The Free Throw Foundation; History, values and purpose. An inspiring for story for all
Updated: Apr 13
Preface by Coach Janx
We believe that sports builds and strengthens communities and society. Growth, enhancement and success of our sport throughout all communities and niche talent pools, regardless of the financial background of participants, can provide many opportunities to develop our sport and, more broadly and importantly, also our communities. This attracts us to the organisation David Spear setup called the Free Throw Foundation (FTF). FTF aims to provide the same opportunities for all regardless of financial challenges they may face.
Before we look at the FTF let's learn a bit more about David:
When you look at achievements there are people that are a success in so many diverse endeavours. This is done through hard work, seemingly no fear of failure and with a great team around them. That has been the pattern of success and leadership for David. Be it as a National Basketball Basketball League (NBL) premiership player, premiership player at South East Australia Basketball League (SEABL) level (as Team Captain), triple premiership player and captain at State League level. Few have won premierships at all 3 levels of Australian basketball by the way. He has coached State teams for South Australia, won multiple state junior championships with West Adelaide, as well as a State League title with the club. Professionally he has held numerous, challenging corporate leadership positions including, up until recently, with Basketball SA (peak basketball body in the state of South Australia) and the Adelaide 36ers (our local NBL Pro club) as a board member. He has even studied at Harvard.
PICTURED: 1986 Invincibles. Considered one of the greatest NBL teams of all time, with David on the far left of the middle row.
PICTURED: Still the invincibles. The team came together for one of the Free Throw Foundation Lunches. This is a great way to recognise these teams and respect our history. Many success stories in life after basketball in this picture too.
Today David continues to build the foundation as Chairman, with his team. FTF is an organisation that does significant work for basketball in South Australia. It has a clear, acutely defined focus; to help athletes participate in tournaments and events they otherwise could not afford to, without assistance. This includes, but is not limited to, High Performance Athletes. National Championships are almost invariably the gateway to national and international opportunities in Australia. Some of our most talented athletes out of South Australia do not come from a privileged background and the opportunities for growth, development and talent ID in Australia at state level is currently expensive. Personally I am sure a number of athletes I've been fortunate to coach at club and state level could not have participated in National Championships without the Free Throw Foundation's financial support. In fact these athletes have often gone onto even bigger and better things and some of these athletes are listed on our website as Featured Athletes.
In this article David shares his observations on society that he has observed through his basketball coaching and playing background which caused him to decide to setup the foundation. I feel that being able to setup something like the foundation, that changes lives, is inspiring for us here at High Performance Hoops Network and we are sure many in our sport who aim to make a real difference in the lives of young athletes will find it inspiring too.
Over to Coach Spear......
PICTURED: David Spear and Luc Longley. Longley was the first ever speaker for the first FTF lunch. He also ran a coaches clinic.
In Genesis 1;27 it reads;
‘So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.’
Centuries later Thomas Jefferson was credited with the second paragraph of the United States Declaration of Independence which states:
‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.’
Whilst I am not a religious man, I do believe that every man and woman have the right to their own beliefs, and indeed the pursuit of happiness. Considering the US Declaration of Independence had such a phrase at the start only to see its own country besieged by one of the greatest moral crimes in the history of mankind (with regards to slavery), the notion ‘that all men are created equal’ is one that has bemused me.
Fundamentally I don’t believe that all men and women are created equal. Yeah sure we may have arms, legs and a beating heart, but I believe more that we are born into different circumstances. Some of us are born with greater love and care than others. Some of us are born into wealth, some of us are born into poverty. Some of us are born with different religious or cultural beliefs, a different coloured skin, and some of us are born with disabilities that challenge life.
Then there are those who during the journey of life fall into hardship or downturn, those that suffer accidents or illness that those of us more fortunate are not afflicted with.
In my humble opinion, I believe ‘in birth we are created equally, but not all of us are created equal in life’.
As a person not noted for quoting scripture or philosophy, and more for coaching basketball kids, I hope it highlights the differences that I personally see every day in society and communities. Perhaps dealing with disadvantaged youth, especially through sport lies a significant opportunity.
When I look back now at the start of the Free Throw Foundation some 5 years ago and think about what we originally set out to achieve, we have achieved some great outcomes and for that I am truly pleased. People may say that our small charity is not a big deal, that we have a few luncheons a year, raise some money and hand it back out to the kids in the sport, so what… big deal! I challenge those people to listen to some of the stories of those lives we have changed, that may somehow have led to that ‘sliding doors’ moment and a life changing reality. But understand not all recipients want their stories of hardship shared, it is a fine line…
PICTURED: Meeting of the great minds. Coach Phil Smyth and Coach Joey Wright. The Free Throw Foundation brings together some of the best minds and experts in South Australia, and also Australia.
