With Basketball England’s December national programmes’ camps set to get underway, it not only signals the start of a journey for players to try and reach the pinnacle of being involved in the sport on an International stage, but for coaches as well. As a key influence on the development of these players both on and off the court, National Teams' staff play an important role in the national programmes. Vanessa Ellis, the GB Under 18 Women’s Head Coach, is one such person.
When the 50 girls take to the court at the National Basketball Performance Centre in Manchester on the 27 and 28 December, Ellis will be there to cast a watchful eye on this year’s group, players that she’ll be helping to lead and shape in the months to come. For the former Sheffield Hatter to reach this stage, a move into coaching was a logical step once she had finished her time as a player, “My coach, Betty Codona, always encouraged all the Sheffield players to get involved in coaching, refereeing and tabling and gain qualifications along the way. I really enjoyed coaching so continued to do it alongside playing. Also, my England coach at the time, Lazlo Nemeth, encouraged me to coach as well so it felt natural to me to coach after I finished playing.”
Though she may not have expected to reach the levels she has when she set out on her coaching journey, Ellis has become as well respected as a coach as she was as a player. Her Westfield Health Sheffield Hatters currently sit 2nd in the WBBL table with a 7-2 record, continued success after the side’s 2014/15 WBBL League and Playoff double to go along with a vast list of NBL successes before that. Ellis is also an Assistant Coach for the Senior Women’s GB side, as well as Team England, who will head out to the Commonwealth Games in Australia next April. Still, Vanessa remains aware that these things couldn’t happen without the support of those around her, “I have to say a big thank you to my family for supporting me so I can be involved in the game. Both my mum and sister look after my son while I’m away. I have to take unpaid leave from work and they also support me in other ways so I can continue with these amazing opportunities.”
Despite the success that she has encountered, the challenges that face Ellis still remain the same. And regardless of who she is sat on the bench with, her main focus remains unchanged, “You have to make sure you are doing everything you can so the players are in a position to be successful and win games. This means many different aspects need to be planned and prepared for, and great teamwork is essential for that to be achieved.”
Ellis will continue to make that ethos a priority at these December camps and for anyone that is wanting to follow in her footsteps and move into coaching, she has a clear message, “Do it! I love it, coaching brings great opportunities and rewards. I know I am part of something that is able to provide girls and women an opportunity to play basketball. I gained so much from the sport and now I feel I am giving back. It’s not always easy and at times it is frustrating, time consuming and requires a lot of work but the benefits, enjoyment and rewards far outweigh that. I keep learning new things all the time and basketball is a sport that enables you to keep learning and developing both as a coach and a person.”
Main photo credit - FIBA