Basketball gets coaching boost

Suffolk Sport's Basketball Development Officer Kathryn James believes the county is well placed to sustain the snowballing popularity within the sport in 2008 and beyond.

Stuart Watson

By Stuart Watson

Suffolk Sport's Basketball Development Officer Kathryn James believes the county is well placed to sustain the snowballing popularity within the sport in 2008 and beyond.

The last 12 months have seen huge progress across the county basketball scene thanks largely to Suffolk Basketball securing grants totalling in excess of £10,000 at the start of 2007.

The largest chunk of which - £6,998 - came through the social inclusion strand of the Suffolk Single Gateway Programme, a scheme designed as a 'one stop shop' for allocating Suffolk County Council grants.

That money also enabled a further £3,500 to be drawn down from Sport England's Community Investment Fund. This has enabled all Suffolk applicants attending England Basketball coaching, refereeing and officiating courses to access them at half price.

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James said: “This money has really helped underpin a programme of work for basketball of which developing young coaches and officials for me is the highlight.

“If we support them with coach education costs and, where possible, some expenses it really can make a difference.

“As junior player numbers grow we must nurture those who are capable of being coaches of the future.”

So far 44 people have benefited from the reduced price coaching courses in Suffolk, with a further 90 due to access development opportunities next spring.

Ipswich Basketball Club Tomcats Under-18 players James Fairs and Bradley Potter have recently passed their England Basketball Level Two coaching awards.

The pair will continue to receive ongoing mentoring next season thanks to projcet funding and have already been ear marked to jointly head coach the Tomcats Under-14s next season.

Fairs said: “The grant money has been a big help in letting me make the next step in my basketball career. Now I know that when I have gone as far as I can as a player I will also have the opportunity to coach. It has been so rewarding for me to work with the younger players, knowing that the work you do has enabled them to develop.”

At the other end of the age scale is developing 61-year-old coach Adrian Clark who works as a behaivoural support supervisor at Deben High School.

Clark realised the the potential sport had to encourage children to make more positive choices when working with Mark Sturman, one of his pupils on the verge of permanent exclusion, three years ago.

Not only has Clark now achieved his Level Two coaching qualification, but Sturman has also become a Level One qualified referee with aspirations of reaching Level Two in the near future.

Other initiatives undertaken by Suffolk Basketball with the grant money have included the Chantry Youth Development Initiative, where eight of their club volunteers benefitted from half price coaching courses.

Another project that has benefitted from the financial support of the Gateway grant directly has been the creation of a basketball session at Maidenhall Sports Centre on a Monday.

In addition, two new height adjustable hoops and backboards have been purchased by Suffolk Basketball to accomodtae the growing number of younger players starting the game.

James said: “We targetted the social inclusion strand of the gateway Programme because basketball has a greta deal of street cred. It is inclusive and naturally attracts players from all cultural and ethnic backgrounds. So long as you can find a ball and hoop you are nearly there.

“Our coaches often use the the game as a carrott, if you like, to keep children focused, some fo whom may otherwise later be at risk of offending, taking drugs, alcohol or subsytance misuse.

“Of course sport is not always the answer, but it is has been very rewarding to hear reports from schools where pupils behaivour has improved dramatically due to the sporting ficus they now have in their lives.”

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