However, I knew that I didn’t have the ability or knowledge to cure the insidious diseases that befall society today, perhaps I was more likely to have an ability to raise money for others to achieve those goals, but for me it was about my passion and what I was truly passionate about. I wanted to create an organisation that changed lives in some small way, that helped find a way to lift a young person out of a situation and make their life better, and by doing that through sport, and in particular basketball, what better way to show my passion and beliefs.
PICTURED: Rupert Sapwell, Head of Sport at Trinity College, and Biar Garang discus his basketball journey at a Free Throw Foundation Lunch. Coach Janx was involved with Biar at his basketball beginning says; "Biar is a great story for what we are talking about when we say basketball strengthens communities. His networks and team mates at Centrals supported him right from the very beginning when we arranged to meet his family to explain the opportunity to play district basketball. Eventually this led to an opportunity to attend Trinity College, play in multiple state teams, participate in Australian Camps at the Australian Institute of Sport and now he is in the United States. Fortunately for Centrals, Biar, Basketball SA and his community the Free Throw Foundation also provided assistance."
The Free Throw Foundation was born out of a situation that confronted me. I decided to anonymously intervene and change a life in our sport. Only a handful of people know about this intervention. Such a small decision by comparison to those that set out to cure a disease, but it made me feel good, it made me feel as though I had done the right thing somehow. That player’s career blossomed, and they achieved significant goals like playing in one of our Australian National Basketball Leagues.
So, the ‘I’ then had to become a ‘We’ to ensure this small start-up charity had the rigour, sustainability and oversight to achieve what we set out to achieve. Now in its 5th year, with a fully functioning volunteer board made up of basketball loving individuals like me, that share my passion and beliefs that we can make a difference and at the same time have fun doing so, the Free Throw Foundation continues to make a difference and pull down the barriers to this expensive sport.
We raise money in South Australia by having wonderful events and lunches with attendees coming from all parts of the sport. Mainly past players, coaches, referees, administrators and volunteers all enjoy coming to our events and this enables us to take the profits and put them back into the local basketball community. I mean who wouldn’t want to listen to people like NBA Legend Luc Longley, NBL and Boomer’s Hall of Famer Andrew Gaze, Opal’s legends Pat Mickan and Laura Hodges, NBA’s Joe Ingles, Boomer Brad Newley and Boomers Coach Andre Lemanis and the list goes on!
PICTURED: George Dancis (front), Andrew Gaze (Middle), Mike Dancis (right). The Dancis family were Australian players in the early days of the game in Australia. With one of the greatest Australian players of all time in Andrew Gaze. A great shot of bringing generations of basketball "royalty" together through the Free Throw Foundation lunches.
We have helped out so many individuals, teams and clubs. Players from the SA country regions, aboriginal players, players with a disability, state players, uniforms for players, club fees, state and national trips and so on. Our grants have been for as little as $100.00 right up to $2-3,000.00 which we believe enables our impact to be significant.
The Free Throw Foundation Board at the moment includes many wonderful basketball individuals who deserve recognition. Many of them past players and coaches themselves and all wanting to make another contribution to the sport.
Vicki Sporn, Scott Whitmore, Barry Mansfield, Peter Sexton, Katie Scholes, Peter Ali, Collette Williamson, Kerry Waller, Brad Hayden and our wonderful secretariat Barb Rowe. But without the help of inaugural past Board members like Lyndon Parnell, Leeanne Grantham, Tim Brenton, Vicki Daldy and Karl Luke, this simple vision would not have seen the light of day as it was only a vision and to make it work you need to have help from passionate, like-minded individuals.
Judging those in need though is our single biggest issue. Ensuring the money gets to the right kids is paramount to our philosophy. No money gets paid directly to the kids or their families. Our process requires them to provide and demonstrate the need and then we can, as best we can, judge that need and then pay the appropriate authority. I guess for me knowing that the Free Throw Foundation continues to prosper and meet the need within the basketball community, is all that we as a board need to understand.
Today the Free Throw Foundation as a charitable organisation can leave the political side of the sport to those currently in control and hope that one day those in charge will find the ability to lead, have a vision and show the leadership that is so desperately needed for all who enjoy the sport here in South Australia. Our focus though is on meeting the needs of those who need it most.
So, back to Thomas Jefferson…I mean if all men and women were actually created equal, then no such barrier would exist… would it? Poverty? The disadvantaged? Wealthy? Living with a disability etc???
Yet by the mere fact such an organisation like the Free Throw Foundation does exist and the need is there, I yearn for the day when our doors can close, and we can celebrate that our job is done.
Free Throw Foundation