Basketball is mostly played on indoor courts, especially here in Scotland. But what do you do when indoor sports halls are unable to open?
As part of the Scottish Government’s route map through and out of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, restrictions were eased on 13 July to permit outdoor contact sport for young people up to the age of 17, subject to public health guidance.
For the past month, two basketball clubs in central Scotland have been running sessions outside for their young members - one of them in an industrial estate car park!
Glasgow City Basketball Club
By day, a busy industrial estate car park; by night, a lively basketball court filled with more than 25 energetic young people.
Glasgow City Basketball Club have been running their outdoor sessions out of East Shawhead Industrial Estate in Coatbridge since restrictions on contact sports for young people eased.
The estate might not be the most conventional training location, but it has allowed the club to reintroduce basketball to young people who couldn’t wait to get back to the sport they love.
Glasgow City are part of Eastbank Community Sport Hub and provide basketball in the east end of Glasgow for all levels of ability. To go from training five days a week to nothing was tough for everyone, so the reintroduction of outdoor sport was a timely one.
Glasgow City Basketball Club general manager Kenny Watson works for Crown Lift Trucks, a company working from the estate.
He said: “The sessions have been really successful, and we have been very fortunate with the weather as a whole so far. We know that there are a handful of outdoor courts within the area, but due to these being public courts you can’t make a booking so can’t guarantee they will be free when we would be running our sessions.
“The idea morphed in the aftermath of a Zoom call with other clubs hosted by basketballscotland on the use of outdoor basketball courts.
"The offices in the industrial estate where I work close at 5pm, leaving an empty concrete space unused for the rest of the night, which I thought would be an ideal alternative.
“Just before lockdown a few coaches and I managed to access Easterhouse Sports Centre so we could collect the portable baskets and have been lucky to be in a position to now use these.”
The club’s outdoor development sessions would normally be held on Tuesday and Friday evenings but these are weather-dependent and can fall on any day that gives the best opportunity of getting young people to participate.
All participants bring their own ball, which helps with skill development drills and keeps interaction to a minimum. However, with the recent relaxation on restrictions for Under-18s, the young people can now enjoy competitive contact basketball.
As well as their development sessions the club’s charity partner, Shoot for Success, has introduced the outdoor sessions to their ASN programme.
Kenny added: “Many of our ASN section have struggled with being in lockdown, so the reintroduction of these sessions has been very timely and beneficial for their progression. The significance of these sessions is clear as we have around 80% of our regular ASN members attending regularly.”
The club is striving to make the sessions as ‘normal’ as possible under current restrictions while keeping safety as a priority. Parents fill in an online self-assessment/registration form prior to their children attending for government Test & Protect purposes.
Signage boards containing guidance for the sessions are displayed clearly and an abundance of sprays and automatic hand gels supplied by basketballscotland are provided to wipe all equipment before and after use.
Glasgow City chairman Alister Geddes is delighted that basketball is finally managing a return.
He said: “This was a welcome opportunity to get our young people back playing basketball again. The logistics required to enable our sessions to go ahead have been daunting and Kenny has done a marvellous job bringing it all together.
"The safety of our participants is paramount and the additional responsibility this places on our volunteer coaches cannot be underestimated.
“At a time of uncertainty and a way of living far removed from their usual, playing basketball again will benefit our players both mentally and physically.
"While we look forward to returning to some sort of normality, these outdoor sessions have been an active reminder of the importance and positive impact that sport can have on the individual.”
Lady Rocks Basketball
Lady Rocks Basketball have also taken the steps needed to hold their training outside. Part of Cumbernauld CSH, the club caters for girls aged 10 and upwards and women.
During lockdown the club worked closely with basketballscotland, engaging in weekly group meetings to discuss the future of basketball and keep abreast of sportscotland and Scottish Government guidance, as explained by club coordinator and co-founder Lisa Palombo.
She said: “We identified a suitable outdoor court in Kirkintilloch, which has been our base since restrictions eased just over a month ago. It’s been fantastic having somewhere outdoors that’s allowed our players to get back training.
“Our sessions cater for about 40 girls, which consists of our U12/U14 age group on a Thursday, U14/U16/U17 on a Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, and our seniors are just back and training on Mondays.
"These sessions are spread across the week and we’ve combined age groups in order to respect and be less disruptive to the local community’s court.
“We want to make sure that when community members come to the court, we don’t hinder access. We are so grateful to the local community for being so welcoming.”
The sessions are run accordingly to meet safety guidelines, with a COVID station - kindly provided by basketballscotland - for the players to sanitise their hands and wash down their basketballs before and after each session. Sessions are also restricted to a ratio of one coach to 15 players.
Lisa added: “At lockdown we made the decision to suspend our club membership fees and will now look to put a nominal fee back in place to ensure the club continues to move forward. Our coaches are all volunteers, therefore all fees go back into the club to benefit our players.
“Society talks often about the importance of the health and wellbeing of young people, and at the start of lockdown we made it our priority to practically and systematically create an environment that maintained connectivity and engagement between the girls.
“Our coaching team put in place weekly Zoom meetings that provided them time to talk, share thoughts and feelings and continue to learn. More importantly, the aim was to find ways where they could be together and have fun.
Each Zoom session had two inserts led by the players; one group took charge of the focused learning topics and the other prepared a fun activity. Learning topics included:
- Understanding mental health
- Healthy eating, hydration and sleep
- Target setting
- Qualities of a great player
- Why do we play sport?
- Lady Rocks principles of play.
Lisa said: “The girls being accountable for the learning task and having the confidence to deliver weekly was probably our biggest achievement. These mini workshops created connections between us in a very different way, and without doubt helped ease the transition from lockdown to being back together on court.
“Our coaches have been delighted by the effort shown on court since returning, but have been even more impressed by the individual care and concern shown for each other, which fits in nicely with our club mantra ‘Our Team Is Everything’.
“The girls have loved being back together, their faces show this; they smile, laugh, giggle and are working harder as a group than we have ever seen.
"And if their determination to stay on court rain, hail or shine is to be used as a measurement, they are thriving!
“On a personal level, the last five months has highlighted to me just how significant a part sport plays in all our lives; it extends way beyond the court. If they don't realise it now, I hope one day our girls reflect on the events of 2020 and see this for themselves.”