The Importance of the Lightning & 36ers working together and how it will change the community of Basketball in South Australia

Updated: January 11, 2017

A few months ago, I was shortlisted for a volunteer writing position for the Adelaide 36ers, a team affiliated with the National Basketball League (NBL). Below is my submission to the team’s management.

Adelaide and sport have always gone hand in hand, and there would not have been a child growing up loving their chosen sport, who didn’t want to be the same as their idol? We have been lucky to have a few across all disciplines, but in Basketball, none more so than the likes of Rachel Sporn and Brett Maher. Joining them as ‘cult figures’ in South Australian Basketball have been imports Al Green, Mark Davis and current squad member, Jerome Randle.

In recent times, the 36ers and Lightning have been branded under the same colours, same roof and same state, yet seen to be taking separate paths for what is the same end game – providing continual growth from the grassroots level and creating a sustainable future. Bringing both clubs under the one roof not only provides the Lightning with short term stability, it also creates further growth and association with corporate partners, as 100% of the Basketball Community in South Australia is within arm’s reach.

Mark Hubbard, CEO of Basketball South Australia said it perfectly when discussing what it means to have both sides working together “we did this because we passionately believe in the brand, South Australia as a state deserving of an elite female team as well as equality in sport.”

Both the 36ers and Lightning have shown that a fight is needed to reignite the love affair with Basketball in South Australia, and the announcement that the licences for both sides would be owned by Basketball SA was the beginning of this. The amalgamation has seen both clubs playing more home games as double headers, showcasing the talent available at the coach’s disposal.

With the clubs joining forces, and giving the Lightning the boost they need, it sets the club up well to take on the potential loss of players to the newly formed AFL Women’s competition. In South Australia alone, they have seen a spike of 60% in growth from the 2015 to 2016 season, which has prompted the SANFL to create a women’s league in 2017. As much as there is the potential to lose girls/ women to the newly created AFL competition, there is a solid base already created with 35% of the 45,000 current participants in Basketball being female.

While still in the planning stage, the majority of the community involvement is from the 36ers with the Lightning piggy backing on this. This isn’t to be seen as a bad thing, but moving forward Lightning specific coaching clinics and player visits could be key to the continual growth and interest in girls/women’s basketball.

The current community development program – So You Think You Can Play – is the prime example of engaging both boys and girls across 30 SA schools and developing a rapport through fun and laughter, compared to the normal drills and practice schedules the kids (or players themselves) may have.  For those that may not know about this, the So You Think You Can Play sees 10 of the current 36ers squad take on 10 upper primary students (Years 6&7) in a full court, 5 on 5 match.

You could be forgiven for thinking that programs like So You Think You Can Play are purely for the kids, but as current captain, Mitch Creek said in a recent video, “parents don’t often say how much influence this has on the kids, and the players sometimes don’t realise this.” He then continued on to say that “you could talk to a kid one time, sign their arm or take a selfie, and that will stay with them for 6 months, 6 weeks or a lifetime.”  After all, without participation or interest from these aspiring basketballers, Titanium Arena would feel like a practice session on game day.

The main point of all community engagement is to grow the game and knowledge of Basketball in South Australia, and speaking with a parent whose son was lucky enough to be a part of the Nazareth College So You Think You Can Play pushed that point in the following.

Were you aware that both the Adelaide Lightning and Adelaide 36ers are both owned by Basketball SA? Yes I was.

As a parent how do you see the ‘So You Think You Can Play’ initiative? It is fantastic. Allowed the kids to see inside the stadium and the players made it a great mix of showing off their skills to excite the kids & also allowing the school team to play a bit and have fun.

Does this initiative make you more likely to attend home games for the 36ers/Lightning? Yes, more likely. We had been looking to go for a while and just hadn’t got around to it but Zac was so excited after he came home that he was asking to go so we just booked the tickets straight away.

Being a family so involved with AFL, how do you feel player/fan interaction differs between both codes? The player interaction from the 36ers was excellent. At the end of the game all the players went around and high fived the kids so every one of the 730 kids got them from all the players. I think the players were more engaged than the AFL players were at the clinics I have been to. Mitch Creek was the MC for the afternoon and he was absolutely fantastic!

Further to So You Think You Can Play, the 36ers have created the initiative, Backyard Ballers. Can you imagine being a young basketball fanatic and having Mitch Creek and Terrance Ferguson come to your home to take you on in a game of Backyard Ball? This is exactly what happened with a lucky members family in the past week. It is hard to see anything being more long lasting in a fans memory than having professional athletes and idols visit their home.

After all, as a sports fan, it is sometimes the small things that have the most lasting of affects. The moment pictured below will forever be a reminder to me of what a simple photo can achieve. My Daughter chased Murray around the whole stadium to get this photo.


Written by – Corey Wade (@OTLSCorey)


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