A new program designed by the Australian Basketball Players’ Association (ABPA) and Indigenous Basketball Australia (IBA) will tip off this month, providing guidance, support and inspiration for teenage athletes.
The National Emerging Leaders Program (NELP), generously sponsored by the Aboriginal Health & Medical Research Council (AH&MRC) of NSW, will link young Indigenous basketballers with a mentor who is a current or former Opal, Boomer, WNBL or NBL player. The mentees will also complete a journal over 12-months, designed to support them with self-reflection, identification, goal setting and consistency of good habits.
Connecting throughout the year, the mentor will support their mentee with goal setting, self-reflection, self-belief and setting and following through with healthy habits. Meanwhile, mentors will be able to develop their leadership skills, give back to community and play a small role in helping teenagers to succeed.
Conceptualised by ABPA Head of Multicultural & Community, Melody Cooper, NELP is designed to support IBA athletes, identified as potential future basketball leaders, to develop skills that will serve them in their basketball careers and beyond.
“The Opals players sparked the idea for NELP, expressing a wish to support and engage with local communities as allies. Our basketball role models have a tremendous amount of knowledge they can share and impart on the next generation,” Melody says.
“NELP will connect young Indigenous athletes with an elite athlete, someone who can inspire and guide them, not just with basketball, but with life. The year-long program is designed to help mentees identify their goals, set out a plan to achieve them and grow in confidence and resilience – skills that every young person needs as foundations to fulfill their dreams.
“The success of the program looks like these young athletes achieving their dreams and becoming well-rounded individuals.”
ABPA Indigenous Player Engagement Manager Tyson Demos is from the Bindal Nation in Far North Queensland, and he’s also a former Illawarra Hawks and Gold Coast Blaze player and assistant coach with the Hawks.
He says NELP is designed to support young athletes to help them develop healthy habits and prosper in life.
“As a junior basketballer, right up through my professional career, and as a coach, I’ve understood the power of belief. Not just self-belief, but having someone look out for you and believe in you, too,” Tyson says.
“NELP is designed to help young Indigenous athletes to learn more about themselves, take pride in their culture and identity, set goals and define a clear path for their future.
“But we know the mentors, the national-level players who have put their hand up to be involved in NELP, benefit as well. Mentors develop their leadership skills, they help keep their mentee inspired and on track and, best of all, they get to play a role in supporting a talented young person to thrive, on and off the court.”
IBA Chair Benny Mills says mentees have been selected for NELP based on their attendance in the IBA Community League, their attitude and behaviour, their leadership qualities as an IBA member, their potential to improve and their team mentality.
“Indigenous Basketball Australia is proud to be partnering with the ABPA and AH&MRC on this ground-breaking program. In support of Patty’s vision for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have the courage to dream and dream big, by connecting our players with some of Australia’s best basketballers they will be empowered to set goals and aspire to be the very best they can be, both on and off the basketball court,” Benny says.
In sponsoring NELP, AH&MRC of NSW CEO, Robert Skeen, says they recognise the potential of the program and its positive impact.
“We know that setting healthy habits at a young age, including physical, mental and culturally, sets the stage for succeeding in life. Having trusted influencers and a strong support network are valuable for young people to rely on. That’s why linking a young athlete with an elite athlete who will support them and check in with them is so powerful,” Robert says.
“We are happy to invest in programs that create opportunities to develop and support our young people to become strong leaders of the future.”
Mentors will connect with NELP participants and their families throughout the year via video call, or in person if possible, with a graduation ceremony planned for the end of the year.
ABPA CEO, Jacob Holmes, says the benefits of NELP will continue, long after the first round of mentees have graduated.
“NELP is designed to set these incredible teenage athletes on a path to success, and they will have the knowledge of all of us supporting them and having their back. On behalf of everyone at the ABPA, I want to congratulate all the young players, we know their names are ones we will hear in the future as leaders in basketball and the community,” Jacob says.