By Ben Hope
A SPELLING mistake did little to dampen spirits at the Pakenham and District Basketball Association (PDBA) when they accepted the greatest membership increase award at the recent Basketball Victoria annual awards dinner.
PDBA president Jack Vanstone said it was great to receive recognition for the hard work the club had put in to boost junior membership.
“Unfortunately, they miss-spelt Pakenham, so we had to give the award back on the night. It should arrive by mail in the next few days,” he said.
“Our referee’s supervisor, Andrew Roberts, accepted the award on behalf of the club.”
In April last year, Vanstone began a “rescue mission” at the association to take advantage of local interest in the game and improve player numbers at the small club. His first task was to call more than 200 names on the registration list at Cardinia Life YMCA and arrange practice sessions and sign up days.
“Some people might look at the growth in our club and say it is simply a result of the growth in the Pakenham area, but it is actually a direct result of the rescue mission,” he said. “I got hold of a list of about 200 names on the YMCA’s recruitment list and rang everyone on it. Some of the kids had been waiting for as long as two years to find a team.
“After our sign up day, we put the kids into teams and off we went. A lot of the kids hadn’t played before and many of the parents didn’t know the first thing about basketball.”
The Pakenham Lions were formed to accommodate the new players in the domestic competition.
“We introduced about 150 kids into new teams in the junior competition and now I collect the sign-up sheet every week and call everyone who puts their name on it,” Vanstone said.
“My hope now is kids aren’t on the team for more than seven days; that’s a lot better than waiting two years.”
Vanstone has been coaching and managing basketball in Pakenham for 37 years and knows how to keep young players interested. His approach to the junior players has always been to ensure everyone gets a game.
“Before they sign up, kids will often ask ‘will I be able to get a game?,” Vanstone said.
“My answer has always been yes. We have some girls playing in our under-12 and 14 teams because they don’t have the numbers for a team of their own. Some people may not agree with that but the reality is at least they are getting a game and that is all that matters in the short term.”
The Pakenham Warriors’ entry into the Big V competition has also provided a boost for basketball in the region, with large crowds turning out to watch and support their team.
“So far we haven’t had a home crowd smaller than 200 since we entered the Big V,” Vanstone said.
The Basketball Victoria award recognised the largest percentage increase in membership for 2009 and was presented to the association in front of 250 members of Victorian basketball clubs on 29 April.
The PDBA can now boast 265 teams with about 2000 players competing in teams from under 9s to the Big V senior mens.
By Ben Hope