October 2020

Bushrangers Basketball

What we did

Come Out & Play is a National multi-faceted program designed by Bushrangers Basketball to attract, engage and retain members of the LGBTIQA+ community (and their allies) who were previously disengaged from team sports due to their sexuality, gender identity, ability or financial circumstances. The program was initially designed for Victoria; but during COVID the club launched the program nationally.

The program was designed in three components:

  1. Partnerships and appointments: We started the program by signing diversity partnerships with WNBL club Southside Flyers and Transgender Victoria in October 2019. We have also secured our first club ambassador 3 x Olympian Shelley Gorman. We developed a strong working relationship with Beyond Blue; teaming up for Summer 2019/2020 for several events (Mardi Gras and Midsumma). Appointing our first Indigenous & Social Engagement Officer Courtney Hagen.
  2. Weekly skills & drills sessions: These hour-long indoor court sessions were designed for those new to basketball and/or sports in general. Prior to roll out the club established strong and practical relationships with Basketball Vic/NSW/Tas in delivering these sessions and utilised staff from these organisations to provide sessional coaching support to participants. Sessional coaches were provided with club guidelines regarding sexuality and gender inclusion, suggested modifications to activity and pre-training briefings regarding inclusive language (particularly in relation to gender diverse folk). Prior to commencement of sessions the club engaged with facilities to ensure they were accessible. The program recognised the intersectional barriers that impeded participation in physical activity and obtained grant funding to ensure the sessions were provided at no cost to players and that they were provided with equipment you would expect at high-level training sessions. To support grant funding the club established the program “Little Help” an internal mechanism to financially assist players to attend events. Come Out & Play was launched at Carlton Baths in January 2020 as a celebration/exhibition game funded by Change Our Game. The launch also showcased the club’s changes to mixed basketball to remove binary rules for players
  3. COVID Connection: With lockdown impacting many teams’ ability to play and participate in physical training, the club provided weekly club Zoom workout sessions for players and obtained access to the YMCA’s online Les Mils training resources for player use. The club has provided regular Bushranger skills and drills videos to players via social media. These videos have included Bushranger content from WNBL players and former Boomer and NBA player Chris Anstey. Online competitions have been designed to encourage physical activity; with our most successful competition being a fun “map your walk” drawing activity. Players have also been kept engaged with our club community outreach program “Rainbow Connections”; setting up player pen pals with isolated senior citizens in regional Victoria.


Why we did it

Club President Stella Lesic grew up as a closeted basketballer in Melbourne, dreaming of a future where a person’s sexuality and gender identity wouldn’t impede their ability to ‘Come Out & Play.’ As they grew older, however, they realised that dream was yet to become a reality. When Stella realised this, they set about founding Bushrangers Basketball, and the juggernaut has since exploded to teams across Australia and NZ. Their impact on LGBTIQ+ basketball now extends to the rest of globe with their founding the Queer Basketball Alliance (QBA): A bi-annual global think-tank to discuss LGBTIQ+ inclusion in basketball.

The program initially sought to find those who had fallen through the cracks of mainstream sport. The program strives to identify and remove barriers that prevent participation, particularly during COVID (Diversity Partnerships, QBA, Little Help, Rainbow Connections, Indigenous & Social Engagement). While the program started pre-COVID, it has successfully pivoted to online connection in Melbourne and expansion to areas not impacted by lockdown. Unlike other sporting clubs, Bushrangers has doubled in size during lockdown, with many of its new players never having stepped on a court but are completely connected to the club, their new teammates and what it means to be a Bushrangers via online Come Out & Play initiatives.

What was the result?

The key outcome from the program has been measured by growth. The club has grown to over 200 players nationally since lockdown and has expanded to Hobart, Sydney and Darwin (as well as existing teams in Brisbane, Auckland and Melbourne). Our online social media presence has also grown with well over 1000 followers on Instagram.

Evaluation and feedback is critical to the club. The club runs Zoom sessions every two months with team captains across Australia and NZ to receive feedback from players regarding club initiatives. The club is currently developing a survey to be rolled out via TeamApp (sports management platform) to ascertain player engagement with online initiatives.

The club conducts regular meetings with Basketball Australia CEO Jerril Rechter and State based officials to ensure the club’s work isn’t conducted in isolation from the wider basketball community and everyone can Come Out & Play.