BANYULE 100 – SONNI AND NATHAN

November 13, 2013

BANYULE100, Peta Petidis

It’s an infrequent happening for one to live through the glee of others; in fact in this case it’s just as rare because I know of two beings that do so. Nathan and Sonni, both 24, have a knack of bringing people joy. More specifically, joy to those living in the West Heidelberg area-many of whom having a mutual love of basketball. For the past few months the basketball thriving duo have given the local teens and young adults of West Heidelberg, the opportunity to play Friday night basketball without the heavy cost of club memberships. Taking temporary base at the local half courts, the boys had soon discovered a shared love in the thrill of casual basketball and were surprised to have a high demand in players. With popularity of the group on the rise and inviting arms to those willing to join, Sonni and Nathan now hire out a court at the Olympic Leisure centre for 2 hours every Friday night. This has become an easy option for sport lovers in the area who may be living with financial, family and life struggles or for those who simply have a love for the game. Their weekly group of around 15-20 players ranging from 15-26 years of age, have become an honourable team in the self-titled program, ‘Hoop Dreams.’

Growing up in the suburb of 3081 had its share of lows for the boys, “We grew up in a rough area,” says Nathan. “As a kid I never liked growing up in West Heidelberg,” Sonni explains, “Some days I used to go to school with no lunch and remember saying, I wonder if we’re sleeping at another house tonight.” Whilst living in a big family, Sonni prioritised, thinking about his mother and being a role model for his younger siblings. However basketball arose as a silver lining for his own personal gratification. Both Sonni and Nathan found sanctuary in the passion of the game and so they lived many positive childhood memories through the sport even when surrounded by negativity. At a young age Nathan was diagnosed with Leukaemia and relied on basketball to fish him out of the depression of the illness, “When I was sick as a kid it got me from strength to strength and motivated me to get better.”

Throughout their high school lives, close friends Nathan and Sonni remember playing with the old basketball team Banksia Bulls. The community team was an easy program to be a part of and remained a strong tie of teamwork between the local players. Though years flew by and sadly the Bulls were no longer. Post high school, the two B-ball fanatics missed the game and the communal buzz of the suburb and so an idea stemmed from their two minds, the seed of an idea which would soon become the league of ‘Hoop Dreams.’ “Basketball kind of kept us all together [it] was one of those things that unified us rather than segregated us,” Nathan says.

With a sense of reminiscent integration of the game, Sonni realised a purpose for goodness was on the loom for their hometown. “We used to bag our own neighbourhood, but you’ve got to stop doing that, you’ve got to help it instead!” And so the tag team of old time friends were unanimous in the decision to give the residents of West Heidelberg “something to do.”

Sonni and Nathan hold onto the aspiration of allowing future generations the chance to do something greater than participate in the mischief throughout their neighbourhood. “Today there’s nothing. The area’s full of drugs, full of violence, full of trouble. All the bad stuff just makes your life turn upside down,” Nathan says, “We know the struggle, we know what it’s like.”  And so, with priority for the forthcoming generations, Nathan and Sonni now strive to give people of the area a purpose and hobby that will also guarantee safety and warmth from the community team. “Our idea is to bring basketball back,” Sonni exclaims.

The boys have now established an environment free of intimidation or competition, Hoop Dreams is a team built on growth, determination and solidity. With support from local organisations and in receipt of local grants, Hoop Dreams has become a stable program growing with each step, ”We’ve even got uniforms on the way,” Nathan declares triumphantly.

Although the boys of the basketball loving duo are not currently working, they rely purely on themselves to run the program with no outside help from the players involved. “We want to give them something to look forward to on a Friday night.”

With a well-structured two hour program of training and games, Sonni and Nathan cater for the needs of anyone interested in skill gaining exercises or for the adrenaline rush of the game itself. Both Nathan and Sonni are thrilled to see the eagerness of those involving themselves with Hoop Dreams. With newly found titles as mentors, the boys encourage all to “Hang out with us,” rather than dabble in misfortune on the streets. Sonni says, “From five till seven [o’clock], for those two hours, they can get away from any problems at home or school or any little thing.” Sonni and Nathan have already proved themselves worthy of honour in their community as respectable young men striving to give others the lifestyle choice of safety, joy and teamwork. The Banyule City Council also find the two deserving of the immense amount of praise given to them for their efforts and for the establishment of Hoop Dreams, but I believe it all comes down to a purpose. After spending a couple of hours in the presence of these two gleaming coaches, I was certain that Sonni and Nathan shared a life purpose, and that was to bring others utter fulfilment and purpose of their own. After withstanding hardships of their own, the boys are just glad that they’re there to give others something better to do.

This article was originally published on Banyule100.

– Peta Petidis

– Photos Sean Porter

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