Former Medway Park Crusaders Head Coach, James Vear, continues with his blog from overseas (University of Dalhousie, Canada). Vear left the UK about four months ago, and will be regularly updating us with his experiences and life abroad. You can check all his previous blog entries here. Over to James:
It’s been a very good month here at Dalhousie with the team starting to show some real promise. We won our Xmas tournament called the Shoveller, beating the number 2 ranked team in the country along the way. We also won our first conference game back after the New Year; the team still has a long way to go, but I hope this is a good starting point for us to have a successful second half to our season.
This month I wanted to touch on the basketball funding decision announcement made this past month. I was interviewed after our game at the weekend and asked about how basketball was progressing in Great Britain after the Olympics. It was the first time I had to seriously think about basketball back home.
I explained in the interview how the funding had been cut and that it appears basketball was not a priority in the build-up to the next Olympics. After answering that question I began to think about what the funding cut might mean for basketball back home and I would be lying if I said I’m not worried.
Since I have been here it’s been easy to forget about basketball in the UK, mainly due to being absorbed in what I am doing, but with this recent announcement I worry what it means for the long term future of the sport I love.
I’ve seen lots of stories written stating we might need to scrap the national teams, GB Under 20 teams, GB Futures teams and that we might not be able to afford to bring in our best pro players for the men’s national team. The thing that worries me the most is what this means for the junior national teams.
To play for your country at any level is a tremendous honour and huge achievement, it also gives players and coaches an opportunity to measure up against Europe’s best teams and coaches. If we don’t have this, we don’t have a measuring stick of where we stand, and it’s also important for players to have the national teams to aspire to. Without this I think you will see more players move abroad and players staying in Great Britain settling for mediocrity.
For me personally, when I played against national team players from abroad or in our national team it would push me to get better. I understand that basketball will never be big as it is in the States, Canada, and in most European countries but some of these small European countries I know have limited funding and churn out numerous players and great coaches. This might be a time we use one of these models and see what they do that makes them so successful.
With the funding cut I believe it should be a time for the basketball fraternity to work together. I have found that basketball has always been very political in England, with lots of people worried too much about themselves.
For basketball to grow now, we must work together to find solutions or we could be in danger of going backwards. Here are a few ideas I have thought about recently that aren’t necessarily solutions to the cut in funding but things I think could help:
- Streamline Our Club Set Up – I think there are too many teams in our National Junior Leagues, I saw an article in a US basketball subscription showing disgust at a junior team in America winning by 100 points and the surprise that this might even happen in the States, I see these scores weekly in England Junior games, I don’t see how these games benefit either team. With fewer teams in the national league it should make for more competitive games and better coaching. The players that are not good enough to play national league can play local league and if they do become good enough can be pushed onto a national league team. This is done here in Canada with lots of club teams having up to 10 teams in one age group but they break them down by ability and are put into the correct league for that level. This would only work in England if local league and national league teams worked together, I’m not sure if this would happen as I have seen lots of times coaches wanting to hold onto players and not push them on for the better of the player.
- More Outdoor Courts – I spoke about this in a previous post and a few people disagreed with me but I still think the more outdoor courts, the more kids you will get interested in basketball. Getting court time in gyms is expensive and hard to get so I think the more outdoor courts the better. Me and my two brothers were lucky enough to have our own outdoor hoop and I know that’s where all three of us fell in love with the game.
- Coaching Awards – I don’t think our coaching awards system works. I believe it’s far too easy to gain the coaching levels. I was sent the basic coaching award here in Canada and I would say it’s arguably tougher than our Level 3 award. Having good coaches is imperative for our sport to grow, I know people who have never played basketball before and are Level 2 qualified coaches; I’m not sure this is a good thing for the game.
That’s all I am going to say about the funding cut but feel free to let me know your views and ideas on what you think needs to happen next.
Had some coaches and players ask me a few questions this past month and I said I will try and answer as many as I could. A few asked what my daily schedule was and the players schedule. Each week is different, but here is my basic weekly schedule:
- Practice 6 days a week depending on that week’s game schedule, we will also do walk-throughs on game days
- I am in charge of doing players’ individual workouts which take place everyday
- Video Coordinator – I and Coach Campbell take it in turns most weeks to scout and video clip our upcoming opponent. I will also sit and watch tape with players individually during the week
- For some extra money I also coach some of Halifax’s best young players doing individual workouts. I have recently started doing some workouts for the pro team here called the Halifax Rainmen who play in the NBL
The players will do up to 6 practices a week; they will do individual sessions with me each week, with some doing up to 3-4 a week. They are all given strength and conditioning programmes which they must adhere to. On top of this some will watch extra film sessions and they have unlimited use of the gym so can get up extra shots when they want to. And of course, they have studies on top of this as well.
This all keeps me busy during the week, any spare time I do have I get the chance to immerse myself in basketball. I get to watch countless DVDS, read and study as much as I possibly can. This past month I decided to write an article and send it into Winning Hoops a big US Basketball publication, they decided to print my article in their Jan/Feb issue. Troy Culley a fellow English coach also had some work printed in the same issue which was great to see.
Another question I was asked was what advice I would give to any coaches wanting to move abroad and what the sacrifices are. I would say work as many basketball camps in the UK and abroad as you can – this will often be the place you get to network and meet fellow coaches. Also, contact as many coaches as you can and ask if you can work camps or if they are looking for any assistants. You might not get any replies but the more people you ask the better chance you have of getting your name out there and someone saying yes.
One thing we have to understand is that being English and being a basketball coach means you have to prove yourself even more than most; a coach here said that me coming to Canada and coaching basketball is like a person from America coming to England and coaching football. When I thought about it, it’s probably true – we are not known for our basketball knowledge so the more you can get out of your comfort zone and learn from other coaches the better.
I have some more questions players and coaches have asked that I will try and answer in my next blog entry. We are now moving into the business end of our season with only 8 weeks left, we will have to work hard to progress up our league and make the playoffs but I’m confident the team can do it.
Once again feel free to email me any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me on twitter @coachvear