The Lady Rocks Basketball Club was established in 2006 by the late Jim Lay and Lisa Palombo, a teacher at the time at St Maurice’s Sports Comprehensive in North Lanarkshire.
Lisa’s determination to increase female participation, and Jim’s experience as a teacher, club and National Team Coach led them to enter the Scottish National League (at the time as St Maurice’s Basketball Club).
In 2009, they were approached by the Glasgow Rocks to become their affiliated ladies section, and the Lady Rocks was born. The club is a recipient of sportscotland’s Direct Club Investment (DCI) funding stream, which supports the development of world class club sport.
As faculty head, Lisa works both the school and club programmes in close partnership, bringing staff and parents together to act as one ‘family.’
Success came early and shows no signs of slowing; a five-year run as Scottish Schools Cup winners, consistent annual National representation across age groups, one year featuring 12 pupils from the school, Silver division winners in their first season and an undefeated Under-16 team in the Scottish Basketball Championship and Scottish Play Off championship last season.
While standout players have emerged from the club such as Erin McGarrachan, now playing professionally with Leicester Riders and Erin Gilbride, Scotland U18 assistant coach and senior international, Lisa has worked hard to ensure the members give back to younger players and to the wider community, spreading the message that individual and team success is club success.
Four years ago when Tony McDaid joined as head coach, he further instilled this ethos by creating and driving the current team motto: ‘Our team is everything.’
Lady Rocks are confident that if they develop their people in the right way, the rest will take of itself.
Maela Faleu, 16, who moved here from Cameroon with her family in 2010, is one of the young players at the club and she tells us what makes the Lady Rocks formula so successful.
How did you first find out about basketball?
I found out about basketball through a competition in primary school called Jump2it and I was asked by one of the club coaches to come to one of their training sessions. That is when I started to fall in love with the game and because I enjoyed playing and realised that I could have a future in this sport.
What makes you so committed to your club?
I think it’s the ambition and the success I see some of the seniors having. The club is a family and you always have support from all the girls and coaches; I often get lifts from friends' parents and from coaches, and being able to stay at friends' houses before game days is a great help.
We play as a team and for me it is also a distraction from any troubles I have like a hard day at school or feeling low about anything, as I am always smiling when I leave training. It also helps me with the way I conduct myself in life and how I act towards people in general.
How do you balance school and sport?
I plan my week on a Sunday night by figuring out what days and times I have training and when and where I have games.
My training days are a Monday, Wednesday and Friday, which leaves weekend for games. The night before I have training I usually pack my bag with what I am going to wear at training. I live two hours away from the club and I travel by several buses to get to training during the week as my dad works and is unable to take me.
I grab something to eat at home after school then set off. Lifts are very helpful for getting home more quickly and staying with friends means I don’t need to worry about bus timetables on game days.
I do tend to be tired a lot but it doesn’t stop me, I am not behind on my school work as I take books on the bus and do my homework or make notes on the bus. I make up a timetable of what classes I have and when I have free periods and that’s when I do my homework if I have training on those days. The coaches help me with anything from school work to family, they are always there for me.
If I have a bad day the coaches are the first people to notice and always ask if I am okay. Playing a sport and going to school make me manage my time really well as I always have to be on time and meet deadlines, which will benefit me in life.
How does it make you feel to have reached the level you have in basketball?
I am really proud to have played for my club at national league level, starting at U14, U16 and U18 and also at senior level. I have represented my country at U14, U15 and U16 at the European championships. It has been a massive honour to wear a Scotland jersey.
It has been a lot of hard work, at times I have wanted to quit and just give up but I didn’t. I pushed myself. There are good days and bad days, nothing is good all of the time. Going through tough times makes you realise what you want - in education or in sport.
What are your aspirations for the future?
I aim to become the best player in my club, which isn’t going to be easy as there are amazing players and we all push each other to be the best we can. I also aim to make all the Scotland teams I have ahead and one day make the GB team. I also want to leave school to go to university and hopefully get a degree in sport science, and pursue different routes like sports therapy or maybe teaching.
What message would you give other girls who might want to try sport, or try basketball?
I would tell girls to try everything and don’t let anyone stop you achieving what you want to. In life, there will be times when you will want to quit and there will be times when things will be going so well and you would feel at your best. Never give up. Giving up when things are hard makes you feel weak, pushing yourself when you don’t want to, makes you feel strong and you feel like a better person after it.
Playing a sport has had a massive impact on my life as it makes me want to be a better person.
I have role models to look up to and that makes me want to be better. There will be people in life that put you down and make you want to quit but they are like that because they dislike the fact that you are succeeding in life. Use that as a way to perform better and show them what you can do.
What do you love about your sport?
I love everything about my sport but mostly the people because I started to love the sport when I started getting close to a lot of the girls in the team. I love the fact that the game and sport has changed me for the better and has made me a better person.
The club is amazing and everyone makes me feel part of a team. At the club we all care for each other, no one is ever left out no matter what age you are or how good you are. The coaches have always pushed me to do my best and because they have aimed high for me, I am the player I am now.
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Follow the Lady Rocks @LadyRocks_bball
Direct club investment
In 2013, sportscotland announced that a £10million funding stream would be made available to clubs across Scotland looking to develop and meet expanding capacity.
Using National Lottery funding, DCI is designed to support large-scale club development projects over a two-to-four-year period, with a focus on either growing club membership or enhancing club environments to allow the development of participants to athlete level, with some clubs focusing on both aspects.
Direct club investment is unique as it offers investment to support club development over a period of two to four years, giving the club time to embed significant developmental change.