Shooting above average

Community Role Model: Megan Condron

From the brink of collapse to an overflow of junior girls’ basketball players. How a regional Victorian area turned the tide on participation through female leadership and coaching.

The Woodend Hawks and the Macedon Ranges teams with Megan Condron (right back). Image supplied.

In 2014 there were less than a handful of girls registered at the Macedon Ranges Basketball Association (MRBA). The association was low on funds and on the brink of folding.

Jump forward four years and it is a very different story. The association is bursting at the seams with more than 120 girls and women registered and many more signing up to waiting lists.

At the centre of the success has been Megan Condron, a long-serving volunteer who held the role of President of the Macedon Ranges Basketball Association.

“Everyone said that there wasn’t any interest in girls’ basketball, and I said, well no, I just don’t think the structure’s right,” said Megan, who works in the region as an Occupational Therapist.

Megan’s vision to increase female participation in her town began simply, as a solution to find a sport that her two daughters, Madeline and Erin could play.

“We saw a lot of mixed training and competitions and it wasn’t really working. My girls tried it – there were only two or three girls there and they didn’t really want to do it. They kind of enjoyed the sport except they had to compete with the boys, so I started a girl’s program.”

“Now it just keeps growing. By doing a gender-specific competition that was graded and age-appropriate we saw the girls just love it.”

The immediate growth was apparent, as teams filled simply through word of mouth.

“We didn’t even advertise because frankly we didn’t have the courts to accommodate.”

“We went on to do separate Aussie Hoops programs for boys and girls. Woodend joined in with Sunbury Basketball and we started with two teams four years ago and now there’s 25."

Megan found that the existing mixed-competition may have been too daunting and went about creating a mistake-friendly, non-judgmental environment. The goal was to create a program that didn’t rely on success but celebrated participation.

“What we found was that it was gender-specific competition that was most effective. Girls typically started playing later than boys who may take it up around 5 years old, but girls weren’t getting involved ntil they were 7 or 8 and it was often too late to mix it with the boys.”

But Megan says the source of the change began with the increase in the number of women in leadership positions within the association.

“I had an amazing committee – both male and female - that shared my vision.”

“When I first became President, my number one goal was to train up multiple coaches to be Level 1 Accredited and also bring in a lot of female coaches.”

The committee were particularly focused on encouraging young women to take on volunteer junior coaching positions.

“The younger women were definitely seen as role-models to the juniors, because girl’s need to see other girls taking charge, not just on the court, but off it too.”

Once the association had several female coaches, the immediate flow of juniors came naturally.

“The committee had a real focus on training up coaches and then supporting them because coaching can sometimes be a bit confronting when having to deal with parents. We were just trying to empower women around us, and say ‘you can do this, you can get out and coach’.

“They instantly loved it. It’s not just us, and it’s not just basketball. Every sport in Australia needs to show that support for female coaches. The flow-on effects are incredible.”

Megan, who admitted she took on the role of MRBA President with a degree of uncertainty, said she was delighted how she flourished in the leadership role thanks to the support of others.

“Basketball Victoria Country have been really supportive of me the whole way through. I’ve had a really good mentor in former professional player, now administrator, Megan Moody who guides us and our association. Having very good mentors around me who share my vision and have a strong passion for this makes a huge difference.”

Even for Megan, the upsurge in popularity was unforeseeable, but she is now one of the thousands across Victoria at a grassroots level working to ensure there is a level playing field for both males and females.

“I think people just need to keep the passion with the girls. It’s easy to say ‘oh they’re not interested’ but they actually are. You’ve just got to put the effort in, and the community will reap the rewards.”

For the Macedon Ranges Region, the hours of work that Megan and both the male and female volunteers have gone to, proves that strong female leadership at a community level is vital to a program that is attempting to Change Our Game.

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