- A late night social basketball Tournament, held on Friday and Saturday nights.
- Communities come together to provide high energy, fun, pro-social, inclusive, healthy, safe, motivating and free tournaments in local basketball stadiums.
- Welcoming all local 12-18 year old teenagers.
- Tournament nights start at 7pm with a nutritious dinner, three or more competitive and furiously active basketball rounds* with motivating skills sessions, music and bus ride safely home and everyone including volunteers in bed by midnight. (*and as many friendlies, including volunteer games, as time and available courts permit.)
- Tournaments are ongoing, with each tournament running for 8 weeks.
- With 6-teams of 10 players per tournament.
- Midnight Basketball Australia provides an automated, out of the box online solution, for approved communities, to run low cost, volunteer-run tournaments embracing a diverse 'whole of community' approach to enhance social cohesion.
- We are immensely proud of our mammoth network of community volunteers who allow a quality program to be sustainable and are, quite simply, the backbone of what we do.
- It is designed to be replicable, making it a scalable and sustainable model, to maximise the number of communities and teenagers that it can support, while operating nationally like a social franchise model and is highly dependent on building and developing effective relationships within each local community.
- We also have our eyes on ..... our BHAG or big hairy audacious goal .... to actually provide a positive, real and practical alternative to end the outdated Australian culture of binge drinking on weekends. THAT IS, Midnight Basketball is a positive, highly structured and life-changing activity while also filling a gap on Friday or Saturday nights. This is kicking goals and you will be directly helping with this upward social change.
As a sporting brand, a teenage brand and a social inclusion brand, the Midnight Basketball Tournament Model combines a sense of optimism with energy, and embraces the sporting metaphors that it draws parallels from. It is all about recognising and making positive change in everyone it touches.
Every tournament night includes the following elements.
Combining community-based optics on community-based issues with an unwavering commitment to continual process improvement is a core reason for the success of Midnight Basketball. When our purpose is consistent and aligned: using team sport to help all teenagers connect, be happy and grow.
- Contributes to community and individual capacity building.
- Engages a diverse social mix of teenagers in its competitions.
- Is exciting to both run and participate in, ie, be around.
- Is sustainable over time.
In meeting these aims Midnight Basketball Australia believes it will make a positive contribution to:
- Providing teenagers with a safe, healthy and positive environment at times that we are reframing as a positive, social, fun, replenishing time of the week.
- The development of positive habits and ideas.
- Supporting the learning needs of young people and providing them with tips, help, encouragement and networks to participate in all of the wonderful offerings in society and their local community as stepping stones to employment and a good life;
- Providing motivating and positive role models and reinforcing the importance of self esteem, self worth within our teenagers.
- Promoting the many health and wellbeing benefits of an activity like Midnght Basketball and how they become a structured part of a good life well lived and in good health.
- Providing an exciting, well-proven model, that uses sport as a magnet and is well-attended by teenagers - that is something positive fun and energetic to do with their mates.
While COMBATING old-fashioned, outmoded ideas like:
- Weekend late nights are a period of the week when teenagers may be vulnerable to harmful and anti-social behaviour.
- Drug, alcohol and other physical abuse that teenagers in Australia are widely and consistently subjected to as part of our binge-drinking and other associated cultural habits across Australian society - simply have no place and are not necessary to live a fun-filled enriching teen life. In fact they are downers and the benefits widely overstated.
- Diverting teenagers in areas of need from the risk of anti-social behaviour by actually providing an alternative.
- Midnight Basketball Australia owns and oversees national delivery of the Midnight Basketball Tournament Model by aligned, approved communities within their local community, providing training and support.
- The governance approach is a powerful and scalable combination of the national organisation and our community tournament locations who implement the model and actually run it !
- Midnight Basketball Australia Board members generously provide their time, expertise and wisdom and have a substantial track record in implementing community and commercial projects: we are eternally grateful to Steve Mark, Cathy McBride, Brett Luntz, and Founding exDirector Jonathon Wolfe.
- Midnight Basketball Australia management team: overseas the Tournament Model development and the implementation of tournaments nationally by the many thousands of community volunteers. Led by Tess White, Chief Executive, General Manager Communities (currently vacant), Amber Holliday, Communities Support Manager, Susan Grant, Finance and Administration - advisory, team members (contractors and pro bono supporters) include marketing and communications, IT design and development and support services, research and evaluation strategy and management, legal and trademark services, and other professional services.
Charity and legal status
For details of our charity and legal status please refer to the Volunteer Support Donate page.
Our history in Australia
Midnight Basketball was first trialed in Australia in 2008 through a pilot tournament in Redfern Waterloo. Following the popularity of these and other tournaments over several years, Midnight Basketball Australia developed a significant Tournament Model supported by an enterprise online Tournament System to expand nationally with a sophisticated offering while having low overheads. In conjunction with communities and a vast base of national and community-base volunteers and supporters, we have run over 250 tournaments across Australia with over 150,000 attendances by Midnight Basketball teenagers, tens of thousands of inputs and feedback, and over $10 million of extremely kindly contributed cash, inkind and leveraged support (see Our Stats). A comprehensive and extensive evaluation was undertaken over the past two years, reviewing the results from the past ten years and consulting extensively with communities and other stakeholders nationally (see the learnings and results below).
Support provided by Midnight Basketball Australia to approved communities
- Midnight Basketball Australia provides extensive support for communities.
- Most of the value is raised through volunteering and inkind contributions.
- Midnight Basketball has been designed, and extensive time spent on creating our enterprise system for communities to use to setup and run tournaments, to support a highly automated and efficient environment, and to be low cost to run.
- Communities also fundraise, in line with the Midnight Basketball Fundraising Guidelines, if funds are required for Midnight Basketball Tournaments.
A Midnight Basketball community
This is a community approved by Midnight Basketball Australia to run the Midnight Basketball Tournament Model in their community, for example Midnight Basketball Liverpool. All communities follow this structure.
