The University of New England is participating in an international, community-based movement that is helping teenagers stay away from antisocial behaviour.
An Armidale tournament of Midnight Basketball will begin at Sport UNE on Saturday 3 May.
Midnight Basketball was established in the United States in 1986 to provide an alternative activity for teenagers at that time of night when they are most likely to be engaged in (or victims of) antisocial behaviour. It now operates in about 100 locations in the United States and the UK and, after coming to Australia in 2006, staged 15 tournaments around the country last year.
The program, held on successive Saturday nights over a nine-week period, combines basketball games with life-skills workshops on topics such as drug and alcohol awareness, sex education, nutrition and health, anger management, and financial literacy. The organisation’s slogan, “No Workshop, No Jump Shot”, emphasises the rule that participation in a workshop on each evening is a prerequisite for playing in that evening’s basketball games.
Participants are boys and girls aged between 12 and 18. They will be picked up by bus at 7 pm and travel to Sport UNE, where dinner will be served at 7.30. The program of workshops and basketball games then continues till midnight, when the teenagers will return home by bus.
Sport UNE’s Angela Collongues, the manager of the Armidale tournament, said that she and her colleagues were in the process of visiting all Armidale high schools to recruit participants. “Registration for the players is free,” she said, “and we’re hoping to involve about 60 teenagers. We’ll also need about 25 volunteers a night to help us run the program: people to travel with the participants on the buses, to help with the catering, and team leaders for the games and workshops. The volunteers can be students, parents, or other members of the community, and it’s vital for the success of the program that we find enough of them. Anyone interested in volunteering can contact the local office of the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet on (02) 6771 5781.”
“As the teams will not be divided up by schools, this will be a great opportunity for students from different schools to interact,” Ms Collongues added. “And, as each team will include players of different ages, the older kids will have a chance to act as mentors to the younger ones.”
It was through the Premier’s Department and the local group EACH (Eastern Action Community Health) that an application was made to Midnight Basketball Australia which resulted in the planning of the Armidale tournament, and the appointment of Ms Collongues as its manager. The Commonwealth Bank is a major sponsor of Midnight Basketball Australia.
There will be a second Armidale tournament later in the year.
THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed here shows, in the foreground, Sport UNE’s Angela Collongues, the manager of the Armidale Midnight Basketball tournament. It expands to include (from left) John Kauter (Marketing and Public Affairs, UNE), Maureen Chapman (NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet), Rob Lasker (Youth and Family Services NSW), and Tracy Wright (Operations Manager, Sport UNE).