Discover more from The Pick and Roll
Koorie Academy Basketball: Changing lives and building pathways
Ricky Baldwin's Koorie Academy Basketball is changing lives and building a strong basketball culture amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids.
Ricky Baldwin is a Knox Raiders hall of famer.
It’s an impressive line on the resume considering players such as Ben Simmons, CJ Massingale, Emma Randall, and Hollie Grima have all donned the blue and gold.
However, it’s Baldwin’s work off the court that he is likely to be remembered most for.
The Pick and Roll is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
A proud Gunai Kurnai man, Ricky Baldwin decided to start the Koorie Academy Basketball.
It’s an organisation that aims to give Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders kids opportunities in basketball at the grassroots level.
“The peak bodies are only worried about high performance,” Baldwin said.
“So the kids who come from low socioeconomic backgrounds miss out.”
It’s an issue that the basketball community is well aware of, but sadly it continues to impact children who just want a chance to play organised basketball.
This is due to many reasons, with the recent rise in the cost of living also having a negative effect.
“With the cost of living, trying to pay rent and put food on the table means sport gets shelved,” Baldwin explained.
Koorie Basketball Academy takes pride in not only being able to get First Nations kids on the hardwood but also doing so in an environment that helps build pride and a greater connection to the oldest living culture in the world.
“Our social impact has been very special to be a part of as we get funded to run our clinics, that give the Aboriginal kids a sense of pride and sense of belonging,” Baldwin said.
“The kids come to our clinics and we provide a culturally safe and fun environment.”
The future of Koorie Academy Basketball looks bright as they continue to build relationships within the industry.
They have a great relationship with Melbourne United, have partnered with the Southside Flyers, and also work closely with Baldwin’s old team, the Knox Raiders.
Ricky Baldwin’s fight for greater opportunity in basketball for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders kids didn’t start with Koorie Academy Basketball.
It’s been a long journey that has included stints as assistant coach of the Australian Indigenous men’s team, head coach of the Australian Indigenous women’s team and vice president of Australian Indigenous Basketball, which has since transitioned to become the IBA (Indigenous Basketball Australia).
Baldwin stepped down from the IBA with the creation of Koorie Academy Basketball following.
He still plays a role with the organisation he used to be vice president of, coaching the U17 boys team at the national championships.
As for getting on the court himself, Baldwin still gets after it when he needs to show the young kids he’s still got it.
“I still get out there at training and show the athletes certain moves,” Ricky Baldwin said.
“l still love to shoot the ball, so am always happy to challenge the young ballers in a shoot-out. But the body is like in slow motion these days (laughs).”
In the end for Baldwin, it comes down to a love and passion for the game that he believes others should have the chance to develop as well.
A key to growing these opportunities for First Nations kids is buy-in from all levels of basketball from the top down. Which includes working with groups like Koorie Academy Basketball to understand how best to tackle the challenges ahead.
“The peak bodies need to let us take them on the journey because you have people in positions who don’t understand the obstacles and barriers we deal with,” explained Baldwin
“If they stop thinking they know what’s best and work with us, watch what starts to happen with participation numbers at a high-performance level because at the moment we are unrepresented across the board.
“It’s 2023, that needs to change.”
Find out more about Koorie Academy Basketball here.