News Release

Youth Basketball Tournament and Devotional with Sports Heroes

Eight hundred young people gathered at the Fairfield Stake Centre of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Melbourne Sunday evening 3 July to hear from three distinguished athletes and leaders.  Another 100 youth in Tasmania and country Victoria viewed the devotional by remote broadcast.  It was the culminating event of a weekend basketball tournament involving 32 teams from throughout Victoria, divided into a junior division (ages 12 through 14) and a senior division (ages 15 through 17). 

“Our aim was to create an environment in which all the youth were able to compete in a tournament, make new friendships, then be inspired, lifted and encouraged to perform at their best in every aspect of life,” Stake President Ashley Parton, who presided over the Devotional, said in summarizing the weekend activities.

Guest speakers were Jason Smith, a champion NBL basketball player; Tim Smith, a champion rower and a member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly; and Peter Vidmar, a champion gymnast and President of the Melbourne Mission of the Church.

Professional basketball player Jason Smith who led the Sydney Kings to three National Basketball League championships and won the Most Valuable Player award in 2005, among many other honors, shared his story of coming up from the D team—the lowest grade—to the top of his sport by the time he was 30. 

His career took him all over the world, playing for teams in Australia, US, Italy, Croatia and in the Sydney and Athens Olympics.  Even after all of this success, he was not completely happy or fulfilled.  Real joy came when he found God, he said.  He counselled the youth on the importance of having balance between three elements that are essential in life:  physical, emotional and spiritual.  He was “incredibly fit and strong” when he was playing and well-balanced emotionally, but something was lacking.  When he was 25, he rediscovered the faith in God he had learned from his mother. This added spiritual dimension took his career to new heights.

Tim Smith (no relation) told the audience, “Sport taught me one thing:  nothing brings greater happiness in life that serving in a cause greater than yourself.” He had a five-year career in rowing, during which he represented Australia at three World Championships, two World Cups, and the Under 23 World Championships, winning a Bronze Medal at the 2004 World Championships in Spain.  He continued to train until a serious back injury in 2006 prevented him from participating in the trials leading up the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

With his sporting career ended, he returned to the University of Melbourne and undertook a Masters of International Politics, which program included time at the London School of Economics.  After his return from London, he served on the City Council and then was elected mayor—at 25, the youngest ever—of the city of Stonnington.  In 2014 he became a Liberal Party MP, a position he holds currently.

He shared with the audience his experience that politics is an intriguing occupation.  “It requires courage to follow one’s convictions and the integrity to be true to one’s word and support one’s mates”—values he first refined as a sportsman.  He emphasized the need to have courage and perseverance, to work together and to give back to the community.  “Each individual is responsible for his own behaviour and output, but it takes all pulling together to win the race,” he told the youth in closing.

Peter Vidmar, who arrived in Australia from the United States just five days earlier to begin his service as mission president, told the story of his journey that resulted in his two gold medals and a silver medal in the 1984 Olympics.  At 23 he had been training for 12 years, including four years as a member of the UCLA gymnastics team.  The US team was not expected to win; China was the defending world champion.   However, the US team took the all-around team gold, and Peter took the pommel horse competition gold and the all-around individual competition silver.  The DVD he shared of his winning Olympic performance was a great hit with the audience.

President Vidmar spoke about practices that led to his championship medals: keeping commitments, giving your best every day, persisting even when you don’t feel like it, and knowing exactly what to do long before the actual competition.  “I used to vividly imagine I was in the Olympics and think about how I would feel if I had just won the gold medal,” he told the audience. He also said he considered his part in the team’s medal more rewarding than his individual medals. President Vidmar encouraged the assembled youth to believe in themselves, set goals, put in the necessary effort, and develop the talents their Heavenly Father has given them.

Left to right: Peter Vidmar, Tim Smith, and Jason Smith

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