Basketball stalwart recognised – Beth Serle receives OAM

BASKETBALL BADGE: Long-serving South Australian Basketball volunteer Beth Serle will be honoured with a Medal of the Order of Australia today. Picture: TODD LEWIS
BASKETBALL BADGE: Long-serving South Australian Basketball volunteer Beth Serle will be honoured with a Medal of the Order of Australia today. Picture: TODD LEWIS

A VOLUNTEER for several decades, Beth Serle continues to give her all to the game of basketball in country South Australia and will today be recognised for those efforts with the Medal of the Order of Australia.

For the past 48 years, if you walked through the doors of Mount Gambier’s Bern Bruning Stadium, commonly known as the Icehouse, more often than not you would have been greeted by an unassuming Beth.

Not there to try and win accolades or receive gratitude, but simply because she is inspired by the smile on the face of the next young aspiring basketball player.

“The young people are certainly my inspiration, my daily aim is to see them come into the stadium with smiles on their faces and an air of anticipation and if they leave with that same smile and the anticipation fulfilled, that is my reward,” Beth said.

“In all of these years as a volunteer, it hasn’t been a chore, it has been a love and I don’t know any better way to develop yourself and young people than to participate in team sports.”

HUMBLED: Beth Serle said the award represented the great work hundreds of volunteers had done for the game of basketball in country South Australia.

Joining the Basketball Mount Gambier Committee in November 1969, many have come and gone over the last 48 years, but not Beth.

“I have been on the committee ever since and all the experts say to have a vibrant, progressive organisation, you have to change your committees every five or six years,” she said.

“Well I have broken all of those rules.

“I need to say that I would never have been able to do this had my family not been supportive of me, so they deserve recognition.”

A life member of Basketball Mount Gambier, Basketball South Australia and the Pioneers Basketball Club, Beth has always aimed to extend her impact beyond the four lines of the basketball court.

“The rewards for me are seeing young kids develop into vibrant, contributing members of the community and basketball is just the vehicle for that development,” she said.

“I get a huge sense of satisfaction and pride from seeing the positive things they go on to do in their lives.”

A major part of Beth’s life in basketball was her contribution to SA Country Basketball after being elected secretary in 1973, a position she held for 16 years.

“Bern Bruning was determined to setup SA Country Basketball and at a meeting around that time he said ‘you’ll be secretary won’t you Serley’ and I said ‘no, I won’t be’, but the rest is history,” Beth said.

“A highlight was presenting submissions in Sydney with the late Bob Sanderson to getting Broken Hill into SA Country Basketball and we were successful with that.”

Named Australian Citizen of the Year in 2006 and a recipient of the Australian Sports Medal in 2000, it is another award Beth received that held particular significance.

“I received Best Basketball Administrator in Australia and I hold that pretty close to my heart.

With appreciation and humility, Ms Serle was quick to recognise all the contributions made to the game by the hundreds of other volunteers she worked with along the way.

“I’m gobsmacked to receive an award like this and the question is ‘why me?’ because I can think of many other volunteers who are just as deserving,” Beth said.

“I see the award as a tick for the many dedicated volunteers I have had the honour of knowing, working and making friends with over many years.”

Some of those were Di Facey, Bern Bruning, Joan Bruin, Bill Hateley, Dean Kinsman, Bert Bargeus and Sharon Venn.

“You learn through experience and I have learnt great lessons from those people and we have been able to achieve great things together,” she said.

But, Beth has no plans to stop greeting newcomers at the basketball court door.

“I have a very simple philosophy in life,” she said.

“When I put my head on the pillow at night and I think I have given it my best shot, I feel satisfied regardless of whether it was the right or the wrong way.

“There is no doubt about it, I’ll miss the day I walk away from here, but the minute someone says ‘you’re past your used-by date’, I’ll be out the door because I will only be here if I can make a positive difference.”

HONOURED: Beth Serle has no plans to stop giving back to the game she has grown to love as she proudly stands in front of the room named in her honour at the Mount Gambier Icehouse.