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Indigenous basketball coaches complete ground-breaking scholarship program

Four Indigenous basketball coaches have celebrated the completion of the first Australian Olympic Indigenous Coaching Scholarships, presented by Toyota, with a graduation ceremony in Canberra on Thursday.

Cassie Dover (Queensland), Jason Ah Sam (Northern Territory), Tahlia Kelly (Western Australia) and Tyson Demos (New South Wales) completed their six-month scholarship that included elite coaching guidance, delivering clinics in remote communities and education modules.

The scholarships are a joint initiative between the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC), Basketball Australia, Indigenous Basketball Australia (IBA), Toyota, the University of Canberra and Kokora.

At the graduation ceremony in Canberra, AOC CEO Matt Carroll joined key program partners and AOC Indigenous Advisory Council member Olympian Beki Smith to recognise the coaches on their achievements.

Launched in June this year, the program brought to life the AOC’s Indigenous Strategy in working with partners to provide and support a development pathway for Indigenous coaches, sport officials and administrators.

The scholarship holders received holistic training and experiential learning, including:

  • Elite coaching experience with the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence and NBA Global Academy

  • Delivering community coaching clinics in the Torres Strait

  • Collaborative educational modules including “Sport and Culture training”, “Community Care” and “Getting and Keeping Girls Playing”

AOC CEO Matt Carroll said seeing the inaugural recipients complete the Australian Olympic Indigenous Coaching Scholarship program brought great pride to the AOC.

“This scholarship demonstrates the power of Olympic sport to achieve positive change,” Mr Carroll said.

“The AOC is committed to achieving practical outcomes that give life to Indigenous reconciliation through sport.

“Congratulations to Cassie, Jason, Tahlia and Tyson. They have embraced the opportunity and have been fantastic ambassadors for the Olympic movement, their sport and community.

“I witnessed firsthand the positive impact their skills had on young members of the community in Torres Strait, and I look forward to seeing this impact grow exponentially as they continue to share their knowledge and lessons from this experience around the country.

“Thank you to Olympic Global Partner Toyota, Basketball Australia and Indigenous Basketball Australia – your support has been instrumental to the success of this program.

“Now that the pilot program has been successful, we look forward to working with our member sports on the next stage expanding in 2023.”

Toyota Australia Chief Marketing Officer, Vin Naidoo congratulated Cassie, Tyson, Jason and Tahlia on their completion of the inaugural Australian Olympic Indigenous Coaching Scholarship. “At Toyota, we’re all about inspiring progress, so we’re immensely proud to have contributed in a meaningful way both to the professional development of these four impressive coaches, and through them, to thousands of young Indigenous Australians in the years ahead,” Mr Naidoo said.

“We look forward to seeing this scholarship program continue to achieve positive change by engaging and delivering at a community level, and further developing the passion and skills for basketball in young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders across the country.”

Tahlia Kelly, a Larrukia woman living in Perth, said the scholarship has been an incredible experience.

“This scholarship has helped things click – everything ties together, from on the court to off the court,” Ms Kelly said. “I've developed in so many areas and I’ve already been able to put into practice with the teams I coach at home.

“I’m already sharing all these new techniques with other coaches and seeing it all come together is amazing, I’m excited to continue to share what I’ve learned and grow as a coach.

“I know when I look back on this experience in the future, it will be one of the reasons why I will have been able to develop and become as good as I hope to be.”

Jason Ah Sam, an Iliaura man from Darwin, said the scholarship was a unique opportunity.

“It’s been great not only being able to access such high level learning opportunities, but to build such a solid connection with other Indigenous coaches completing the program,” Mr Ah Sam said.

“The basketball side, the X’s and O’s learning has been so useful, but even moreso is the off court side – the mental side of being a better coach, learning about behaviours. That’s been such a good chance to reflect on how I’ve done things and improve on them.

“This scholarship has been nothing but positive. To think where I’m from, so remote from the rest of the country but to be exposed to such a high level of training through this scholarship is so good.

“Now having this community of coaches who all grew together, this is only going to multiply the benefits and opportunities from here.”

Basketball Australia Director of High Performance Coach Development Peter Lonergan congratulated the graduates on completion of their scholarship.

“The opportunity to work with the Australian Olympic Committee and play a small part in the Indigenous Coach Scholarship initiative has been very positive for Basketball Australia,” Mr Lonergan said.

“We have a strong relationship with Indigenous Basketball Australia and the opportunity to provide some support, opportunity and education will be a positive for all involved as we continue this important relationship.”

IBA Chief Operating Officer Melody Cooper OLY said the graduates are leaders in their community who will now take their learning throughout Australia to teach others.

“Coaching is such a critical role in the sport ecosystem to nurture, guide, counsel, teach and positively influence our future generations,” Ms Cooper said.” The co-creation of a purposeful program designed for our Indigenous coaches will have great impact across the IBA pathway program and local communities.”

“The graduates can now certify coach accreditations in the community which is a great capability that will have a significant impact on growing the footprint of Indigenous coaches in our basketball community.”

This article courtesy of the Australian Olympic Committee.

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