You may have read my last article about the u15 boys and girls inter-county tournaments and my involvement with the u15 boys Herts team. After this tournament, I was chosen to be the Assistant coach of the u13 boy’s regional team. I joined a great coaching staff of Associate head coaches, PJ Russell and Jack Burnell, Performance analyst, Dane Frost and Team manager, Angela Griffin. In preparation for the tournament, we coached five camps that lasted from 10am to 4pm. Over the course of the camps, we cut the initial squad of 25 down to 12. The camps included training sessions to coach the players our style of play. As a coaching staff we pushed the players to their limits in order to get the most out of all of them. Also, the camps included warm up games against Haringey Hawks u14 boys and splitting the squad in half and playing against ourselves. This allowed players to put what they had learnt in the training sessions into a game situation, developing them further. During lunch the players where given talks by Matt Sharpe, a professional strength and conditioning coach, Savannah Wilkinson, GB u20 player as well as Toby Gastaldi-Davis, England u15 player. This showed the players what it takes to play at the highest level and that it is truly in their capability. In addition, we analysed our filmed training sessions and discussed how we could improve as a team. Furthermore, we interviewed the players to gain an understanding of their experiences and thoughts on the programme. After 5 camps, we were ready for the tournament!
During the camps, I lead the warm ups, coached various drills and regularly contributed to the training sessions and games. I developed my understanding of the game as well as how to coach different types of players. Furthermore, it gave me an insight into the next level of coaching and basketball overall.
On Friday 6th of July we all arrived in Manchester to play on Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th at the National Basketball facility, Belle Vue. Once everyone reached the hotel, all coaches, players and parents discussed how we were family and how we would achieve success. We were ready and motivated. The group stages saw us play West Midlands, South West, Yorkshire and North West. In our first two games, against West Midlands and South West, we were able to win by a comfortable 20+ points as we played effectively as a team. Next, we played a strong Yorkshire side who had tall and experienced players. However, we were able to win 45-34 as we played great defence and executed well on offence. Our last group game was against a fast and well-drilled North West. Due to our slow start we trailed by 10 for the majority of the game. Despite this, our key players stepped up to the challenge and led us to victory. During the game and for the rest for the night, the atmosphere within the team was electric. We ate dinner, watched the World Cup and did rehab together- the togetherness was indescribable.
Going into the semi-final we were even more motivated to succeed. The game was against the region, South. Similar to North West they were fast and looked to fast break a lot. The game started with both teams going back and forth. Although, by the second half we were able to be composed and pull out another 20 point win. This meant that we were in the final against London. Like us, London had not lost a game. Neither team wanted to lose. From the tip, the game was very intense. The game remained close but London’s tough defence and hustle on the court got them the win.
During the tournament, I led the warm ups, contributed to our decisions made as a coaching staff and had individual talks with the players. I seriously improved my ability to communicate with players effectively during games.
After the game, our team and parents spoke in the changing rooms. We reflected on our journey and how much all of us had grown with one another. In the words of Angela Griffin, ‘the parents gave us young boys and we gave them back young men’. We then went to support the East u13 girls play in their final, against North West. We all supported them behind their bench, for every single second of the game. Then, the London u13 boys and girls also started to support East. It was a moment of exceptional attitude and sportsmanship. The noise and atmosphere in the arena was unbelievable. Eventually, East gained the edge over their opponents and won by 6 points.
The entire experience taught so many things that I will never forget. Also, the whole weekend was truly a great representation of basketball in this country and how we are all one big family!