Sports clubs must continue to help communities tackle socio-economic issues head on and promote the well-being of the next generation, according to Great Britain basketball international Patrick Whelan.
A recent survey by the British Basketball League found 36 per cent of individuals aged 16 to 24 admitted a lack of motivation was impacting them taking part in sport.
Across the 2,000 participants nationwide, 58 per cent agreed access to sport helps address socio-economic issues within their local community.
Last month, the BBL Ambassadors initiative community schools programme was launched, funded by Sport England.
Players and staff from the BBL are visiting 1,000 schools in the clubs’ local communities, aiming to inspire 150,000 young people across the UK by promoting the importance of an active lifestyle and the positive influence sport can have on mental health.
Whelan, 25, helped Leicester Riders claim the treble in his first season after joining from Spanish club Real Murcia, edging out London Lions in the play-off final to add to their 2022 BBL Cup and Championship success.
The Warrington-born guard, who averaged 15.2 points per game, feels initiatives like the BBL Ambassadors programme can only help build better prospects for the most deprived communities.
“I think it does kind of inspire them a little bit to get that motivation to be involved in different sports groups,” Whelan told the PA news agency.
“They can see a positive impact on someone’s life, I think that’s definitely key – especially in the areas where the money might not really be there.
“Sports, especially basketball, is something you can do with just a ball, it doesn’t really require a lot of money to be put into – just go out there and play, so especially in those communities, it is big.”
— Leicester Riders (@RidersBball) July 3, 2022
Whelan, who made his senior GB debut in the recent FIBA World Cup 2023 qualifying fixtures against Greece and Turkey, added: “Kids only see the success – they want to know how many trophies you have and how many points you score per game.
“But just seeing someone who looks like them, whether they be black, brown or from a (ethnic) minority group, being able to succeed in ways that they never really maybe thought about, I think that’s definitely a key part of our engagement with them.”
The BBL’s research also revealed that those respondents suffering from mental health issues (44 per cent) would benefit most to increased access and opportunities within sport.
Our Summer Camp Series is coming soon!
We are excited to announce that we will be hosting 4 camps in 4 different locations across Leicestershire.
— Leicester Riders Foundation (@RidersBF) July 1, 2022
“Basketball was always a way to kind of meet people outside of school, people from other backgrounds, from other places. That sense of community was big for me and my family too,” said Whelan, whose elder brother Jordan plays for Manchester Giants.
“Still to this day playing basketball is some of the happiest times of my life.
“When I was a kid and I had to put down the basketball for even like a week, definitely I felt like there was a drop in my mood for sure.”