Jim Markovski (Jim) has a background in recreation and a Bachelor of Arts majoring in youth affairs along with 35 years’ experience working in the western suburbs of Melbourne. He is currently the General Manager of Youth Services for the Les Twentyman Foundation. The organization works with “at risk”, marginalized and disengaged young people in the community. Jim has operational management and a client caseload as part of his employment and is on call 24 hours a day for 45 weeks of the year. As such, he spends his formal working life assisting ‘at risk’ youth, a task which is in itself quite daunting and demanding.
However, what makes Jim stand apart is that he is not satisfied with simply ‘doing his job’. For many years he has spent a very significant amount of his personal time and energy in working outside of his formal role to assist people in need. This activity has primarily been directed to young people, though he is not one to shirk rolling his sleeves up to help anyone in need.
Jim spends most of his personal time with the Redskins Basketball Club. This club has evolved since 1996 with Jim’s encouragement and strong support from a small group of approximately twenty young males (14 - 16 years) who regularly played basketball. The young people formed a couple of teams and entered them in the Sunshine Basketball Association’s competition with the club name “Ricochet” Basketball club.
The cultural backgrounds of the young people at the time were very diverse, Asian, Eastern European, African, South American and Anglo-Saxon. Many were from low socio-economic backgrounds, experimenting with drugs and alcohol and testing society’s rules. At the same time many were also experiencing financial hardship. They were using their normal living expenses to pay fees at the Centre, to train and play basketball and buy uniforms. This didn’t leave a lot for essentials such as food, clothing and education material.
Basketball offered these young people a release from society’s pressures and gave them a sense of purpose, self-respect and acceptance. However, there was a feeling of powerlessness, lack of direction and one of not being welcomed by the Sports Centre and other already established Basketball Clubs. Many problems including team violence, aggression, lack of self-discipline and self-control were experienced with the Ricochet Basketball Club at the time.
Enter Jim Markovski. Jim was approached to oversee the newly named Redskins Basketball Club for a mere five weeks. During this time he was to review the current situation, establish some policies and recommend the Club’s future direction. Well the five weeks has turned into twenty-three years and is still going. Jim now oversees the Club’s administration and operation and it now has some 400+ members.
The initial review period was designed in consultation with current players, Youth Service providers, Victoria Police, Sunshine Basketball Association Committee Members, YCW Sports Staff and other established basketball clubs participating in the Centre.
The Redskins players did not have enough money to meet their recreational need and had started to incur large debts at the sports centre. Assistance was sought from various sponsors and an article in the Herald Sun newspaper provided the club with an enormous response. Jim worked with the different groups and also sponsors at the time to establish a club ethos. This ethos would not only see the young people, learn to have fun and enjoy the game of basketball in its correct context of fair-play, but would provide an environment where other counselling and services could work with them in a non-threatening manner.
Jim uses sport as a tool to firstly motivate individuals to participate in activities and secondly to get them to be part of a team. To learn to accept there are rules governing conduct and behaviour. This helps form a basis that can be applied to life outside the sporting environment and aid in becoming a worthwhile member of society. Having got these young people into sport and focused Jim has, for many years now, spent many hours voluntarily working individually and collectively with these ‘at risk’ young people to develop skills, change attitudes and become productive members of their communities.
Jim developed activities such as the “Breaking the Barriers and Mutual Respect” - a High Challenge Camp which is attended by some players and a number of new police recruits. He has organized social outings to the movies, Luna Park, been invited with his players to the Melbourne Grand Prix in one of the corporate suites. Such activities and the theatre and various other sporting events have also enabled club members to learn about behaviour outside the sporting arena.
Jim’s example has prompted many of the Redskins Basketball Club players to volunteer at the annual Les Twentyman Foundation Christmas party for over 1,000 primary aged children in the western suburbs. Jim has organized and coordinated this event since its inception in 1986. Jim is also actively involved in the Legends AFL Game between Victoria and the All Stars, which raises money for prostate cancer. With Jim’s help and encouragement, past players are now involved with the club through coaching and administration. In the past few parents attended. Now many of them, along with their children, are taking active roles within the Club.
Jim tirelessly continues to campaign for on-going sponsorship to support the club and its associated activities. Due to its success in assisting young people, the Club received the Queens Trust achiever Award in 1997 for Outstanding Community Service.
Since, Jim has been involved with the Redskins Basketball Club over 3,000 young people have been associated with playing basketball at some level for the club (1,200 girls and 1,800 boys). At this present time (2017) there are currently 385 players registered and 40 teams made up from various culturally diverse backgrounds. There are 233 males and 152 females participating.
The Redskins basketball club continues to support marginalised and “at risk” young people through unconditional support whenever and wherever. This support enables players to realize their true potential, and take control of their own lives, ensuring a more purposeful and acceptable future. It is an entity that ensures these “at risk” young people do not fall into the juvenile justice system.
The players are now the envy of many other teams in the competition and at the same time they manage to keep their self- respect in check as they go about their daily lives with a more positive and worthwhile attitude. From their culturally diverse backgrounds their involvement with the club has instilled in them a tolerance and acceptance level needed with the issues confronting us all on a day-to-day basis.
Six Redskins Basketball Club players have successfully secured University Scholarships in the United States providing them with the opportunity of fulfilling their life long dreams of playing basketball in the NBA. Another player is playing top-level team in the Philippines. There is little doubt that the Redskins would not have been able to reach its present level of achievements without the outstanding leadership advice and counselling of its quiet and determined Club Manager, Jim Markovski. Jim, has dedicated many, many, many hours introducing young people to the game of basketball and more importantly to the bigger game of life.
Jim has also used the Redskins success as a launching pad for other activities, most notably the EMBRACE personal development youth leadership program which, was established to build the confidence of current players to assist Jim, run the club. The Club has expanded from 20 to 385 players and coaching many teams by one person over many years was exhausting to say the least, even for someone with Jim’s energy and commitment.
EMBRACE has a vision and aim to provide future leaders for the community. EMBRACE is Jim’s brainchild, which he runs outside his normal work hours. Each fortnight, 36 participants meet for four hours and participate in various themed workshops with appropriate guest speakers. Additionally, they take part in a wilderness adventure five-day camp and a weekend camp run by the participants for eighty Redskins players. A graduation ceremony is held at the end of the year show casing the participants’ yearlong journey of self-discovery.
EMBRACE is now in its tenth year and past graduates are currently running the EMBRACE program within Caroline Chisholm Catholic College and West Melton Primary schools. You would think Redskins and EMBRACE would be enough wouldn’t you. But no. Each year, Jim, with the help of others, selects three family homes and conducts a ‘backyard
blitz’ to clear their front and back yards. This process ensures the Ministry of Housing doesn’t evict the families. Redskins’ players and various private school students assist Jim with this venture.
Other volunteer tasks which take Jim’s time include:
In summary, Jim Markovski has an impressive list of volunteer activities over many years. He has never been shy to ‘put his hand’ to help as the following list clearly demonstrates.