Night Hoops – creating belonging

A sense of belonging to a wider social group can be a powerful positive influence in the lives of young people. It can help them form lasting relationships, learn about respect and co-operation, and provide them with role models to emulate. And one of the most effective ways of creating a sense of belonging among young people is to get them involved in sport.

This fact was the driving force in the creation of Night Hoops, an inclusion, diversion, and engagement program that uses basketball as a means to reach young people in need. For over three years in the Fremantle/Cockburn area, Night Hoops has run regular six-week tournaments on Saturday nights, and these open the way to wider lessons in belonging and participation. It’s not so much about winning, as participation, engagement and respect.

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The locked-door events combine basketball games with compulsory life-skills workshops and a healthy meal for all participants, and positive behaviour is rewarded with prizes. The workshops can cover such diverse topics as managing money and didgeridoo playing. Run by volunteers who coach and supervise, Night Hoops helps to create important connections within the community, making it more inclusive and safer for all.

In addition, the older participants are encouraged to mentor younger players, which provides the dual benefit of role modelling and giving the younger kids an aspirational incentive – they know that if they do the right thing one day they will be the role models. The results of the Night Hoops program have been outstanding across several communities, and there is no doubt that it has helped to motivate some of the kids to go on to apprenticeships, get scholarships and join the services, and some return as tournament managers after they reach 18 years.

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The cost of a program like Night Hoops compared to the constructive social outcomes it produces make it a sensible and beneficial investment for the whole community – people who belong care about the community they live in. Through a major grant of $100,000 from the Fremantle Foundation’s Impact100 Fremantle initiative, Night Hoops will deliver tournaments in the Fremantle area throughout 2017 and 2018.

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