The first rounds of Lord’s Taverners Junior League will begin this weekend. Ahead of the league starting this article will inform you of the changes made to the 2017/18 league.
BWB believes the changes will: “open up more opportunities for young players to develop their wheelchair basketball skills in a highly competitive environment. Whilst new elements of the programme will bring more opportunities than ever to socialise, develop skills and compete against other young players.” Adding that the changes: “should deliver some significant benefits immediately.”
20 junior teams will compete overall, the ages of these players will range from 13 to 18. The teams will be split into six pools of either three or four regional teams. Every team will host at least one round at their venue. The top eight teams will be invited to compete in the Elite 8’s.
The games will be structured the same as National League games, as in they’ll be 40 minutes long, potentially giving juniors a lot more court time. Teams play to a total of 16 points and can play up to a classification team points cap of 18 points.
The Elite 8’s will replace what was formerly known as Junior League finals and will take place on Saturday, 21st of April 2018 at EIS Sheffield.
The 8 top teams from around the country will compete against each other at a centralised venue to determine who is the best junior team in the country. The top two teams who emerge from the Elite 8’s will face-off in the junior league final which will be contested during the National Championships weekend, again at the EIS. This will give juniors the time to shine on BWB’s biggest stage.
BWB have said they’ve listened to the feedback of parents and players because: “We realised over recent seasons that our existing programme was not meeting the needs of all junior players. We needed to readdress this, and after a long consultation period we are delighted with the changes we’ve made and how the future looks for young wheelchair basketball players and our continuing partnership with the Lord’s Taverners.”
I caught up with Phoenix Dragons’ player Ben Leitch to get his thoughts on the changes. Leitch who is from Perth, Scotland is used to traveling long distances for games and competitions. He is pleased that each team is hosting a round at their home venue as it means less travel for himself and the rest of the team, whereas before he had to travel to a centralised venue in Leeds three times a year which is a lot of traveling for him and his family.
He is also happy with the change in age criteria as he said it creates “more movement” through the programme as now “there’s not such a big gap in the ability of the players, whereas before there was”
Some might see the change in age as a disadvantage as it puts a lot of pressure on the younger players to step up their game.
Leitch is no stranger to this pressure as he made his debut for the Scotland U23s at Celtic Cup 2016 when he was just 14. He elaborated on the pressure young players may face by saying: “I feel it is my job to establish leadership within the team by making sure everyone is on the same page and comfortable playing alongside each other, helping people communicate. I want the team to know that if they’re not okay with someone or something then they can come and talk to me and I will do my best to resolve the situation.”
In addition, to the Junior League changes Regional Associations and Home Countries will offer Regional Skills Camps. Young players can attend these camps and enhance their wheelchair basketball skills alongside their teammates in a relaxed and encouraging environment. Applying the skills, they have learned at the camp in a competitive game situation will prove to be a good learning experience and a confidence boost.
Young players will also have the opportunity to complete a Young Activators Course which will run alongside the skills camps. The course will allow young players to learn more about wheelchair basketball off court such as; running a club, delivering events, leadership, officiating and social media. This will allow young players to volunteer at BWB events and within their clubs.
In conclusion, exciting times are ahead for BWB’s junior programme and I look forward to seeing how the new format plays out. Thank you for taking the time to read this article. You can follow me on Twitter @DylanOnWheels I will leave pool information at the bottom of this article. You can read more about the changes here: http://www.gbwba.org.uk/gbwba/index.cfm/get-involved/junior-development-programme/lords-taverners-junior-league/
Written by Dylan Cummings
GLL & Aspire London Titans
Northern Ireland WBC
Thames Valley Kings
North Wales Knights
RGK Tees Valley Titans 1
RGK Tees Valley Titans 2
Round 1 – 25th/26th November 2017
Round 2 – 13th/14th January 2018
Round 3 – 10th/11th March 2018
Round 4 – 31st March (only concerns teams in a pool of four)
Elite 8’s – Saturday 21st April 2018 (EIS Sheffield)
Final – Saturday 28th May 2018 (EIS Sheffield)