With 3x3's debut in Birmingham a golden opportunity to showcase the fast and furious game to a new audience, and an opportunity for the Team England octet to win prestigious medals, a crack group has surrounded and supported them every step of the way, leaving no performance edging stone unturned.
Peter Griffiths is team leader for England’s 3x3 squads, and his role has seen him be more than just an attaché for the players to liaise with and a communication channel to Team England and the organising committee.
He is the master of ceremonies. You name it, he’s across it: player welfare, kit, media, accreditation, and what’s driving him: “the huge shot we have of creating a legacy for basketball in England."
His right-hand woman is Meehra Gorasia – assistant team leader – who in the build-up to the Games, planned and organised all the operational and logistical elements of the camps and tournaments in Manchester, Romania, Serbia and France; integral milestones during the player selection process.
“My role has been to provide support to the players and the team staff, ranging from sorting accreditation, writing day schedules, doing laundry, etc. I also organised the recent friendly tournament between ourselves, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. The teams need to get the best prep they can to allow them to focus on performance and win medals.”
Basketball England’s Head of Physiotherapy and Sport Science is Andy Howse and his role is to coordinate and liaise with all England’s 3x3 physiotherapy and sport science staff, including psychologists, nutritionists, strength and conditioning coaches, physios and doctors.
“Over a year ago, we worked backwards from the Games to assess and plan in the wants and needs of the coaches and athletes, working out when to introduce certain sport science elements like nutrition, strength programmes, etc.
“Now, we’re at the dawn of the Games and it’s about staying on top of niggles and injuries. If we’re able to make sure we can mitigate any of the risk factors for injury, by having good nutrition, good hydration, good pre-match conditioning then the ability to recover is going to be so much better and our risk of injury decreases dramatically.”
Working with him to achieve that goal is performance nutritionist Dr Tilly Spurr, behavioural psychologist Chris Hallam, physiotherapist Peter Thain and strength and conditioning lead Mark Williams
Spurr, a senior lecturer in sports and exercise nutrition at the University of Chichester, has been working with the men’s and women’s team to implement what she calls ‘performance nutrition’.
“Really the role I’ve had in the build-up to the Commonwealth Games is not just to make sure that their eating is absolutely perfect, but when – what time of the day – they’re eating it. It needs to be an optimal time so that they are able to perform totally at their best ability.
“You often hear that nutrition can’t make a bad player good, but the wrong nutrition can make a good player play poorly – it’s my aim to make sure they are as happy and as settled as possible in fuelling themselves.”
Looking after their minds is psychologist Hallam, who’s been getting the athletes’ mental preparation and resilience up to scratch.
“We understand that the pressures of performance at the highest level can have an impact on the mindsets of our players and coaches,” he said.
“It’s really important that we focus on the mental side of the game, as well as the physical, technical and tactical side of basketball, in particular recognising the pressure of a home games, and implementing coping strategies that support a push for medal winning performances. I’ve been working with the group collectively and on a one-to-one basis.”
Williams’ strength and conditioning work started with the players 8-12 weeks ago, producing programmes for the men and women to work on, so that in the latter part of England’s 3x3 preparation they’ve been in the best physical condition possible.
“We really had to ramp up our anaerobic conditioning – that really nasty sensation when you’re working hard, and you’ve got the sense of lactic acid building up in your muscles. That’s the kind of thing they’re going to have to tolerate as they go through the tournament.
“This is huge! A home Games with a new basketball format debuting. Everything is very exciting and brand new and there’s a unique aspect of playing outside and music playing, I’m very much looking forward to it.”
Physiotherapist and Associate Professor in Sports Therapy at Birmingham City University Thain is equally as buoyant about what lies ahead, calling his position an ‘honour and privilege’.
His work with the players started with a series of screening tests to understand the baseline of their health and well-being.
“That then allowed us to build the players individualised programmes with Andy and Mark to work on any weaknesses they’ve got, or predisposed issues that might lead to injuries. Get them ready so they’re in the best shape possible."
On a normal game day, Thain is taping ankles, knees and shoulders and come tip-off, sits with his trauma bag fitted with a defibrillator to deal with anything untoward on court.
After the game, he’s facilitating cool downs, soft tissue sports massages, and making sure recovery is prioritised because of the quick succession of games native to the 3x3 scene – and what makes the format so exciting.
Basketball England aims to engage one million people in basketball via the Commonwealth Games 2022, 3x3 and more.
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