- About Overcoming the Obstacles of Traditional Participation Model
OVERCOMING THE OBSTACLES
The most frequent quoted comment from basketball coaches pre-Aussie Hoops in Associations was:
“This is the way we have always done it!” In 2002 and beyond, that response is doomed to fail. Society is different. Children are different and therefore sport must adapt. To that end we need to change a number of philosophies within the sport.
1. Purpose of the Participation Program
Pre Aussie Hoops, participation programs were fundamentally aimed at “spotting” the next generation of “representative players” for their Under 10 and Under 12 teams. Insufficient attention was given to maximizing the number of children playing!!! It was about “finding the best and disregard the rest”.
Aussie Hoops redirected our attention to providing opportunities for “everyone to play”. The strong, the weak, the athletic, the slow, the uncoordinated ........... all can learn to ENJOY basketball, but they may not be the next Andrew Gaze or Michele Timms, two of our all - time best male and female players.
2. Clubs and Associations
Clubs and Associations, who were rivals in representative leagues, believed they were competitors in the participation area as well. As a result, good practices were not shared and secrecy was paramount. This diminished the overall benefits to the sport and was counter productive to GROWTH.
3. “Elite Success” Produced Increased Participation.
Basketball convinced itself that the success at the highest level, i.e. Olympics, National Championships, guaranteed that participation numbers will grow. As a result, insufficient attention was given to the infrastructure necessary to grow the sport when success is not occurring at an elite level. While success at the high profile end of our sport helps, it is NOT our “great salvation” nor a guaranteed recipe.
4. Coaching Techniques Need to Change.
Participation (6 - 12 years) is NOT about being “technically correct” but it is about enjoyment. This is an underlying philosophy of Aussie Hoops ....... FUN SENSE APPROACH.
5. Philosophy of Participation
Participation is not about broadening the “base of the development pathway” it is about the development of a SOCIAL or FUN pathway. Not all players participate to move up the development pyramid ........ they may play for totally different reasons, e.g. To be with their mates, fitness, social reasons. The development pyramid has no relevance to these players.
AUSSIE HOOPS STRATEGIES
1. Unified Approach
The initial phase of Aussie Hoops was the most significant. Participation Programs can only succeed if there is a unified approach of National, State and Local Associations working together for a common purpose – INCREASING MEMBERSHIP. All States have agreed to participate in the Aussie Hoops Program. Now the process of gaining local association support has begun.
2. Participation Is People Driven
The most important catalyst for progress was to establish a Regional Coordinator in each State/Territory. The role of coordinator was to enact National policies/procedures, provide a membership focus in each State, encourage local associations to become involved and DEMONSTRATE the benefits of Aussie Hoops. The Aussie Hoops coordinators, every six to eight weeks, have a teleconference where they:
- Share best practices
- Discuss issues
- Develop strategies
- Communicate developments
3. Quality Control
Our National Aussie Hoops Coordinator visits all State Coordinators three times over a two-year cycle. During these visits, the coordinator will:
- View Aussie Hoops sessions at schools and Associations
- Conduct Presenter’s Courses
- Meet with Presenters
- Solve problems
- Discuss plans for the future
- Ensure guidelines/principles are maintained
4. Economies of Scale
Through the establishment of a National Program, Basketball Australia can pass on economic benefits to the local associations. Through the bulk purchasing of balls, posters, coaching manuals, and promotional material, substantial financial savings can be passed on to the local associations.
5. Sharing Ideas
Within associations in Australia, there is a fierce rivalry, i.e. at the representative level all associations are striving to be “the best”. This ethos, unfortunately, was carried over to the area of participation. Associations did their own thing, were protective about their programs and campaigned against each other. There was “conflict from within”. Aussie Hoops has been a catalyst for the sharing of ideas, a cooperative rather than competitive approach being established and a more productive environment created.
These strategies were essential in formulating the structures, values and principles of the Aussie Hoops Program.
The inclusive approach of National, State and Local, working together, rather than in a dictatorial directive from an NSO is an essential element of the long-term sustainable participation program.
AUSSIE HOOPS RESOURCES
1. The most important resource in a participation program is the presenter.
Just like a good teacher at school encourages learning, a good Aussie Hoops presenter encourages the willingness and capacity of participants to play basketball.
The Aussie Hoops presenter must
- BE ENTHUSIASTIC
- INVOLVE ALL
- BE PREPARED
- BE TRAINED
- LOVE WORKING WITH CHILDREN
Most significantly, an Aussie Hoops presenter need NOT be an expert (in terms of knowledge) in basketball.
2. Progressive Association Attitude. Cooperation is a key resource in this program.
3. Coaching Manual. Written for the “lay people”.
Simple, easy to read, uncomplicated, non-technical and full of GAMES. This is a manual to DISCOVER basketball - it is NOT a manual to be designed for the technical mastery of our sport. One feature is the eight laminated planned session which gives the novice coach (mum or dad, brother or sister) a ready made starting point.
4. Poster This “all in one”, multi-purpose resource is given to all participants. The resource includes
- Contact details
- Wall chart
- Achievement chart
- Teaching points
AUSSIE HOOPS FUTURE
1. Membership Growth
The undeniable focus of the Aussie Hoops Program is to increase membership in basketball. The ASC’s definition of membership consists of three elements:
- Must have a transaction
- Must know they are a member
- Must be able to communicate with the person
To achieve the targets presented in our plan, BA will adopt three strategies:
Maximise the level of exposure numbers. The more children we expose to Aussie Hoops, the greater the opportunity to achieve numbers.
Develop and implement effective methods to encourage people to become members.
Provide greater, more customer focused membership benefits.
As Basketball Australia experiments with the various methods of conversion, we will need to monitor their effectiveness. Anecdotal evidence suggests that there is NO ONE UNIVERSAL SOLUTION. Success will vary from region to region, according to gender and with different age brackets.
Undoubtedly this is the area where most research should be focuses.
Continuous development of the resources is an important component of the future. Videos, manuals and skills charts, which communicate fun and learning, will be undertaken to ensure the program remains relevant to the participants.
The Aussie Hoops Program has provided Basketball Australia with a
- Participation direction
- Unifying, national approach
- Product to compete with other sports
- More balance, whole of sport, structure
- Fun focus
The fundamentals of the program lie in its
- Customer orientation (the children)
While the results are encouraging, the success of the program will be in the long term benefits it brings to the sport.
Participation is ongoing, requires patience, must adapt to society’s change and is a vital component of a whole of sport approach.
Long term success in basketball is about the ART AND SCIENCE OF PARTICIPATION.