Community volunteer teams
Midnight Basketball tournaments are run locally by members of the local community:
- Volunteer Management Team (to setup each tournament) and
- Tournament night volunteers (who run each tournament night).
Midnight Basketball Australia is very proud of the huge network of community volunteers, our backbone, who implement the Midnight Basketball Tournament Model (using our online automated Tournament System) to be sustainable within their community.
We are also very proud of our Midnight Basketball communities collaborative efforts which, through considered implementation of Midnight Basketball, provide the on the ground experience, what is valuable and what works and what doesn’t work, along with innovative and exciting ideas for improvements and enhancements. This results in high impact learnings from every Tournament in the country being fed back into the Tournament Model and by combining this with best practice research and evaluation and ongoing modelling, trialing and testing, provides a world class environment of continuous improvement and high expectations.
Aligning with everything we want for our teenagers.
Midnight Basketball is successful and sustainable due to the huge support we receive through volunteering, donations and contributions, with volunteers alone having given over 350,000 hours nationally, served over 150,000 hot, nutritious dinners and delivered over 6,000 life skills workshops. The care, consideration and pride involved in every contribution is as profound as the quantum. Beyond the backbone of our incredible Management Team members, Tournament night volunteers, sponsors and organisers - we always want to attract more people who will inspire our teenage participants, helping them to realise their potential. Whether a sporting star, community role model, business owner and/or employer from a variety of industry sectors, teachers, young leaders, local coaches, individuals who live in and know the community, parents, and many many more ...everyone enriches Midnight Basketball tournaments.
Everyone is welcome also to join the initial Midnight Basketball Launch and other events, such as Grand Final nights - come along, have fun, be inspired and inspire us.
Again we say ... it takes a village: the profound power of inclusion.
The power of diversity in our volunteer teams
High quality, successful and fun volunteer teams are all about inclusion and maximising diverse experience and backgrounds. It takes a village.
To ensure maximum benefit for the teenage participants and sustainability of Midnight Basketball in communities, the Model engages people from many industry sectors across the community, many different professions and competencies, and many backgrounds with very different opinions, beliefs and life experiences.
Everyone bound by a passionate belief in uplift and making the world a better place in every way for every person, with a drive to support teenagers.
The local Midnight Basketball volunteer management teams, and Tournament night volunteer team reflect each community and these are examples of important sectors to engage.
Chamber of Commerce, local industry & businesses and individual business people
|Rotary, Lions, Apex and other community-oriented groups, Church groups, Indigenous groups, multicultural groups, Parents & Friends Associations
Councils and Related Services
Also includes State and Federal Government including Housing, Health, Community, Family Services, Sport & Recreation and many others
|TAFE, Universities and other tertiary groups
Local employment organisations and companies
|Local health services
Policing and justice
|Local police (including youth, school & Indigenous liaison officers), juvenile justice and related services
Local basketball association and other sporting clubs typically football (various codes), netball, swimming – all are a great opportunities and pathways for the teenage participants
Youth and family services
Teenager-related groups in the community.
Other groups and also Individuals and local residents
- Tournament night manager - oversees the night
- Tournament night volunteers - from dinner caterers and helpers, to coaches, to scorers to bus drivers and supervisors, there are a host of local volunteers some of whom you may know already and others who will get to meet.
- Players - around 60 - 80 teenagers (ages 12-18), depending on whether there are 6 or 8 teams. Teenagers do not need any sporting or basketball skills but do need to be able bodied (discuss if not sure).
- Spectators along to cheer the games.
- Special guests - from skills sessions experts, to local dignitares, it is always fun and surprising who will be a guest on the night.
- Midnight Basketball runs in communities (geographic locations) approved by Midnight Basketball Australia.
- Midnight Basketball nights are held in indoor basketball stadiums, with a minimum of two courts.
Midnight Basketball runs late night on Friday and Saturday nights.
Being a late night activity:
- Provides high energy, prosocial, engaging and healthy activities for Australia teenagers across the country.
- Is at the end of the week when it is most appropriate and needed - providing a great way to wind down and catch up with friends and community at the end of the week.
- The late night focus requires a core focus on safety - our operations, our systems, our overall approach and as a core expertise and area of knowledge - undertakings we are commited to.
We believe in the opportunity for all to live a good life.
We believe in helping teenagers grow up to live a good life.
We believe that communities help their local teenagers.
We believe that Midnight Basketball helps communities in this worthy pursuit.
All Australian teenagers meaningfully participating in, contributing to and learning within an inclusionary society.
To provide an inclusive activity that provides building blocks for all Australian teenagers to build the skills and confidence to want to then learn to identify and embrace positive opportunities in their lives, community and society. We do this through activities to teach life skills and identify steps to sport, education, training, employment and social inclusion. We aspire for all teenagers to transition to independent living, have a rewarding career, participate and contribute to civic society, be happy and live ‘a good life’.
Midnight Basketball Australia is a national organisation whose primary purpose is to train and support approved communities to run 8 Week Midnight Basketball Tournaments.
We are creating a brand experience that is authentic in our mission and delivery, Midnight Basketball Australia embraces a set of values that reflect their commitment to improving the opportunities and experiences for all young people and belief in uplift.
Our brand embraces and expresses these values across all touchpoints.
Equality Authenticity Integrity Respect Compassion Generosity Independence Inclusiveness Community Collaboration Perseverance Participation Fun Empowerment Opportunity Development Discovery
To enhance the life skills of young people and promote inclusiveness and opportunity through the game of basketball.
Midnight Basketball is basketball that embraces the teenage spirit, your spirit, while providing the support and guidance to help teenagers realise their potential. Through the inclusivity of sport, divisive barriers can be overcome, and a teenager is free to build life skills, like team work, respect, overcoming defeat, maintaining the disciplines of playing by the rules and learning how to cope when things don’t go your way.
Midnight Basketball is also ‘your place’ to go and make friends and build opportunities that will help your future. Midnight Basketball is your night of the week.
