In 2016 the Board of Basketball NSW decided that instead of Christmas cards and corporate gifts, that each year, Basketball NSW will donate $1000 towards a basketball program to enable more people to participate.

This year’s recipient is Sutherland Basketball and Sydney South Club of Special Olympics Australia, Basketball NSW Chairman Bob Elphinston recently dropped by the Sutherland Basketball Stadium to see firsthand the great work being done with basketball as a tool to enrich the lives of those living in Sydney South and to present them with the cheque.

Basketball NSW caught up with Paul O’Neill the leader of the program to learn more about the history and development of the Special Olympics program.

“Let me win, but if I cannot win let me be brave in the attempt.”

Sydney South SO Basketball has been operating for a decade at Sutherland Stadium.

Every Friday night athletes come from various areas – from Wollongong 35 minutes south, west from Liverpool and Campbelltown, North from Bankstown and even from Ryde; and of course from the Shire. That is real commitment!

They come to be part of something, to learn, to enjoy the company of others, and to enjoy competition.

It has been a pleasure to have been a part of this great program. Its greatness can be measured on multiple levels.

When a young fellow stops communicating only through reciting songs, or after eight months a young woman says her first word; and they both develop the ability to dribble a ball and to shoot a basket: that is wonderful.

To have regional tournaments throughout the state in which players are put into even teams and in even grades, some with modified rules, and all enjoy the experience; that is great.

To have junior Sharks representative teams, local Menai Dragons teams and Endeavour Sports teams come and scrimmage against the strongest players; that is a fantastic experience for all.

To have young fellows put their hands up to be assistant coaches; that is uplifting.

To have one’s 4-year-old granddaughter come every Friday night to be “Assistant Coach” and to interact with players and parents, that is brilliant.

To ring up one of the best trainers I have (in 30 years of coaching) ever seen to ask why he didn’t want to represent at State level, and find out he had become disheartened because of previous non-selection; this was not a success.

However, to receive a phone call from that player the next day asking to be part of the team, also to be captain and to help the younger players; that is a heartfelt experience.

To have seventeen athletes going to the Special Olympics Nationals in Adelaide in 2018; that is a joy for all.

To have Jess play for NSW Country, Kim for the ACT, Erika and Nicole for NSW City, and Michael and Ben play for NSW in the upcoming National Ivor Burge Championships 2018; that is the end product of all that training.

To have one-quarter of the Australian 3X3 teams that recently went to a world championship, Nicole and Kym; that is great.

The athletes may or may not win gold medals, but they are inspirational in our community.

We are all winners at Sydney South Special Olympics!

Coach Paul
Greatly assisted by Coach Mick and Coach Joshua (AKA The Ginger Ninja) and of course Assistant Arabella ( Pop, I’m not 4, I’m 4 ½ !)

Basketball NSW Donation
2017 – Sutherland Basketball Special Olympics Program
2016 – Savannah Pride