Celebrating 15 years of the Flames at Sydney University this year prompted Laura Hanlon to discover that connection to community has been central to the team’s longevity and success.

Cast your eye over any successful sporting organisation and what stands out is a commitment to engage with the community as often as possible. The magnificent 2016/17 WNBL Championship won by the Brydens Sydney Uni Flames was made extra special because it was shared with their loyal fans.

Success though doesn’t hinge on winning a trophy every year. A national-level sporting entity such as the Flames has much to offer through positive engagement with community all year round.

It is heartening to see that Flames players, coaches and management relish opportunities to engage with communities throughout NSW as they promote the healthy lifestyle, female sporting participation and inspire persons of all ages, especially young people, to play basketball.

“We work in partnership with the community. You cannot expect a community to support your vision if you are not involving your community,” commented Brydens Sydney Uni Flames General Manager, Karen Dalton.

Some might argue sporting teams connecting with schools and the community are just doing it to build their brand and supporter base. True and critically important, however, such a view fails to acknowledge that those involved in such initiatives represent much more than a marketing initiative

Witnessing Brydens Sydney Uni Flames stars Alex Wilson and Amanda ‘AJ’ Johnson interact with enthusiastic students at St Bernadette’s Primary School in Lalor Park recently as they conducted a basketball clinic with seven 10-12 year olds and eight 15-16 year old high school mentors says it all.

The smiles and excited chatter from the students highlighted how much the occasion meant to them. The school counsellor reflecting on the visit said many of the students have now expressed a desire to play basketball together.

It is recognised that sports stars can influence attitudes towards sporting participation. Perhaps less appreciated are the two-way rewards that can be garnered from the Flames players and coaches being out and about in the community.

“These opportunities help the Flames stay in touch with the community and to hear what they are saying. The Flames players individually gain satisfaction in knowing they have possibly enriched the life of a young person by igniting a passion for basketball given the friendships and personal development that can flow through involvement in sport,” said Dalton.

In other situations just turning up can offer a huge boost for someone doing it tough. In late September four Flames players, Emily Matthews, Britt Smart, Ally Wilson and Tahlia Tupaea visited Molly Croft at Westmead Hospital, Ronald McDonald House. Molly, an U12 representative netballer in her home town of Dubbo, 370 kilometres from Sydney, was diagnosed with a form of bone cancer and faces a long stay in Sydney with family while she receives vital treatment.

The four Flames spent the day with Molly, with family friend Emily Matthews commenting on what an inspiration Molly is. The Flames do not seek accolades of any kind, however, their community ambassadorial work offers the perfect vehicle to make a difference.

Leading by example is Flames Captain and former Australian Opals Captain, Belinda Snell. Snell treated a grade-three class at a Mascot school in June this year by showing off her 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medal and talking about what inspired her to play basketball as a kid and her role as the Southern Design Sydney Uni Sparks head coach.

Needless to say the eyes of the children lit up as they passed around the gold medal, with Snell invited for a return visit next year.

The above examples might seem simple but each needs to be well planned and conducted in the right spirit. The universal values of sport: respect, inclusivity, fair play and giving your best are pivotal to the Flames culture.

Sydney Uni Sport & Fitness (SUSF) shares these values and is immensely proud to support Brydens Sydney Uni Flames.