Midnight Basketball has always sought to create equality. After years of creating opportunities for teenagers within communities, Midnight Basketball Australia now wishes to take things to the next level and create true inclusivity. The core of Midnight Basketball is to give teenagers opportunities to play, to grow, to work together.
Midnight Basketball is creating a new social experience for teenagers through the game of basketball. Basketball has this history of nights at the local centre. More so than any sport, local pick-up games have always put people on a court together. It is be a safe place, where everyone’s equal.
Midnight Basketball is a place where teenagers of all backgrounds come together and hang out socially while playing basketball. This is an experience, a teen culture that sustains itself.
Midnight Basketball is organised sports with an edge. It’s less about the game of basketball than it is about getting together and meeting new people. This is your night of the week.
As a Model, as a national social inclusion activity, as a society, we believe that inclusion uplifts us and brings opportunity. Quite simply, it is the most powerful part of what we do.
Harnessing sport as a metaphor for life ... catalysing the profound power of inclusion
- A late night social basketball competition that can be utilised as a positive, fun, pro-social, safe and healthy activity for all teenagers to engage in on weekend (Friday and Saturday) nights.
- Based on an enhanced version of the existing Midnight Basketball® 8 week tournament for ALL teenagers in communities, repeated as often as communities choose.
- Midnight Basketball is packaged and branded by Midnight Basketball Australia so communities can provide the activity effectively and sustainably.
- By providing a positive alternative, communities can walk the talk in preventing local teenagers being enticed by negative activities as a result of having nothing else to do (a gap that will be filled by something), boredom or other influences (mechanisms of incapacitation).
- Acknowledging the mammoth need for more positive activities for teenagers on weekend nights in Australia to help form positive behaviours and habits, leading to better outcomes of health, behaviour, peer association and life skills.
- A particular focus is to provide mechanisms to change the culture of binge drinking on weekend nights, a nationwide problem that has its formation in the teen years due to a lack of alternative activities. Sport is thereby being used as a simple and straightforward, tested mechanism for diversion to healthy pro-social activities.
- Engaging teenagers with a diverse range of local volunteers and mentors, improving their life skills, confidence and readiness for future work, and increasing the confidence of local community members to engage with all local teenagers and encourage new social norms for both participants and volunteers.
- To improve community engagement, activities that involve all teenagers from the local community is preferable to outdated 'programs' that can separate disadvantaged teenagers into separate activities (while acknowledging important exceptions such as specifically designed programs to address specific issues).
- These activities will specifically also target socially excluded teenagers to ensure they are encouraged and supported to participate.
Midnight Basketball . Welcomes . Everyone.
- By engaging in professionally-run mainstream activities, teenagers will build confidence, skills, enthusiasm, motivation and life skills know-how, allowing greater participation in other mainstream activities. The inclusion of a nutritious dinner, life skills motivational mentoring sessions, fun physical activity and supervised bus rides safely home at the end of the night improves the quality of the deliverable.
- Targeted mentoring sessions supporting wellbeing, sporting and related skills, work readiness and other life skills to meaningfully participate in society are valuable learning experiences which include relevant information and advice on important teen issues, showcasing examples and an environment that is displaying healthy examples.
- The more sophisticated idea is that over the span of an 8 week Tournament(s) - when run professionally and demonstrating a commitment to high expectations in every aspect - teenagers will rise to meet the high expectation atmosphere. This will improve their self-esteem and increase their confidence and willingness to engage with other relevant and useful personal and community activities including educational and work (part-time work) opportunities.
- As community members observe our teenagers developing through participating voluntarily, respectfully and comfortably in a professionally run social basketball tournament, this will generate improved community attitudes about the capacity of all teenagers to participate in mainstream community activities, breaking down stereotypes that can act as a major barrier to social inclusion.
- This in turn makes it easier for all teenagers to participate in community activities outside Midnight Basketball® (a stereotype-breaking and social inclusion mechanism) .... another reason why we are so resolute about running to a high standard and ensuring that community members across sectors get involved to observe, engage and be impressed.
- Concurrently, they are all developing relationships with a broader social spectrum of local teenagers as well as positive role models, the adult volunteers, who demonstrate a variety of interesting and responsible life choices to which teenagers might aspire (a capacity building and mentoring mechanism).
- We know many other factors affect longer term outcomes and the extent of participation in education and employment, such as family circumstances and community attitudes.
- In summary, we know that as a result of Midnight Basketball® these immediate and end-of-tournament outcomes are sufficient to ensure these teenagers are more engaged with their community and have improved wellbeing, life skills and habits, allowing them to grow and build their confidence, self-esteem, be active at school, in friendship groups, learn and be confident about future educational and employment opportunities as they build work readiness competencies .... increasing the opportunity to meaningfully participate in society and ultimately live a good happy life.
Doing everything we all can to help local teenagers uplift.
What is it that we all do that brings benefit to communities, and all our teenagers, to ensure that we all continue to undertake important sustainable work with impact?
Why is sport so beneficial to teenagers and communities in so many positive ways?
- Midnight Basketball is designed to be a replicable, efficient and sustainable model across communities nationally and from one Tournament to the next within each community. This provides efficiency and also means that learnings from every Tournament in the country are fed back in to the Midnight Basketball Tournament Model, forever strengthening the structure and providing innovative enhancements and exciting ideas.
- While basketball acts as a magnet to attract the participants, the highly structured night is also key to providing opportunities and new life skills for all teenagers in local communities.
- Special guests and mentors from all walks of life attend and provide a range of motivational talks and impart learnings, using the benefits of sport as a relatable analogy for life.
- The Players develop their Code of Conduct for each Tournament, which provides an introduction to the rule of law and why structures and rules exist and benefit us all, take ownership of their conduct and build respect and pride in their achievements.
- Midnight Basketball has unique inclusionary qualities at two levels.
- Firstly, the game of basketball is crucial to its success - as a team sport it includes the opportunity to build leadership and teamwork skills, fitness and focus.
