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A Reflection.

Two things have happened recently that have put me in reflective mode about the purpose of junior basketball at the Nottingham Wildcats and across the country.  It has always been a Wildcats’ philosophy, to offer the opportunity for young female players, to achieve their potential as basketball players and people. This is also how I see the situation.

So what are these two things?

  • The debate that is currently going on about the poor showing of our age group teams at last summer’s Europeans, which have carried over into discussions about structures, competitions, age groups etc.
  • The fact that Nottingham Wildcats WBBL team defeated Sheffield Hatters on Saturday, at Sheffield, for the first time in ages.

You are probably asking how these two issues are linked because at first sight they appear to have no connection at all.  Well three of the players, who were in the Wildcats team, have come through the Junior Programme at the club and are all in the rotation, playing an important role in the team’s success.

It is not easy to make it into the WBBL team as the league is now deemed as professional and indeed the Wildcats have four professional players.  So what is the relevance of this?  Well if we go back to an early statement ‘to achieve their potential as basketball players and people’ it shows that part of the club is about elite basketball.  Not that the club ignores ‘recreational players’ as it has separate pathways for them and I feel this is one of the things that sets us apart from many other clubs, who just focus on girls playing.  So we have never had the debate at Wildcats about school years and age groups, girls playing with their friends etc. because we see it as  ‘achieving your potential’ issue.

Lets go back to those three players Hannah Shaw, Jess Hurd and Siobhan Prior who are just three of eight players who have won basketball scholarships to the States.  All eight have represented their country and now five of those eight are back at the Wildcats.  The others have yet to graduate.  Leanne Chandler, the pioneer, and Lucy Fish have returned to the Wildcats as coaches for our U16 team, plus the three WBBL players.  What all those people have in common is that they wanted to achieve things in basketball, not just be with their friends.  They focused on the prize, however difficult that was at times because their ‘peer pressure’ must have been considerable.

Also if you speak to any of these players/coaches about their experiences, they will tell you there have been real low points that have tested their resolve, but that these are more than offset by the incredible highs. (Saturday’s game for instance).  It is this experiencing of totally opposite emotions, that helps prepare young people for their life ahead, which, unless you are extremely lucky, will be punctuated by these very same feelings.

I think it is therefore fair to say that the Wildcats’ philosophy regarding junior development has worked for us.  Not just at the elite level because we support our local central venue league at the Nottingham Wildcats Arena and are currently putting together a 3v3 and fundamentals programme with our local league which will target less experienced players.  The Wildcats also have a large Mini-Ballers’ section that introduces the game to children as young as 5 years old.

The ‘recreational players’ deserve somewhere to play just as much as the ‘elite players’ but we should not confuse the two.  Only ‘elite players’ should be in the National League and they should play against each other as often as possible.  The emphasis for them should be on improving their fundamentals and becoming all round basketball players, not necessarily winning matches and making the Final Fours, wherever they may be.

I say this as a retired coach of both senior women and age group teams, and I hated losing.  But the real goal for junior development is the number of quality female players in the WBBL and playing in our National teams.  Not whether they are having a good time doing an activity with their friends.

 

 

 

Contributed by Chris Prior.

 

 

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