Prior: Big Weekend for the WBBL Small Ballers

I’ve been asked so many times this week, “Are you looking forward to Saturday?” and I know everyone is referring to our game against Sheffield this weekend writes Siobhan Prior.

It’s no secret that our rivalry with Sheffield has spanned decades and that it’s always a dog fight, or Cat fight. You can guarantee a great game and if you were going to spend your money to see one WBBL game in your life, I’d go for a Wildcats vs Hatters match up. It’s also no secret that they’re my favourite games of the year, so I can forgive everyone for overlooking the real reason I’m so excited for Saturday.

Before our game even begins, there is something far more exciting going on! This Saturday, welcomes the inaugural WBBL U11 Jamboree. An event that will see four WBBL senior teams field an U11 girls’ team, in a fun day of 4v4 games and competitions, before the WBBL senior game, Wildcats vs Sheffield.

The U11 initiative has grown out of a resolve that the WBBL should be invested in the development of the game, as well as the performance aspect. Discussions moved to forming WBBL U11 teams, within the clubs that felt they were able to deliver consistent development to these young female players.

So, what we see this year are eight WBBL U11 teams who will play against each other in two groups of four, in a 4v4 format, with an emphasise on enjoyment, participation and learning.

The two groups of four teams will play in each of the four venues in their group, directly before a WBBL senior game. The groups are as follows:

Group 1:
Barking Abbey London Lions U11
Oaklands Wolves U11
Cardiff Archers U11
Sevenoaks Suns U11

Group 2:
Durham Palatinates U11
Sheffield Hatters U11
Nottingham Wildcats U11
Leicester Riders U11

The U11 teams this year will culminate in a huge basketball festival at the Women’s WBBL Final on 14 April 2018!

From a Wildcats’ point of view, I can already tell you how excited our Miniballers are to be part of this new initiative! They already love the WBBL because of the work the league has put in to promote our sport.

“We’ve seen and felt the amazing job the WBBL has done with regards to garnering interest and gathering a solid following online, on TV and social media, during its first few seasons,” commented Sandy Lammond, a parent and Miniballer Secretary at Nottingham Wildcats.

“The women’s game in this country never been more high profile and the kids absolutely love it!” she added enthusiastically.

Last Tuesday, I asked the question to my U11 team in practice, only letting the newest girls answer, “So, what’s the WBBL?” Every single one of them knew it stood for the Women’s British Basketball League. They all knew it was the highest level of basketball for women in the country, that it had been on the BBC, that our team had won the Championship and Sevenoaks had won at The O2 last year. They knew so much about it and that’s amazing! But, as a league, we also know it’s just the start.

We’ve already grabbed their attention. As players, even if you don’t know it, we’re inspiring them. So now it’s time to give our energy and efforts directly to our youngest players.

Getting young people playing basketball is massively important and it should be recognised that the person who first grabbed the attention of the Temi Fagbenle and Jo Leedham’s of this world are just as important, if not more, than those coaches who helped to mould them into the elite British players we see today.

There are more Temi’s and Jo’s out there. More players who, when they grow up, may continue to push the boundaries and levels of British Basketball. The WBBL and its clubs recognise a duty to nurture that growth and development. Not only for our game but for the enjoyment, opportunities and life lessons this game can bring to young people and the guidance it can give to them as they grow up!

So, if you have nothing to do on Saturday; no actually, if you have something to do then reschedule it and get yourself down to All Saints School in Sheffield, to support our young basketball talent. You never know you, might just see the beginnings of a future British WNBA champion!

And if not, the most important thing is that you’ll see young girls enjoying a sport they love, working together and learning from each other! There is no better way to spend your Saturday afternoon!!

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