- Secondly, engagement occurs around the sidelines through the volunteers and other community members who build relationships with local teenagers; building positive connections with each other. These authentic relationships with local community leaders, individuals and other mentors, demonstrate leadership and strong role modelling to teenagers.
- Volunteers provide the backbone locally and represent the whole community including sporting groups, local businesses, the employment sector, education including local schools, TAFE's and Universities and other local educational and learning organisations, service organisations, health bodies, policing, justice and other mechanisms that support civil society, local, state and federal government, and the most diverse range of individuals; all bringing different experience, wisdom and opportunities to the teenage participants.
- Volunteers not limited by background, age, culture, opinions, beliefs, experience, competencies learnt, hobbies, networks, the list is limitless - Midnight Basketball is a reflection of local communities - the broader the representation of the community, the richer the social fabric of Midnight Basketball becomes.
We have run over 250 Tournaments in metropolitan, regional and remote locations across Australia.
Why is this important? We know that it takes a highly effective and efficient organisational structure and design to be able to reach so many areas of this vast continent with relevance.
Proudly including over a hundred and fifty thousand teenage attendances.
Why is this important? We can say with confidence, when well run, teenagers will turn up in hoards - waitlists being the norm. We have a lot of trial and error under our belts which can help communities in getting it right - and importantly we also know when it does not work over the short, medium to long run.
Attendance rate 99.9+% in all nightly elements
Why is this important? This not only attests to the exceptional nature of our teenagers and their respect for the whole night, but that the elements are relevant.
By bringing communities together, we have gratitude for the huge support including
Donations and in-kind contributions of over $10 million of extremely kindly contributed cash, inkind and leveraged support
Why is this important? We want Midnight Basketball to be sustainable by being low cost, and when creatively and respectfully approached we have found many many provisions that organisations can provide at low cost and impact to them. This support includes leveraged and donated support and we believe harnessing this kind of support is the most valuable to deeper connections and community building.
50,000+ volunteer roles have contributed hundreds of thousands of hours
Why is this important? This keeps costs low, provides a wonderful opportunity for local volunteers to get involved and of course the neverending benefits they bring as individuals.
Serving 160,000+ hot, nutritious dinners
Why is this important? We believe nutrition to be not only core to wellbeing and a happy life but the social opportunity of eating and chatting together is one of the most wonderful elements of the night.
6,000+ mentoring sessions.
Why is this important? We have found so many sources of knowledge, wisdom, skills development - from formal lesson structures to someone who is an elite performer or businessperson for example, through to someone locally who can describe with enormous impact the value of living a good life and ways to achieve it. We also know where this can be less valuable and what doesn't resonate.
95% of players say that Midnight Basketball is "great and want to attend again”
"Communities want Midnight Basketball to continue".
Why is this important? Every 8 week tournament has been formally evaluated through a program review completed by various bodies including each Midnight Basketball Volunteer Management Team and the teen participants and while this is just a sample of their feedback, it is indicative of the value it brings, its likability and a reflection of our ongoing pursuit of improvement and commitment to excellence.
If you would like to see more feedback, visit Testimonials
Re-imagining Midnight Basketball
The phenomenal project that has Re-imagined Midnight Basketball.
Midnight Basketball Australia had the honour of being selected to participate in a national research program, initiated and funded by the Federal Government, which aimed to leverage existing community resources and enhance community resilience and cohesion, and included a literature review of the best evidence available of the benefits of sport in the developmental years - in line with our evidence-based approach.
In combination with this deep study and with help from the following, we have challenged every aspect of the organisation, our purpose and Tournament Model.
- Department of Social Services
- ARTD, led by Partner and all round excellent human Andrew Hawkins.
- combined with learnings from 250 Midnight Basketball tournaments, 150,000 teenager attendances, and tens of thousands of community volunteers over 10 years.
After 250 tournaments around the country in regional, remote and metropolitan communities and over ten years of successful growth and operation, we have proven many things about opportunity and stepping up. Making change is challenging and we have been learning how much it requires a deep commitment to continued process evaluation and dedication to transparent evaluation of what works and what doesn’t work in changing the world for the better.
And why we do it ....
Asking this again and again.
We have observed over 150,000 teenage attendances.
Including teenagers given descriptors like "disengaged" "at risk" - we all know this list and if as a teenager, you are reading this, you will know the list.
Likely, you will not feel empowered by it.
Likely, it will not be helping despite all our genuine efforts to help.
Likely, given what life has served up so far, you are actually some of the most highly adaptable teenagers in the country - how you fit in, willingly participate and kept successfully meeting the bars we set in a highly structured environment that patterns mainstream sport and school.
Likely, we all suspect that by being included, and given an environment that is positive and helpful, it brought out your ability to develop greater traits.
Likely you will resonate with "youth off the streets" "diversion programs" and other such terms as labels that others have said apply to you. Maybe they did.
But together we have shown it doesn't need to be the case.
Change the environment, change the outlook, change the person.
We all know this yet fail to provide more environmental opportunities.
This project We looked careful at how best to to that.
The Midnight Basketball Model was a collaboration of all these Tournaments, tested and trialled for over a decade, learning and iterating at every step. The collective wisdom of this effort by tens of thousands of community volunteers and other stakeholders is the backbone of the experience we wanted to build upon.
During 2020-22 we reviewed the Midnight Basketball® Model nationally, which includes an extensive consultation process with communities and individuals from diverse backgrounds across the country, to determine what works, what doesn’t work and what can be improved. We identified profound and important enhancements that we can make based on what we have observed, learnt and proven through our community-run tournament model to be possible.
We have found team-based sport to be a valuable and engaging (non-threatening - more about this later) social inclusion tool for teaching
life, pro-social and community engagement skills
to engage teenagers in mainstream
to help them build the skills and confidence to be able to identify and benefit from opportunities in mainstream community life.
We were also reminded of the importance of evidence-based early years intervention showing the earlier children are engaged with these activities the greater the longer-term outcomes possible. For example, when introduced at a younger age around ages 5-6 or at the start of primary school rather than high school years. We have discovered that this is a large gap within community life, and about which we aim to advocate for us all to do more.
