Some of the Y Streetball participants - Front row: George, Peter, Stu and Robert. Back row: Gene and Dave.
It’s no secret that team sports provide more benefits than just the physical. Being part of a team creates a sense of belonging to something bigger than oneself.
Unfortunately, it is often the case that those who need this sense of belonging most are the ones who can afford it least.
Team sports like basketball come at a cost. There are the registration fees and the weekly prices per game, not to mention the right uniform and suitable footwear.
Recognising this barrier and the negative impact it was having on their community, friends Dave Gunstone and Peter Abraham decided to make a difference.
The pair had formed a perhaps unlikely friendship. Peter, an art teacher, ran art workshops out of the North Melbourne Community Centre as well as a laundry service for people experiencing disadvantage. This was where he met Dave, a participant of these programs.
“We just sort of struck up a friendship. I was really into basketball, and he was really into basketball, so it was always something we gravitated towards discussing with each other,” said Peter.
It was their mutual love of basketball combined with the knowledge that the game was not currently accessible for all people – including those that are homeless, or experiencing some form of disadvantage - that led the pair to create Y Streetball.
The idea was to create a drop-in basketball group, with no commitment, no uniforms and no skill needed.
The pair approached North Melbourne Community Centre when scoping out a suitable space. Seeing an opportunity to provide people experiencing disadvantage a chance to feel healthier and happier, staff at the Y-managed centre were glad to be involved.
But it wasn’t easy. Getting Dave signed up as an official YMCA volunteer proved difficult without a fixed address or access to passport photos.
But after much perseverance, the officially certified YMCA volunteers Dave and Peter were able to hold their first Y Streetball program about two months ago.
Since its first week, the Tuesday afternoon 4-6pm Y Streetball sessions have gone from strength to strength, with resoundingly positive feedback from all those who’ve been involved.
“There’s so much talent on the streets, things like Y Streetball give them the opportunity to shine,” Dave said.
“It’s more than just basketball, it’s a community where you can rock up and you’ve got a social network, you can make new friends. You go home feeling like you’re a part of something.”
Dave says the main focus now is getting the word out so that more people can come and join in.
“Everyone and anyone is welcome,” he said.
In a short amount of time the Y Streetball program have received sports shoes and clothing donations. What’s more, a soup kitchen is available straight after at the centre.
“It’s an opportunity to get active for a few hours, take a shower in the centre, then get a feed – all in the one place,” said Peter.
“At four o'clock when people come in, they’re often quite tired, maybe a bit grumpy - they might not have eaten that day, but then by the end of the session everyone is really positive, you can see the mood change just through playing the sport together.”
This unique program creates new friendships and a healthy routine for people that need it most. Peter says despite working for other programs for people experiencing disadvantage, the positive impact of playing sport together is more powerful than anything else he’s been involved with.
“There’s something about sport that really binds people together,” he said.
If you’re interested in getting involved with Y Streetball, or simply want to find out more, please contact the North Melbourne Community Centre on 9320 4700.