Brexit is not the only B to be the topic of conversation in the House of Commons. Recently, for the first time in five years, basketball was debated amongst MPs.
You may be wondering, why are we bringing this up?
Around this time last year, Counter Context were approached by Sheffield’s very own b-ball players, the Sheffield Sharks. They wanted to know if we were interested in sponsoring their Respect programme which works with local communities. Being naturally curious and thinking about our core expertise – communicating with key stakeholders and communities, we set out to find out more.
What we uncovered was that the Sheffield Sharks Respect programme reaches over 600 young people in the Sheffield City Region every year. This programme is aimed at children aged 9 to 11 who are vulnerable and at risk to pressures in society including cyber bullying, child exploitation and crime. The Respect programme is designed to give children a dynamic learning experience, which includes six hours of basketball coaching and two hours of in-school education. A few hours might not sound much but these sessions can open up a young person’s eyes to a world of possibility. Unsurprisingly, we quickly signed up to lend a hand. The Shark’s Respect programme became our nominated charity for 2017 and 2018.
Going back to the House of Commons focus on basketball. This was an important discussion around how inclusive the sport is and the difference it makes to young people’s lives. Reading the Hansard transcript it reminded us of the importance of schemes like the Respect programme. In turn we thought we’d be rather bold and urge other businesses to do the same.
Alex Sobel MP, who led the debate and is the Co-Chair of the APPG for Basketball, explained: “UK Sport recently announced £226 million for Olympic eligible sports until 2021. That includes £14.5 million for equestrian sports, £25.5 million for sailing and more than £6 million for modern pentathlon—a sport that requires a horse, a sword and a gun. None of those sports is within reach of the young people we see playing basketball. We are funding elite sports for elites.”
We know this country is not doing enough for those that come from disadvantaged communities. Having spectated at many matches and met those who play basketball both socially and professionally, it is apparent that they all come from many different backgrounds. It is one of the most inclusive sports. The UK neglects to see the vital and significant difference it can make to the lives of those living in disadvantaged communities.
Here, here. We’ve seen this first hand.
Working with the Sheffield Sharks, meeting their players and hearing some of their stories has been hugely inspirational. They are not all people who are born into a family of high-achievers. They weren’t brought up in gated communities and given elite extra-curricular activities in which to gain a head start athletic career. These are people who have fought to get to where they are today. Some of whom have had a difficult start in life, who could have easily fell into a life of crime, have turned their lives around.
It is those players that deliver the Respect programme. Every day they inspire the next generation to dream and to believe.
If the governing bodies can’t and won’t front the cash for these important programmes it is imperative that businesses do their bit. We were only too happy to stand up and make a difference. We often hear the work of big corporate charities but what attention do we give smaller programmes like this? Programmes that might change a young person’s life from a life of crime to becoming a world-class athlete.
We believe that businesses should support the communities they work in. Be part of the solution not the problem. We’re a small fish in a huge pond but if all companies did “something”, it would make a huge difference all across the UK. We’re not talking sponsoring programmes for kudos or the PR often gained by supporting the more “popular” charities but doing something different. Meet with your smaller local charities and find out about the different schemes they’re working on. When you go out into your local community, I guarantee you’ll be surprised at some of the hidden gems that are out there.
Written by Alexis Krachai