The following encaptulates our findings.
Questions we asked and what we learnt from our national review 2018-20
- Challenging the status quo in pursuit of uplift
- Societal perceptions and tagging
- How do we know this?
- What can we do to change it?
- How do we lift those who are falling, up?
- Different solutions based on the same idea eg channelling teenagers into local club sport
- The early years gap
- Addressing the issue of scalability: effective, world class, innovative technology
- Campaigning for change
- The future of the late night Friday and Saturday night Midnight Basketball® program
- Continuous improvement and providing a solution valued and built on by communities
- Talking points - other things we passionately believe in
- Early age entry in to club sport - communities are encouraged to support ALL young children to participate from ENTRY AGE into club sport. The earlier children participate in Club sport, the more it will become a normative part of everyday life, they will benefit from activities designed according to their age, and allow all children to learn things designed for the age grouping and developmental level, keep up, rather than missing out on key learnings or having to continuously try to catch up -later - resulting in the participation in more mainstream activities, hence the more you will be engaged with your local community and all the learning and benefits this brings.
- Children continue playing local club sport. We encourage communities to recognise the benefits of supporting all children to continue in activities like club sport from early age to the end of their teen years.
Addressing the issue of scalability
The Midnight Basketball® Tournament Model relies heavily on engaging and training local partners/supporters to set up and drive the tournaments with hands-on participation. By modelling so closely on Club Basketball and Association sport, we were able to showcase our teenagers successfully participating in this type of activity, thus start to implement our longer-term objective of migrating the teenage participants to Club or mainstream sport, and for the tournaments to be much more closely aligned with local Clubs; ensuring more sustainable community engagement opportunities.
If we accepted that there was an opportunity to bring Midnight Basketball® to more teenagers in more locales across Australia under the current model, we had to carefully assess a series of organisational issues such as resourcing, funding and other implementation issues to replicate club sport so closely.
And were we sure we this was the most effective way of building impact.
More and more we knew there was a missing piece.
A different solution: channelling teenagers into club sport
We believe we have found a different solution aligned to migrating the social inclusion activity closer to club or association sport, and that involves working with our teenage participants to support them into mainstream sport more directly, and particularly from a young age, rather than creating a separated, mirror program.
This is a fundamental change in our approach, the approach of the non-profit and charity sectors that we sat within.
This provided an exciting opportunity and allows us to focus our resources on the support and social inclusion objectives that are often still a barrier in club sport.
Yet do not need to be.
For example, we have found that many of the functions of the current Midnight Basketball® tournaments, which is a large activity to run and oversee, overlap and use the resources of many of the functions of local Basketball Clubs including the competition structure, resources like referees and team coaches, scorers and many others.
Successfully resourcing and filling roles with the right calibre of people is always a challenge and we believe that again, rather than mirroring these resources, we can use our highly innovative volunteer recruitment strategies to bring more children, teenagers and volunteers more effectively.
These volunteers are highly effective and incredibly useful at many levels that we were not utilising effectively - practical skills can be applied, they can be effectively utilised by providing extra support to disadvantaged children and teenagers to play Club sport.
This combination of reducing skills overlap with local Basketball Club volunteers, while bringing in new volunteers to help, including people with professional experience, understanding and skills to address social disadvantage, is not only efficient but will make the tournaments more sustainable.
Yet the elephant in the room - why we were mirroring club sport - still remained.
The Midnight Basketball® Tournament Model has always included people from a diverse range of backgrounds and sectors within a community, some who had not been exposed to team sport, some who had not worked with teenagers and/or disengaged teenagers and some who had not been exposed to any of the above.
We knew that this under-use and under-recognition of excellent humans was not optimum use of resources in a community.
We had commonly seen people to be confronted by change and the idea of disadvantaged teenagers and uplift. People commonly worried that we were taking our teenagers participants out of their comfort zone and this might not be ‘fair’.
The result could inadvertently - another example of what we call inadvertent consequences - seemingly good ideas full of assumptions and failing to grasp complexity - be that rather than finding and embracing opportunities and overcoming social justice and social inclusion issues, perceived barriers and issues could be thrown up which limited the very opportunities we sought for the teenage participants.
A specific example we have studied carefully was the migration from successfully participating in Midnight Basketball® to registering in Club sport. We know our Midnight Basketballers display the attributes and skills to do it and we also know it provides many pro-social and other benefits, yet this was often discussed and portrayed as a very challenging idea and was not happening on a scale to have meaningful benefit to the teenagers involved.
Our local Midnight Basketball® Management Team, volunteer and supporter roles were often filled by extraordinary individuals and organisations from the not for profit (NFP) and service delivery sectors. The support was profound and brought knowledge, understanding and wisdom of the backgrounds and issues our teenagers faced every day. Yet this could become yet another burden to their workload (another program to support) and could create another disproportionate bias of over-representation from these sectors.
We are all highly aware that reducing cognitive bias requires looking outside our fixed perceptions. Challenging our perceived realities.
The adage ‘It takes a village’ became a mantra and our most successful communities always had a diversity of sectors involved which became a strength and one of which we will build upon. Engaging other sectors, such as sport, business, education and civic volunteering groups like Rotary, Lions and many others, meant these more mainstream sectors learnt a lot from the people who worked in support service sectors and vice versa these new sectors brought a new frame, new ideas, often questioning why so many barriers exist.
The whole village concept is profound and is also valid and important for its diversity and taught us to have confidence to objectively look at the opportunities that teenagers have in Australian communities and how authentically and genuinely we are working to engage them with those opportunities.
When the activity and its purpose and structure itself becomes a potential barrier, or an actual barrier, we must all recognise this, call it out, and pivot to ensure we are re-optimising the outcome for the teenage participants to ‘live a good life’ and all this involves.
