British Wheelchair Basketball have recently unveiled their new Elite Training Centre at the EIS Sheffield on November 29th. I was lucky enough to be invited to the opening of this facility by Lesley Pilling from BWB on behalf of RAW Coaching and IWBF. In this article, I will recap my experiences of the event.
The day began when I was picked up from my hotel by my university coaches Tommy Garwood and birthday boy Harry Smith who had travelled up in the early morning from Worcester. We then proceeded to head to EIS. When we arrived me and Tommy were given our media passes whilst Harry went to go and shadow GB Men’s Head Coach Haj Bhania.
Everyone who was there involved as part of the media were taken on a tour of the EIS and shown all the facilities. The tour was led by GB’s Kayla Bell and Joy Haizelden. First, we were shown BWB’s exclusive basketball court which is used daily by the GB Men and Women.
At the time of the tour, a men’s senior camp was ongoing so we had the privilege of getting to see them train briefly. Next door to BWB’s court is another three basketball courts that can be booked out and used by anyone. Presumably, the three courts will be booked out for events such as the National Championship Finals.
We were then shown the gym facilities at the EIS which will benefit the athletes when it comes to building on their strength and conditioning, enabling them to become the best version of themselves. Following on from this, we were shown around the athletics centre as well as the Para Table Tennis and GB Boxing facilities which are used regularly by Antony Joshua.
Once the tour had finished, everyone was escorted to a room and we waited for the presentations to begin. First to present was BWB’s Director of Performance Paul Davies where he talked about how Sheffield is well-known for its sporting achievements as a city and that he hopes BWB will add to that list of achievements. Next up was Lorenzo Clark from Sheffield City Trust, he said that he was pleased that BWB decided to move the GB programme to Sheffield and thanked everyone from BWB for making it possible. Finally, 5x Olympian Dame Katherine Grainger from UK Sport talked about the importance of having world-class facilities for athletes and how it will benefit them in the long term in relation to Paralympic success.
After the presentations, we were treated to a Q&A featuring Gregg Warburton and Robyn Love. They both talked about their GB journeys. Warburton talked about the efficiency of the GB programme and how over the years he’s been able to be influenced by seniors whilst he was coming through the junior U23 programme to now leading the U23’s to World Championship Gold whilst also being a part of the senior team.
Love credited Tina Gordon for helping her enhance her fast-rising GB potential by doing 1-to-1 coaching with her at 7am every morning which led to Robyn getting invited to camps and eventually centralising and getting selected for Rio. I can sort of relate to Robyn’s story about Tina because I doubt that I would be in the position I am today it wasn’t for Tina Gordon.
It was time for the GB Showcase game as two mixed teams, GB Red (lead by Miles Thompson) faced off against GB White (led by Haj Bhania) in a 20-minute demonstration game. It was filled with fast-paced action from a stacked line-up of GB Men and Women and it delivered an excellent showcase of the sport to spectators that perhaps may not have seen wheelchair basketball before.
To finish off the day I got the opportunity to interview GB Men’s co-captain Terry Bywater and GB Women’s co-captain Helen Freeman about what they think of the new facilities:
Freeman said she loved the new facilities, adding that “it’s great to have a physios, doctors and strength and conditioning coaches all under one roof because they are able to co-operate with athletes as well as each other.” Freeman believes the facilities being in one place will help benefit her and the team as they’re guaranteed almost instant access. She aims to lead the team going forward by making sure the team makes the most of their time training and using the world-class facilities. Freeman thinks the facilities will improve the overall development of wheelchair basketball as athletes that are on the GB development pathways “will get exposed to elite coaching at a young age.” Finally, she expressed her hopes and ambitions for next year’s World Championships saying: “We will continue to improve on our world ranking and have every chance of being successful, hopefully making it on to the podium.”
Bywater described the facilities as “absolutely word-class” expanding on that by saying “I think we’re very lucky and very proud to have what we have.” Bywater believes the facilities will improve him and the team “big time” as most of the Men’s team is based in Sheffield. “Maybe this is the big change we need to win that Paralympic Gold Medal.” He thinks the move to EIS is “massive” for the development of wheelchair basketball as “the young guys have access to the facilities and it’s up to them to put the hard work in and make it happen.” Finally, he mentioned his hopes and ambitions for the World Championships saying: “We always strive for a podium finish and we’ve got the team to do it.”
I had a really fun day and would like to thank BWB for the invite.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. You can follow me on Twitter @DylanOnWheels www.twitter.com/DylanOnWheels
Written by Dylan Cummings