A week off from fixtures gives us chance to look at what the future may bring for the club and the sport in Leeds.
The much-needed rest this week has proved to be as useful as expected, providing me a chance to recover from the broken nose I received in a recent game and also a chance to look around the club and at the future of Leeds Force basketball.
I can report that the future is bright thanks to the hard work that all of our coaches put in every single week. With children as young as six working with Force first-teamers Branimir Mikulic and Ricky Fetske every week at our Bounce into Basketball sessions, right up to our sixth form academy based at Allerton High School.
Formed in 2013, Leeds Force’s academy has been providing some of our most promising juniors the chance to train up to seven times a week including individual workouts, strength and conditioning sessions and video analysis, whilst working towards their A Level and Applied Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence (AASE) qualifications.
Allerton High School, where the Academy is based, has been an incredible partner and provided the perfect educational platform for our players to marry their sporting aspirations with an academic future.
For our programme director and head coach,Matt Newby, the thanks must go to head teacher Elaine Silson and innovative head of sixth form Ben Harding for embracing the concept.
Matt says: “Finding an environment where sporting excellence was valued and where academics were high was the key to the academy working and in Allerton we found a team of staff and teachers who create a positive and rich learning environment where the students are central.
“This has proved integral to the growth and development of the young student athletes, many of whom have a dream of using sport as a vehicle to improve their futures, be that attaining scholarships domestically and in the USA or having a shot as a professional athlete.”
Now in its second season, the academy is really starting to show some potential with the promising young juniors who play across multiple competitions on a weekly basis showing real development.
Matt adds: “We have several regional and national team players in the academy currently and the benefits of the environment at Allerton are evident, with GB Horizon Lucy Bentall who hails from (York) having benefited greatly. She is a solid contributor in the senior ranks playing in the WBBL, whilst leading our Under-18s girls in their national league campaign. Our latest young men are also excelling.
Led by England Under-18s player Daniel Evans, they are competing on four fronts; currently sitting at the top of the Under-18s conference, sixth in the Elite Academies Basketball League and holding their own in Men’s National League D3 whilst advancing to the final 32 in the National Schools tournament.”
One notable performance in recent weeks was James Banton’s huge 52-point haul against local rivals Bradford Dragons in the Under-18s conference. In a must-win game, Banton, from Bradford, took control of the game early and led throughout to help us take the game 105-74
Back to Force’s first teams, and I feel refreshed and ready to get back this week for one of the toughest double headers of the season, Leicester Riders on Friday at Carnegie Sports Arena (7.30pm) then on to the Northgate Arena to face Cheshire Phoenix on Sunday, both of whom are in the top four of the BBL.