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:
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.
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.