Swish. Image Credit: Vincent Smith-Koppie

Recreational Activities for people with an Intellectual Disability (RAID) Basketball is a program which gives people with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to play social sport and develop friendships and confidence that they may  otherwise not be able to develop.

For most of the participants, Wednesday night basketball at the Radford College Gym is the highlight of their week and for many this is their only opportunity for social interactions outside of work. The program was first developed in 1984 and has changed quite a bit since, particularly since a partnership with Radford College was formed 11 years ago.

Vincent Smith-Koppie had a chat about RAID Basketball with Alesha Brown who has been the YMCA RAID Basketball Supervisor for 10 years.

Q. What exactly is RAID Basketball?

A. It’s more or less just a social recreational basketball program for teenagers and adults with moderate to severe intellectual disabilities.

We do a beginner’s game at 6:30pm for our beginner and intermediate players. When they arrive, we shoot hoops and the volunteers encourage and motivate them to come out on to the court. We then do a bit of warm up with a couple of laps and warm up stretches and then we play a modified game. It’s two 10-minute halves for the beginners and it’s all about ensuring they are having a go and they all get an opportunity to shoot and score. We encourage the volunteers to really celebrate the wins; high-fiving, clapping and celebrating the scores is a big part of the enjoyment for the participants.

Q. Can you tell me about the partnership with Radford College?

A. We have established a pretty amazing relationship with Radford College where we have the male students from Years 10, 11 and 12 attend each night to support the program. That partnership has been going for 11 years now and the involvement of the students has really lifted the program to a point where the participants are really getting a lot more out of it than just physical activity now. We are a social basketball program, so we’re not just focusing on the physical elements but also the socialisation between participants and the volunteers as well as that between the participants themselves.

Q. How do you facilitate the participants’ different ability levels?

A. The volunteers are a great help with facilitating the different levels of ability.

The first game has less running involved because of mobility issues so it’s more of a walk and bounce and a reminder about the skills that are going on. Some of our participants don’t have to play the game as well, if they’re here for an hour and just shooting hoops then that’s fine also.

We have one participant who comes in a wheelchair and wheels his way in and out of games but he’s actually more interested in spending his time in the cricket nets with a couple of the guys. He spends more time in the nets bowling balls at the guys than he does on the court.

So yeah, we’re quite flexible in how we run it.

Moving the ball up the court. Image Credit: Vincent Smith-Koppie

Q. How is RAID Basketball funded?

A. From a funding perspective, we are run through the YMCA, which is not-for-profit, so we do rely heavily on our auxiliary to fund the program. The auxiliary is our Op shops which provide us with great support. We’ve also had annual support from the Snow Foundation who provide our team shirts.

Throughout the years we have applied for funding when we require it but we’re very lucky that we’re able to be funded through the auxiliary of the YMCA.

Q. Does that mean it’s free for the participants to take part?

A. It’s $2 to take part each week and that money generally just goes back into their presentation night held at the end of the year.

From the start of the year when we’ve finished the presentation week they generally start asking when the next one is going to be. We do a joint end of year presentation and Christmas party and that’s funded through the YMCA and obviously with the support of the $2 fee. We provide medals and certificates and have a bit of a dinner and dance as well so, as I said, they’re very interested in socialising in any way that they can.

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