27 students and 7 staff members from The Canterbury Academy have recently been on a 2 week visit to Spain, and it couldn’t have been more beneficial to those involved. With an emphasis on basketball, but also on personal development and the experience of being in another country, it was a valuable trip on a number of levels.
The experience was made possible by the Erasmus Programme, which combines a number of the European Union's current schemes for education, training, youth and sport as part of a student exchange programme and in one form or another the Programme has been running since 1994. The funding received by Canterbury Academy students was part of their Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellent (AASE) link with Basketball England and the AASE qualifications being studied by those at the Academy.
Jesse Sazant, Senior Vice Principal and Head Basketball Coach at The Canterbury Academy said, “This trip was such an unbelievable experience for our players and staff. We are very proud of being able to give them an opportunity like this that will provide them with lifelong memories, as well as the personal and basketball development from the trip.”
The setting for the trip was a high quality 3 court facility where the Canterbury side were lucky enough to train on a frequent basis, as well as play games against some of Madrid’s top under 18 teams in San Jorge, Alecobendas and Real Canoe. Away from the action, students were able to watch top level practices from the ACB, Spain’s top domestic league, as well as a competitive ACB game. Those activities also brought the students in contact with a number of high-profile British players including Gabe Olaseni, Ovie Soko and Charles Yassi-Peppin.
“The trip to Spain was an eye opening experience for us,” said student Tyrese Walters-Lawrence. “It didn’t just allow us to bond and get closer as a team but also gave us the taster of what it takes to be a professional basketball player. It helped us understand fully the dedication and commitment that is required, from dietary requirements to adaptation, to the Spanish culture.”
There was also an opportunity to bump into some more familiar faces along the way. The group were fortunate enough to watch Real Madrid under 18s during practice, with GB age group international Kareem Queally in attendance. The Madrid side then took on local team Fuenlebrada, current club of GB under 18’s Jacob Round.
Away from the court, the group visited the Spanish Basketball Federation’s museum to learn more about the game, as well as touring around Madrid and nearby Toledo. One day was dedicated to spending a day with students at a Spanish school so that the players and staff could see how education and sport work in another country.
"This is our second Erasmus trip and both times have been amazing,” said Associate Head Coach of the Academy Adam Davies. “On this trip I think all players and staff came away with new targets and goals after being exposure to some top level basketball and a different culture. We trained most days in a top facility and got to bond as a team on and off the court with activities in and around Madrid.”
With the cultural, educational and developmental exposure clear for all, the basketball element of the trip was also of huge importance. By watching top level senior and junior basketball, the students were able to watch different styles of play and understand how tough the competition is around the world as well as the hard work that is required to achieve that level.
“The junior teams we played showed us how hard you have to play at all times and the level of focus needed to win,” continued Davis. “The professional teams we watched practice and play gave the players an insight to what it would be like to be a professional. It was great preparation for us as a team getting ready for the second half of the EABL and NBL season.”
Basketball England’s Programme & Pathway Integration Manager Charlie Ford said, “Canterbury, along with a number of other AASE programmes have taken full advantage of the fantastic opportunities that Erasmus+ funding affords athletes, coaches and programmes. Exposure to European training, competition and cultural activities broadens and expands the learning and transitional opportunities for students as well as providing a chance for our Programmes to bring back and share new training methods and approaches with the wider AASE fraternity.”