Midnight Basketball is a harm-prevention charity that works with community volunteers to organise basketball tournaments, giving kids the option of a fun alcohol and drug-free activity during high-risk periods.
By providing local volunteers and partnering with Midnight Basketball, a number of communities across Australia have given their kids this opportunity.
The premise is simple – put on a basketball tournament for local children and young people on a Friday or Saturday night and address a common complaint in some communities that there’s nothing for young people to do. But Midnight Basketball is a community-building program that works on a number of levels.
It involves eight-week tournaments run twice a year over two-year cycles, starting at 7.30 pm on a Friday or Saturday night.
Kids get a nutritious meal when they turn up and have to take part in a life-skills workshop before they start.
Topics cover things like nutrition and health, alcohol and other drugs, financial literacy, conflict resolution and job readiness. By midnight, the kids are taken home safely by bus.
The program’s strict ‘no workshop, no jump shot’ policy has been a successful one, with kids reporting to evaluators that all parts of the program – including the workshops – were important to them.
Although it is aimed at young people, the program’s real focus is the whole community.
Midnight Basketball relies on all sections of the community coming together to manage and run the tournaments. A volunteer committee manages the program, and people can get involved on tournament nights doing everything from umpiring to running workshops. Local businesses contribute resources like catering or transport.
This benefits everyone: young people get a chance to get to know and connect with the older members of the community and to be exposed to positive and supportive adult role models; the volunteers may feel a greater sense of connection in the community and even make some new friends themselves.
The Midnight Basketball organisers say the key to success is involving as much of the community as possible – the more organisations and networks that take part, the bigger the impact.
Having a volunteer base that reflects the diversity of the community will help to ensure the success and longevity of the program by driving engagement with the whole community.
If you think Midnight Basketball might benefit your community, you can find out more about the requirements on their website. Then, start networking within your community to see what kind of support you can drum up!