There are so many reasons why we protect the status quo - from not truly challenging embedded assumptions, protecting livelihoods and funding streams, honest fears of hurting or offending those we are wanting to help, being self-described experts when that is not entirely true, or being myopic, not looking to different sources for solutions, having arrogant assumptions that we in NFPs amd related fields know best, society is unkind, being honest about how we limit those who need help and provide softer solutions that do not get to the heart of the issue.
We all know these kind of reasons.
We can be fearful especially in regard to funding and integrity.
We took a long hard look at this and received excellent and profound advice and wisdom.
Another great learning was, that by its very nature of being a program, Midnight Basketball® can literally be identified as “for the poor kids” or other like terms, meaning potentially the participants are unfairly identified and classified, reinforcing stigmatisation and negative perceptions. You are teenagers who are engaging, turn up on Friday and Saturday nights to a highly structured program with no drugs, no alcohol, tons and tons of rules, work well together in teams and display all the characteristics of teenagers who we believe would participate successfully in a mainstream basketball environment. And more.
We will talk more about the issue of stigmatisation, societal perceptions and negative tagging.
We always believed that by aligning more closely with mainstream basketball clubs and like activities and introducing more children and teenagers to club basketball, provided an exciting opportunity for all teenagers in Australia.
It was not nearly expansive enough as an idea but we were starting to circle the elephant.
The early years gap
Evidence-based interventions show that children’s behaviour patterns, expectations and attitudes are formed at early ages. This provides another exciting opportunity to make greater long-term impact as Midnight Basketball® is currently a tournament for 12-18-year-olds.
This is about right. It is a late night idea so is relevant to teenagers not children.
But the idea of inclusion is so much bigger and longer term.
We will continue to pursue the idea that ALL children start sport at a younger age to assist in the more formative years.
We believe that sport can play an important role in the developmental years and the earlier that all children are engaged, the more benefit they will receive and the more likely they are to continue into other forms of community activities. Research also supports the proposition that people adopt and retain healthy and positive lifestyle habits the earlier they initiate them.
The future of the Friday and Saturday night Midnight Basketball® competition
This left the Friday and Saturday night Midnight Basketball® Model we ran and had so much success with.
Again, after deep review of the issues and extensive input from community consultations, our gap analysis identified there is an identified need for more pro-social positive activities with no drugs or alcohol on Friday and Saturday nights.
And there is a need for all teenagers in the country, not just disadvantaged teenagers.
That is, the need for Social Basketball Competitions - to fill a cavernous gap in Australia, a country with a strong culture of binge drinking and negative patterns of behaviour on weekend nights. This has been confirmed every single stakeholder in the study and with every single communities in all States and Territories.
Broadening the program to include all teenagers, not just disadvantaged teenagers, has additional benefits of less stigma around Midnight Basketball being only for disadvantaged teenagers and greater engagement with other teenagers in their communities. Everyone playing together.
It actually becomes more inclusive.
We will continue to ensure that disadvantaged teenagers are made welcome and supported. This is our core business. The business of authentic inclusion. We know it can be hard and sometimes messy. But it it is worth every moment that someone starts to feel included and we are the change in their hearts, their outlook, as they see trust. It is magical.
And it is a sensible idea.
While the current Model was deemed successful, and time and time again people were surprised at the change in the teenagers, we do not believe we needed to continue being surprised.
We have proven it.
Our teenagers -you- have proven it.
Put simply, we do not believe we need a separate activity for these teenage participants. All modern thinking and literature points to inclusion not separating into separate programs.
It seems so obvious now we almost can't believe the process took so long.
But now, excitingly. we can define how to move forward in an enhanced model with greater long-term outcomes.
The myth busting described above has been profound and we feel honoured to have received so much heartfelt, intelligent and insightful input from people from so many different backgrounds. We feel enlightened to build upon this experience to enhance the opportunities for all our participating teenagers, who we know are willing and able to embrace change and brighter futures.
This is what we are aiming to do now – address inclusionary issues to enable us to pivot to be an activity the whole community needs and includes the whole community.
What are the challenges we want to tackle?
The challenges we want to address is how best to ensure marginalised Australian children facing general barriers to learning positive behaviours, entering mainstream society and future vocational paths, as well as gaining opportunities that would break the cycle of disadvantage and social exclusion.
How do we all have the opportunity to live a good life.
How do we all be motivated to strive to create a good life.
The longer your exclusion from mainstream activities exists, the more entrenched, and harder to change.
Additionally, Australia has a binge-drinking heritage and as Australian communities, we do not provide adequate activities on the period where we can either help poor habits and health or good habits and wellbeing - many reasons ensure Friday and Saturday nights in Australia are a peak risk period.
We want to reframe and make the change so these nights enhance development of great lifelong habits and wellbeing.
Not the opposite.
Like all good developmental ideas, this takes careful understanding of the
- current situation
- what is the issue with it
- why has it become an issue
- what do we want to change - what is the endgame
- what is the best framework and activities to build better habits
- how will these become the norm
- what metrics will we identify to check that we are making the change that we intended
- does this address the previous issues and make longlasting sustainable change
- are we continuing to assess and uplift
Midnight Basketball fits neatly into this construct.
When teenagers are socially excluded and vulnerable and living within this environment, the temptation to participate in harmful and anti-social behaviour is strongest to themselves and others, providing increased risk on these two periods of the week. There is, therefore, benefit in providing a positive activity like a high energy sporting activity that facilitates learning, friendship and safety with no alcohol or drugs running late night to Midnight on Friday or Saturday nights.
Kind of a no brainer.
Like a good fitness or healthy eating campaign, takes some discipline to start with but over time becomes easier and easier.
What we have found and aim to test, is a potentially straightforward yet profound opportunity to make impactful change. Additionally, by leveraging the accessible, magnetic and fun elements of the team sport of basketball to engage teenagers during this high-risk period, we divert them from crime, alcohol and drug abuse, and other anti-social behaviours that can perpetuate social exclusion, poor habit formation and most importantly, missing the opportunity to live a great life.
