My name’s Mike Hayes, I’m currently heading up the developments in North Wales. About 10 years ago we had an idea that wheelchair sport; basketball in particular, was something that should and could be developed in the area. At the time there was very little for anyone wishing to play wheelchair based sport in the area. This was due to many factors including lack of equipment and joined up thinking. My thoughts were that it would be very difficult for an individual club in North Wales to compete with clubs from across the UK due to our relative remoteness and lack of population density. However, I did feel that if we created a series of locally based clubs that fed into a regional system that regional team(s) could, in time, compete. That was the basis of what we have now in Wheelchair Basketball North Wales and it’s playing teams which our North Wales Knights, of which I am head of, want of a better title. I try and oversee the on and off court development of all players, coaches and where asked for and appropriate links with our member clubs.
I began coaching, as many do, by learning and listening and wanted to be more involved. My background in athletics and other sports which I had coached had given me an understanding of sport, but more importantly people. As I believe apart from the obvious game based skills and tactics, you coach the person, not the sport.
The greatest lesson I’ve learnt as a coach is a very simple one of believing in your players/coaches. Don’t get too excited when it goes well, but more importantly don’t get too negative when it doesn’t… because unfortunately it will happen from time to time.
I’ve touched upon my coaching philosophy a little above. Coach the person not the sport. That can cover many different situations and scenarios. I’ve always felt the best teams and individuals I’ve been able to coach, have sustained the most positive effect when they completely trust that you care for them and their development first.
The most rewarding experience I’ve had is probably leading our first ever home grown, North Wales Knights under 15’s to an undefeated Lord Taverner’s Junior League title last season. They are an incredible bunch that never lost faith and as I mentioned above, had faith in what they were being coached and that gave them strength and freedom to perform under the pressure of the competition. This squad in particular proved the case for our system. That the multi club buy in and regional approach would work… basically the tag line we put on much of our work is simply. “System Works”
As a young Paralympian, I was coached by some great people. But the best advice and inspiration wasn’t from the people who could coach technical aspects the best, it’s the coaches that made me feel wanted and supported and improved me as a person as well as an athlete… that really inspired me and I think that explains the coaching philosophy “coach the person not the sport”.
The biggest lesson I like to teach my players is to be humble. I am a massive fan of the all black type philosophy-humility, respect, excellence, and things like sweep the sheds… they insist that players, regardless of who they are, clean up after themselves. It’s the kind of lesson I try and teach. Be responsible and be respectful. Whether it means being on time, prepared, saying thank you when people help, all of the things that ensures we are teaching players to be good people first and then to be good players… these values make you more employable and generally will help you in life.
My goal moving forward is to become better. Whether that’s as a coach or in terms of developing the system here in North Wales or a combination of both and many more areas I feel I can improve. We have an amazing North Wales league where new players within the member clubs get to play and experience their first competition type game; learn about being in a tournament setting, being reffed… this also enables us to develop new coaches and table officials. It’s an innovative and absolutely vital element of our system and has allowed us to take a talent ID approach and over the last few years develop a women’s league team, a 15’s, 19’s and 3 National league teams. We do not allow our established and first choice National League players to play in this tournament as they have already developed beyond this level. We have done this to allow room for the next generation to feel it’s their time. It also allows us to nurture a connection and pride in players representing their local club, whilst harbouring a passion to ultimately play for North Wales Knights. This is something I am passionate about developing further.
I want the children born in North Wales with physical impairments or those who acquire them later and want to participate in wheelchair based sport and activity, at whatever level, to have a system so good in place on their doorstep, that they never have to relocate or travel to other areas of the UK to achieve their goal. Something I had to do when a youngster wanting to become a Paralympian. I want those people to have every barrier removed so it is purely their individual drive and ability that dictates how far they go in their passion.