Midnight Basketball Australia


The program which supports community volunteers to organise basketball tournaments and give kids a fun alcohol and drug-free option for those high-risk periods.


Who they are

Midnight Basketball started as a response to the question, ‘what’s there for a young person to do on a Friday or Saturday night?’ This national charity is making ‘play basketball’ an option in the communities they’re running tournaments in. The mantra of the program is “It takes a village” and that underwrites their whole approach to raising kids. Instead of imposing the program top-down, they ask the village itself to come out as volunteers to organise, support, and run the tournaments.

Midnight Basketball runs across the country, including several locations in New South Wales. As a harm prevention charity it focusses on communities that have an ‘established need’ for such a program, which includes taking into consideration the socio-economic situation of potential locations.

Check out Midnight Basketball in the media for some news clips that show the program and its kids in action.

What they do

The program operates as 8 week tournaments, running twice a year over 2 year cycles. On a Friday or Saturday night from 7:30pm-Midnight. 60 kids kick off the night with a hot, nutritious meal. A mandatory life-skills workshop is held before they hit the courts for the basketball tournament. By midnight, the kids are taken home safely by bus. The program’s strict ‘no workshop, no jump shot’ policy has been a successful one, with kids reporting to evaluators that all parts of the program – including the workshops – were important to them.

Two teams at a time attend the workshop, which include topics like:

  • Nutrition, health and wellbeing
  • Alcohol and other drugs
  • Road safety, cyber safety and safe partying
  • Conflict resolution and anger management
  • Communication and team building
  • Confidence, self-esteem and making positive choices
  • Financial literacy
  • Job readiness

Mutual contributions drive the program

Both the community and Midnight Basketball contribute to the program in different ways. Midnight Basketball provides the community with uniforms, trophies, basketballs, and the implementation systems to get the program up and running, as well as $10,000 towards the cost of each 8 week tournament.

Community contribution

To keep the program affordable and sustainable, it’s volunteer-driven. Volunteers are also important because they give young people a chance to get to know and connect with the older members of the community, and to be exposed to positive and supportive adult role models. Midnight Basketball also creates a greater feeling of connection in the community – the young people aren’t the only ones who stand to make some new friends through the program.

There are lots of different ways that people from all sectors of the community can contribute.

Volunteer community committee:

This management committee is made up of representatives from across the community, representing different skills, sectors, and points of view. There are roles for:

  • Chair
  • Managers for volunteers, logistics, finance, workshops, youth, fundraising and media

Tournament night volunteers:

  • Tournament roles: coaches, score keepers, dinner, workshop and bus helpers
  • Professional roles: caterers/cooks, referees, bus drivers, security
  • Workshop roles: running workshops for the various topics

In-kind support:

  • Catering: healthy food, facilities, and staff to cook
  • Venue: 2-court stadium and workshop space
  • Water: water towers, bottled water, cups
  • Buses: 12, 24, or 36-seat coaches
  • Petrol: vouchers and credit for local stations
  • Other: first aid kits, printing services, stationary

It’s a big effort to coordinate all of the people and resources to make Midnight Basketball happen, but the testimonials from former volunteers speak volumes about the value of the program.

Advice from Midnight Basketball

On working with communities:

  • Because alcohol and other drugs are a community-wide problem, it can’t be solved with a silo approach. Engaging with the whole community is about breaking down these silos and bringing multiple voices to the same table.
  • There is no central point of a community, so avoid misunderstanding your village by not reaching multiple points. It can’t just be your ‘group’ – a whole of community approach is needed to really make a difference.
  • Include as many people from different backgrounds, points of view, and types of wisdom as you can.

On young people:

  • Many kids have never participated in sports events before so it’s easy to assume they won’t be interested in one. However, Midnight Basketball has seen time and time again that if you give them a chance they will surprise you.

On successful programs:

  • Don’t waste your valuable time and efforts! Find other people, organisations and networks to connect with and support, because we can make a bigger impact when we work together.
  • Having a volunteer base that reflects the diversity of the community will help to ensure the success and longevity of the program by driving engagement with the whole community.

Midnight Basketball – awesome primary prevention

This sports program meets our best practice criteria for a great youth event by being:

  • Regular: every week during tournament periods, which happen twice a year for 8 weeks each.
  • Timed when there’s a higher risk of harm if kids don’t have something to do: Friday or Saturday nights.
  • Provides positive role modelling: the adult volunteers who coach, referee, run workshops, and just generally help out –show that they care about the kids.
  • Is ‘in-touch’ with what kids are interested in: in most communities, they have more kids trying to sign up than the 60 they can accommodate.
  • Provides links to other services: youth workers are present to chat and help out on tournament nights.
  • AOD free: workshops also show kids that they can have fun without alcohol and drugs.

Thinking about Midnight Basketball in your community?

Check out their new locations page first and if you are not sure about the criteria, or have a few questions? Call them for a chat. Then, start networking within your community to see what kind of support you can drum up!