Societal perceptions and tagging
If there is one area where we have investigated the issues, problems to be addressed, and possible solutions deeply over the last ten years, it is the role perceptions play in social inclusion. And we have travelled a long way along this journey and learnt a lot.
Midnight Basketball Australia has, for many years, given teenagers who face some of the hardest of circumstances the opportunity to participate in team sport. Through a special basketball league, disadvantaged teens were provided with a place to play basketball - from the jerseys they wore, to the life skills workshops, to a hot meal before the game - these community-run competitions helped the disenfranchised and isolated find belonging.
The Midnight Basketball® competitions helped you to have a place where you were not just welcome to play, but were given all the tools, food, training and education needed to take part. Including a safe bus ride home at the end of the night. We consistently looked for anything that looked like a barrier to participation and solved it.
Through this participation, modelled very intentionally on mainstream sporting and education institutions and theories such as mainstream club sport, mainstream school and the like, we showcased the capacity of our teenagers, described often as marginalised, non-attenders to successful participate in this kind of activity.
It also provided an opportunity for the wider mainstream community - volunteers, other professional roles including qualified referees, workshop facilitators, those who were or became friends and mentors - to appreciate the adaptability of our teenagers when given this opportunity - in essence, the opportunity that is provided to other local teenagers in communities through these very institutions.
For 10 years, it proved to be a great success. But we came to realise that success came at a cost to the very participants themselves. Instead of making disadvantage disappear, as the success of the competition grew, it actually created a more visible and problematic marker for these teenagers. As happens in so many areas of your life, despite the honest and genuine motive of the helpers you are surrounded by, the inadvertent consequence of all this identification and classification of you as disadvantage and marginalised had an separate effect.
Despite this inclusionary opportunity and all the very best intentions, you are well aware that when you separate those of you who don't have these things, from those who do and always have, you create a system that reinforces the negative stereotypes and connotations of disadvantage and disengagement, rather than one that breaks it.
As Midnight Basketball® became more successful - more visible - its participants have worn more than a jersey - a smart, professional and colourful team jerseys they have worn with pride … they’ve also worn a marker with negative unintended consequences, identifying them as disadvantaged, and stigmatising them as ‘other’.
How do we know this?
We call it tagging. When you come from disadvantage, you can be continually labelled by your disadvantage, you become defined by it. When we create programs for disadvantaged teenagers there is always this possibility.
This does not refer to interventions or services that are specifically set up to address specific needs that a sophisticated, generous modern society offers. We are referring to programs that create and intend to replicate artificial versions of current mainstream activities, organisations, clubs or systems, but for the disadvantaged.
We asked often - rather than scrutinising the inclusionary culture of these mainstream bodies, to provide better support for those than need a hand to get involved, why do we go off and create a separate version.
We found often that it is because the inclusionary process challenges many aspects of how we cohese a a society. It can be tough. It can be confronting.
But nowhere as hard as the injustice that is created when we walk away from inclusion.
No matter how well-intentioned, the Midnight Basketball® brand was potentially a tagger, an identifier, labelling its participants as being ‘poor’; and unfortunately, the wonderful and uplifting success stories or conversation that surround its participants too often include tagging and therefore negative themes – themes that would never be mentioned in a story about local Club Basketball.
Sometimes it’s not what is said, but what is implied, that does the damage.
'Midnight Basketball keeps kids off the streets,’
What is the issue with this - well, the potential inference is ’so they can’t be committing crimes…
‘Midnight Basketball kids getting to know the local police in a friendly game of ball’
Again you might ask, what is the issue with this - the potential inference … because these kids need to respect the police and authority more….
‘Midnight Basketball teaches kids life skills,’
This is more subtle and it was more about sitting within a construct of a charity-based program - potential inference ’because they have so little knowledge of values and other attributes that without this these kids wouldn’t have a hope….
‘Teenage participants of Midnight Basketball go home exhausted and happy and go to sleep. This is a benefit to all.’
And there is absolutely nothing wrong with this statement. In fact, it is incredibly positive and life changing for all of us. HOwever, again within the construct of all this discussion and inference about disadvantage, there is potential inference for example that ‘because if they are worn out, they won’t be out taking drugs, drinking and causing trouble.
Regardless of fact or perception, when you continually build a narrative around juvenile justice, policing, keeping kids off the streets, tiring them out - what is the real story we are telling about you as teenagers that need a helping hand? And, why then would we expect you to not be tarnished by it?
Our society seems to be polarising even further between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’. The growth in migration to Australia, especially through asylum seekers and refugees, and the continued struggles of many Indigenous people and systemically-labelled poor white families has created a large, visible underclass of young people. They are often demonised, we know unfairly. Witness the ‘African Gangs’ media led debate in some States, which aims to highlight problems, look for solutions, and enhance the outcomes for all in those locales, but is so easily themed and referenced by negative tagging. So, ironically, any program that is identified with assisting disengaged and disadvantaged young people runs the real risk of reinforcing their situation and ‘tagging’ them forever as not mainstream.
This is a burden and barrier to intergenerational change and uplift we need to reduce not reinforce.
We know that Midnight Basketball® has refuted much conventional thinking. We have proven that you can engage, motivate, and positively impact young people deemed to be disengaged, unapproachable and even difficult, if not previously thought impossible, to engage and work with. We have successfully proven time and time again the ability of our teenagers to successfully participate in this type of pro-social, sports based structured activity.
Examples of this ‘myth busting’ include evidence that disengaged kids can and will behave, accept and honour a Code of Conduct and Rules, be on time and respectful to staff and volunteers, including Association-qualified referees.
We have had astounding outcomes with our teenager participants successfully participating in a “program” emulating local Club Basketball competitions, including the use of qualified Association Referees and structured competitions.
We have ongoing feedback, over a decade, that rather than 'dumbed down', 'easier to engage with activities', 'simplified rules' our teenage participants prefer quality team basketball competitions with, as an example, experienced, fair, qualified referees umpiring their games as this delivers an authentic and quality 'program' (good basketball) that they enjoy, respond to, get more out of and attend more regularly.
