NBL legend Cal helps kids take giant strides

By John McLaurin


St Francis Xavier College in conjunction with Marymead are helping migrants, refugees, indigenous and “at risk” students make better transitions into the mainstream Australian youth culture.

About 40 students from SFX and other neighbouring schools have taken part in a nine-week program run by former National Basketball League (NBL) star Cal Bruton.

It comes in addition to the school’s homework club on Monday afternoons and encourages students to “develop a passion for sport” and to “be their natural selves outside of the classroom environment”.

According to the college’s refugee liaison officer, Leilah Ayton, the results are speaking for themselves.

“It’s amazing to see the development of many of the participants in this program which is being run in our school gymnasium each Tuesday afternoon,” she said.

“Already we are seeing a number of them come out of their shells and they are growing in confidence and leadership with each session.

“For a couple of the kids it’s the first time that they are really enthusiastic to be involved in a school activity; they all get a uniform and they’re just so happy to be here.

“They are learning new skills, making new friends and learning the concept of team work.”

It is anticipated that the energy spent on the basketball court will also lead to improved concentration levels in the classroom.

Mrs Ayton said Cal Bruton does a “fantastic job providing opportunities to disadvantaged and vulnerable here in the ACT and in the other states and territory.

“He and Marymead heard about what we have been doing at SFX and jumped on board, which is really good for us.”

A former legend with the Perth Wildcats and the Canberra Cannons in the 1990’s, Mr Bruton brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to working with young people.

In sessions on the court, he places great emphasis on young people having fun.

“My motto is run, stun and have some fun,” Mr Bruton said.

“We like to keep it fun and real for the kids because they need a platform where they can express themselves and the sporting arena is a great way that they can do that.”

Having previously been involved in professional sport, he is a big believer in expecting respect and discipline.

On the back of the academy shirts is the acronym of BRUTON which stands for B= Be Kind to others, R= Respect your elders, U= Use your manners, T= Trust in God, O= Own your mistakes and N= Never give up.

As a respected scout for up-and-comers in the game, Mr Bruton sees plenty of potential among attendees at his academy.

He notes the success stories of AFL footballers Aliir Aliir and Majak Daw as men who have come from refugee backgrounds to become professional athletes.

The program at SFX will have run its course by mid December, but Mrs Ayton and the team have plans for the future and she is encouraging other schools to take up the initiative.

“Not all families have the means for providing their kids with the sporting opportunities that other kids have on the weekends,” she said.

For more information about the program at SFX, contact Mrs Ayrton on (02) 6258 1055. To learn more about Bruton’s Basketball Fundamentals Clinic go to http://blackpearlbasketball.com.au/