It’s Tuesday night training and inside the Pulman Arena, in the South Auckland suburb of Takanini, The ETCO Auckland Dream captain, Amanda Buck’s children can be heard before they are seen springing across the basketball court lines. Four-year-old Isaiah is in a superhero costume, his six-year-old sister Peyton follows, clutching a toy doll, both carefree and extremely comfortable in their surroundings.
The Dream are invested in their athletes and their wellbeing which for some with young families translates to accommodating their young children at training, games, and events. The young are fed and entertained on the sideline by the wider Dream-family made up of development players, players mums, even the general manager Bevan Murray can be seen pacing the sideline, encouraging a post-feed burp from the youngest Dream-family member 3-month-old Carter.
Building the team starts with recruiting players and assembling the roster. So, when signing players, 2020 NZNBL General Manager of the Year – Murray says “[prospective players] will need to be accepting of our Dream-family culture and the unique way we approach important factors like player wellbeing which may be different than other clubs. Some may think having children at training could be distracting, so we are upfront about the experience and why we value it for our players.”
Serena Cook parent of 16-year-old development athlete Savannah Cook says “the only way a team can succeed is by having people that would do that and compromise. It’s good for the girls to have a hand at looking after kids, then it’s not so much about themselves, it’s about the team.”
The Dream-family culture doesn’t stop at supporting players with young families, the Dream recently helped their American import and forward, Amanda Wayment extend her visa to 2023 and are supporting their shooting guard from Kansas, Casyn Buchman towards her New Zealand citizenship. It’s a Dream attitude that if everything off the hardwood is taken care of, then their on-court performance can flourish.
Auckland is a city always on the go, diverse and energised, much like the collective in this team from different backgrounds grinding for a common goal and redefining what it means to represent the ‘09’. Whether you are an Auckland native or call it your adopted home, the girls know they are representing this great city.
“Along with talent we ask for professionalism from all our players and for international recruits we hold them to an even higher standard - they have to prove they are worthy of taking the place of a local player, at the end of the day, we are all a representative of basketball in Auckland…” says Murray.
“…We spread our training and community engagement throughout the three associations we represent. We rollout the BBNZ-programme Girls Got Game right around the city in the hopes of inspiring young women and girls to play basketball, have fun, and maybe one day wear the team colours” says Murray.
Despite having limited time together this year due to the global pandemic, the team bond has remained stronger than ever. Post-lockdown social togetherness for dinner or ice cream helps to strengthen their relationships. And in a team sport, where there are usually one-or-two-star players groomed to blaze, this doesn’t appear to be the case with the Dream. For fresh recruit and explosive point guard Olivia Berry “the Dream culture has encouraged her personality to come out a little more” an observation from Murray.
Head Coach Aik Ho, lets the team know “it’s not about just taking your shot because it’s your shot to take, you have to take the team shot.”
More players arrive for training, traveling in from across the Auckland region, from day jobs, school, family or other commitments, each individual is there to improve, together. Young development players like 16-year-old Lilly Parke often train with the team, knowing their time to play hasn’t arrived yet, but train to develop their skills alongside some of New Zealand’s finest, they’re young players who #Dare2Dream – another Dream-attitude?... you guessed it!
For Dream Event & Marketing Manager Teena Enoka, a transformation is needed in basketball and her focus is on the women’s game. She says “if we get the culture right, enable women and girls basketball to grow and evolve with what is important to this community and what motivates people to play, then attracting the best players to the team or attracting the best people to help build the women’s game at every level is encouraged”
Teena attended the successful Sport NZ Women & Girls summit in October, a 3-day online event of >1,020 registrations from NZ and around the world. Some of her takeaways included valuable data from the Sport NZ Media Analysis showing New Zealand sports media coverage (published or aired) that represented females was an abysmal 15% compared with males at 84%.
The same data analysis showed 40% of sport media coverage representing women is driven by netball compared to 31% for men's rugby union. She says, “women are not only seen less, but also in one context nearly half the time, which can all have an impact on how we are represented, then layer that with an 80/20 split favouring sports coverage authored by males”.
The Dream believe that by giving me an opportunity to write stories for women in sport, they can continue to do their part to help change the culture of NZ sport media and those statistics.
So, what’s so great about the #DreamCulture?... well, everything.
Co-authored by Shontelle Matano & Teena Enoka
Introducing the Dream Sports Writer
Hello! My name is Shontelle Matano, I am a current student of AUT studying a bachelor’s in communications and will embark on a major in journalism and minor in public relations and sports marketing in 2021 and I am an intern at the Spinoff. I joined the Dream in October 2020 as their team writer. I have the thrilling opportunity to cover their games and training, create feature stories, game reports and film.
I am so excited to provide quality content for fans of the Dream and of basketball generally. I’ll get to bring the audience closer to our players and highlight the women’s game.
I love hoops and the incredible narratives behind the players, many are untold, but I believe, can be shared with care. Having witnessed and experienced first-hand the Dream culture, I feel like part of a family, the Dream family.
Let’s go! In the words of Auckland’s very own Church and AP “how you feelin’ 09?”