An authentic activity will therefore triumph over a dumbed-down activity offering teenagers shortcuts, 'free stuff’ and a less demanding attitude to participation and behaviour, based on perceived backgrounds, capabilities and desires.
We found that we need to be very careful how we ask questions. How did you enjoy it? Which bits did you like best? etc, can be answered and collated very different in an invididual situation, in the short term, than the medium and longer term. Short term satisfaction does not necessarily translate into long term satisfaction and change.
We all know this from our own lives; the kind of soft decisions that we make for short term plerasure do not necessarily result in long term feelings of success and self worth. It is a rigour we believe in passionately, and hope we apply.
Our experience across the board, is that when teenagers, regardless of previous experience, understand the reason and value of these structures and rules, and when we take the time to describe the why’s, attitudes and the general approach to participation changes to the positive, greater benefits are apparent and step up admirably.
What can we do to change it?
We know that social inclusion and subsequent equal opportunity is the only true form of equality and social justice.
It’s why every child - no matter their social or economic circumstances - has a fundamental opportunity for education in this country.
Likewise, every child - no matter what resources they have available to them - in a country such as Australia, should have the opportunity to play sport.
But, rather than create a sports league for disadvantaged kids, to truly make disadvantage disappear, we need to provide the most vulnerable and at risk teenagers with the support services and tools to enable their participation in mainstream club sport. And if we can support Clubs to become more socially inclusive, that is a societal win win.
By removing the barriers to participation, we can facilitate true inclusion and equality.
Because when you give children the tools, support and encouragement, you are giving them the chance to enjoy the same opportunities as their more advantaged peers.
And the younger you provide this support, the lower the risk of them being vulnerable to social risk.
Research shows that young people who do not finish Year 12 struggle to maintain stable employment and are at higher risk of substance abuse and criminal activity. Like education, participation in sport is also key to a child’s social inclusion and physical health.
We also know that the younger a child is given encouragement and opportunity, the less likely they are to experience the social isolation and negative impacts of disadvantage.
Evidence also tells us that we need to start young, so all kids start engaging in these kinds of activities at the same age and don’t have to play catchup throughout their developing years. A simple mechanism is to give ALL kids the support they need to be able to play local club sport - while we focus on the great game of basketball, all sport is just great.
As we identify Midnight Basketball as an opportunity for all teenagers with all the benefits it bring, this sits alongside sport in general, as an activity that is best achieved when everyone is participating together.
How do we lift those who are falling, up?
We give all teenagers the support you need to fill in the gaps in your life.
We encourage communities to give young children the chance to start in mainstream programs like for example, Basketball Australia’s Aussie Hoops, an entry level basketball program for 5-6 year olds, by providing advice on how to break down barriers, and also by reaching out to provide a network of encouragement and other social support.
Together, by working with caring and motivated local communities, we can readily help all kids have all the clothing, sports gear, coaching and other needs like transport if needed, to help them participate and fit right in. We have witnessed it and know you can. Of course you can.
Through action and activity, we start an inspiring conversation on why taking part in mainstream Club sport is essential to setting the foundations for childhood wellbeing – and why it is so great to get all kids in a community involved.
By being pro-active in engaging all kids in sport - especially at an early age - we can ensure all kids are framed – and perceived - as willing participants and leave any negative tags and framing behind.
Importantly, this means that by the time these children develop into teenagers, Midnight Basketball® can be another means by which all teenagers are supported - providing them with a fantastic, fun, pro-social, healthy activity on Friday and Saturday nights - rather than a program intervention that is starting too late and required to achieve too much and well, kind of missing the point.
Campaigning for Change
Every day we will remind ourselves that we live in a country where opportunity exists.
We have the honour and joy of working with and supporting wonderful young Australian teenagers, who we have found to be adaptable, positive and inspiring when provided with opportunity. We aim to provide opportunities that resonate with you and more teenagers like you; supporting your needs and dreams.
We have had extensive input on how to tell the story of this great activity through your eyes - the story of sport as a great equaliser in Australia.
Like education, sport is key to developing a child’s social and behavioural skills. Sport teaches discipline, working together as a team, the resilience to handle loss, and the confidence to give things a go.
And a great opportunity to meet and get to know other teenagers. This is a well-trodden path for many who have recounted this story after success in not just sporting endeavours but many different avenues in life.
We aim to include as many teenagers as we can, teaching them skills, mentoring them. And learning from them.
A reimagined, refreshed and exciting Midnight Basketball tournament model is now being released with the aim of creating a much needed, positive, fun and sustainable activity for late night Friday and Saturday nights for all teenagers.
Making change is challenging. And incredible.The Midnight Basketball Tournament Model is a collaboration of 250 tournaments run across the country, tested and trialled for over a decade, continuously learning and iterating at every step. The collective wisdom of this effort by tens of thousands of community volunteers and other stakeholders, combined with out national and international partners and best practice experts across many fields, has been combined with the abovementioned formal community and Tournament Model Review.
We are now finalising an action packed three years in which we visited and Zoomed with so many communities and individuals across a huge diversity of fields and backgrounds, talked about what teenagers want, need and what inspires, excites and motivates them and trialled more tournament models. Within a global pandemic that sometimes felt like it would never end. We are in the final stages of re-building our tournament system from bottom up to encapsulate all this wisdom, reflection, experience, advice and common sense based on the very latest iteration of our Midnight Basketball Tournament Model and combined with a new era of best-practice enterprise technology.
Communities across the country keep telling us loud and clear we need to get started again.
Teenagers are more than ready.
As the Midnight Basketball Australia Team, we hear you and are working hard.
We are now getting started again and look forward to seeing you all soon.
We are re-commencing applications and trialling the new Tournament Model and Tournament System.
We welcome your continuing contribution to the next stage of our journey.
We send out a grand thank for your contributions and are so proud of our collaborations with so many great Australians we have had the honour to work with and all those we know we are about to meet.
You are why we have become this new exciting version of Midnight Basketball.
Relaunching bigger and better than ever.