18 August 2023

Hawks Under 14s boys basketball team rapping their way to nationals

| Kellie O'Brien
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Coach Glen Saville will take the Illawarra Hawks Under 14 boys team to nationals

Coach Glen Saville (centre) will take the Illawarra Hawks Under 14 boys team to nationals in Melbourne in September. Photos: Supplied.

Every good sporting team needs an anthem, but the Illawarra Hawks Under 14 boys team have taken it a step further and made their own.

The team recruited celebrated Kiama singer-songwriter Shelley Harland, whose son plays on the team, to create and release a basketball anthem to help pump them up prior to taking to the court at nationals in Melbourne from 24 September.

The song, released as a lyric video on YouTube, even features a cameo from the team’s coach and NBL legend Glen Saville.

“The idea at the start was just to put a song together, because at that stage we didn’t know we’d go on to nationals,” Saville said.

“It was just something for the kids to do together as a team.

“Then we obviously made the nationals.

“We came down to the last tournament of the season where we had to win the last game and we won by two in overtime. That got us through to nationals.”

Shelley, who has written and performed music for film and TV, said the song was an uplifting team anthem, with herself, Saville and the team members all contributing basketball-focused lyrics.

“One of the mums, very casually and kind of for fun, said, ‘Maybe you can do something with the boys one day,’” Shelley said.

“I have done music workshops with children before and I am so passionate about music for kids.

“Not in the traditional way where you have piano lessons and you have to do piano grades, but I just really believe in music as a mental health tool for children.

“In particular boys, as far as expressing themselves in a way that they wouldn’t necessarily outside of the music medium.

“I did a music program for kids at a Gerringong school a few years ago and at the end of the term some of the teachers were just like, ‘Oh my God, that person literally hasn’t spoken’, and the difference in them by the end of the term was unbelievable, singing songs.

“That’s where my passion lies.”

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Shelley and her son Snow came up with a semi-electronic, hip-hop instrumental track and a hook that his fellow teammates could sing in the chorus.

But Shelley was unsure how interested they would be.

“At this age with teenagers, it’s whether they’re going to go, ‘Get away from me’, or is it going to be, ‘Yeah, great’, but the response was really good,” she said.

With only one weekend where they weren’t playing away, half the team gathered in her home studio to record, while another mum recorded the remaining team members.

“The way we structured it was giving them a rhythm and a rough melody to work towards, so they really felt like they were songwriting and they were part of the whole thing,” she said.

“In the verses the boys are rapping about each other, so it really tells a background story to them all, and brings you in in a really nice way.”

With no volunteers, Shelley took on singing the chorus.

“It’s kind of like a pump me up song, like what you would want to listen to when you’re about to go out on the court and you want to feel really good,” she said.

It also includes soundbites of Saville yelling “Split line” and “Pick up the D” from the sidelines.

Hawks junior basketball team

During an away tournament in Canberra, the entire team gathered together in a room in an RSL club to hear the song for the first time.

“They were all absolutely blown away,” Shelley said.

“That’s what’s great about this setup is they did it – they have written a song.

“One of the mums came up to me the other day and she said, ‘Since your session, he’s started following some YouTube ukulele players – he’s got the bug and has been so inspired by it.’”

It wasn’t until after sharing the song that Shelley learned Saville played guitar, often taking his guitar with him to away games to play during downtime.

“That’s so inspiring for the boys because if their basketball hero, who is their coach and they hang off every word he says, is saying that he plays guitar and he loves music, that ties into the picture of who they think they could be as well,” she said.

Saville, in fact, went on to start the band Surfin’ Sav and the Corrupted Cowboys in 2013 after his wife bought him a guitar and encouraged him to learn to play.

“I had a good mate who had been a Hawks fan forever, ever since he was a little kid, and he said, ‘Why don’t you come and jam with me on a Wednesday?’” Saville said.

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Eventually getting “half decent at it”, his mate soon suggested they start a band.

“I was like, ‘What? Are you even going to plug my guitar in? Am I going to pretend that I’m playing stuff up here?’” he said, laughing.

Saville got serious, even investing in an electric guitar and amp.

“The next thing, he’s like, ‘Alright, we’ve got a gig at Dicey Riley’s,’” he said.

“I was like, ‘Excuse me? We’re doing what?’”

Surfin’ Sav performed rock songs at only a handful of pub gigs at Dicey Riley’s in Wollongong, the Cabbage Tree Hotel in Fairy Meadow and Ryan’s Hotel in Thirroul.

The Under 14 Club Championships will be held in Melbourne from 24 – 29 September.

The boys team will be joined at nationals by the Hawks Under 14 girls team, who recently won the state championships by 20 points.

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