'Important to see women of colour in leadership roles' - JustPlay UK's CEO Chloe Burdett

Chloe Burdett is Basketball England’s Project Participation Officer and supports clubs, communities, committees and coaches, plus internal and external partners to co-ordinate the delivery of participation programmes, services, and activities. 

Chloe previously worked as a Sport 4 Life Employability Mentor, helping young people find work and has worked in the mental well-being industry. 

In 2018, the Level 2 coach founded JustPlay UK in the West Midlands, with a mission to make casual basketball more accessible, helping children and adults of all ages stay physically active and connect with others from all walks of life.  

The organisation’s motto is ‘Community Over Competition’. 

In her thought leadership for Black History Month, Chloe shares her basketball journey and why she is helping to drive provision for women and girls’ basketball at the helm of JustPlay UK.  

Basketball is a big thing in my family.  

My summers were spent playing ball at The Racecourse in Northampton – I just loved the game; the people I played with and the opportunities it gave me to improve and get better.  

I was progressing through what was then the equivalent of the England Talent Pathway, but I tore the cartilage in my knee and had to stop playing.  

That set back was tough. It inevitably led to a shift in my focus in the game, and what I wanted to achieve and how I could interact with the sport to make a positive impact.

Chloe Burdett

Women of colour in leadership roles 

I think it is important to see women of colour in leadership roles; in positions of power and seen to be making important decisions.  

A lot of my motivation comes from my love of basketball, and it's more than playing on the court.  

I was so quiet in school, but basketball unlocked my skillsets, including how to communicate with people and stay motivated. Having a sense of self-esteem helped me achieve.

All that personal development came from my involvement in the game, and I want to share that with as many people as possible. 

The concept of an open session 

After I finished university, I moved to Birmingham for work, and had a strong desire to play basketball again.  

A lot of the scrimmages I looked at were male dominated, and as somebody that hadn’t played for years, I felt too intimidated to join in.  

I wanted to scrimmage, but on my terms. 

West Brom Basketball Club really liked the concept of having an open session for players of all ages, so they let me trial my idea.  

This was the starting point of JustPlay UK. 

It was popular from the off and soon became a highlight for the West Midlands' basketball community. Players of all abilities and all club backgrounds would come and share their love for basketball. Before I knew it, we had over 35 people turn up for an hour's session.  

One thing I noticed, however, is that female players would come, be in the minority, and then not come back. 

Express themselves freely 

As soon as restrictions were lifted after the pandemic, I started a women’s only session. And once players started coming, they would ask me if I had any provision for their daughters. 

I knew that participation opportunities for girls’ basketball were low and decided to trial a junior session and run girls basketball camps.  

Anecdotally, parents have told me how their daughter’s behaviour has improved in school and at home, as well as the way they feel about themselves. Some of my kids had a history of being bullied, but our basketball sessions give them a sense of self-worth; that they feel that they belong somewhere and can express themselves freely.  

They don’t have to be the best here. But obviously, I push them if they want to be the best and some of our players are now playing in the Jnr. NBL.  

I just try and provide everyone with a comfortable environment, and I think that has helped some of the players on their journey – whether that’s women coming back to the game after having children or those who haven’t played basketball since school. 

In the future, I would like to host bigger events, where women and girls can come and play, perhaps, in a tournament, connect socially, and don’t feel they have to commit to anything afterwards. I would also like to do more summer camps that blend basketball activities, as well as personal development, such as workshops that help women and girls feel good about themselves. Things that they can take into everyday life.