Australian women’s basketball team the Opals dispensed some advice and inspiration to the next generation of basketballers.

The participants of Basketball Queensland’s National Performance Program had a unique chance to meet their sporting idols – Australian women’s basketball team, the Opals – after the Opals played a practice match against mixed team the Gold Coast Rollers.

As a former basketball player myself, I can imagine how exciting and inspiring the experience would have been for the girls. 14-year-old Miela Goodchild from Southern Districts Basketball Association says she felt motivated watching the professionals put on a show.

“It was really good being able to watch the team play, as it’s my goal to one day play for the Opals,” she says. “Jenny Screen is my favourite player. I like how she’s aggressive on defense as it’s something I want to work on in my own game.

“Seeing Jenny has made me even more determined to become an Opal.”

Jenny Screen herself had a few gems of advice to dispense to the younger players.

“I believe good things happen to those who work hard and surround themselves with good people,” she says. “Dream big, set goals and go for it. Hard work once again is the key.”

The professionals at play also inspired the other young players to remember to consistently strive for higher levels of ability and skill, says 14-year-old Jade Kirisome of Logan Basketball Association.

“I think it’s really good to watch them play because that’s the level and standard we will have to play when we’re up to that, and it’s good to get a taste of that right now at this age.”

CEO of Basketball Queensland Graham Burns agrees. “Meeting the players they look up to and getting encouragement from them is extremely inspiring to young players,” he says. “It reinforces that striving for their dream is achievable.

“With nearly 8.000 girls playing basketball in Queensland at club and elite level, advice like this is invaluable.”

Squad member and Opals contender Rachel Jarry reflected on the impact that outside motivation can have on children and teenagers, but says that ultimately the drive must come from within.

“My coach told me to practice perfectly in everything I did, both on and off the court and that it would transfer to my game,” says Jarry. “For any young athlete wanting to become professional or simply just do your best, train hard, do extra work away from the court off your own back. It’s not always about impressing the coach – you work hard for yourself.”