No I haven’t made a mistake, this was camp 4, having spent 8 weeks of the summer in Germany, spending half that time with my sons, I had to miss the third GB Maxibasketball training camp. It was tough to see all the whatsapp messages and social media posts, but I knew I was doing the right thing for my sons and we had the best holiday. Had the Covid-19 travel regulations been what they are today I would have flown back for the camp, instead I spent the time when I didn’t have my sons working, working out and playing basketball. The summer weather in Frankfurt was a lot nicer than it was in the UK; I spent a lot of time working out in the park with another fitness coach I have met in Frankfurt, Darren Siggins. He was in a strength phase of his training so with some slight adaptations I joined him for regular weight sessions. The outdoor courts are of a good standard and the level of competition is high, if you pick the right day. I was also lucky enough to train with Makkabi Frankfurt who play in the Regional leagues in Germany, they have 3 teams, their first team is semi-professional, the second team is of a high level with a mixture of nationalities, a number of players that have played in the states and all over Europe, sessions were long (3-hours), very competitive and exactly what I needed to occupy my time.
On returning to the UK at the end of August and between working online and travelling to see clients face to face I managed to get my shots up on the outdoor courts in the area, I have been training with Coventry Flames (NBL D3) they are coached by one of my best and oldest friends Rob Eddon, of course he knows my personal situation and grants me the freedom to train when I can and be involved as much as possible. It pains me slightly to say it, but I think he is after some ‘veteran’ leadership for his young team. Considering the challenges of the summer I felt like I headed up to Sheffield for the September camp in good shape and with a lot of shots under my belt (65’000+)!
Ed Saayeng, a great friend of mine for close to 20 years, drove up from London with Tom Adorian, they picked me up and as we drove north we talked about the summer, the camp, kids, life and the rest. Tom and Ed both zoomed with me whilst I was in Germany and we always keep in regular contact so it didn’t seem long since I had seen them. The conversation turned to Toms upcoming wedding, he asked Ed and I if we would be groomsmen, which we both immediately said yes to and forgetting basketball the conversation immediately turned to the most important thing, the stag party.
When we arrived at the sports centre in Sheffield we went straight into the classroom where we greeted by Men’s program lead Jesse Sazant, 35+ head coach Liam Jefferson and his assistant Brian Deacon. There were a few guys I hadn’t met as I missed August camp. The new guys were a clear step up in quality Barry Lamble, an ex-BBL centre, Mike Tuck a current BBL professional with the Sheffield Sharks (he wasn’t able to train with us as Sharks are in preseason training and they didn’t want to risk him getting injured). We watched footage of the last camp; the videos were short but gave a snap shot of the offensive plays. Liam gave us an overview of what was expected over the weekend. We were also told that there would be a number of cuts at the end of the weekend, this caught my attention given I had missed the August camp.
We hit the court, warmed up and got into our teams. We ran through the offense which took me a moment to pick up, I like to watch the play from the sideline to get an overview of all the positions, rather than just running through in person from only one position. After a few trips up and down the court we began to play the offence against the other teams. I would be lying if I said I made no mistakes, and caused a turnover or two. Getting the play in my head and making sure I was in the right place took a bit of bandwidth for me, as a result I missed a few shots, which was frustrating but equally I tried to be realistic with myself own expectations. I know I am not the only one who found being assessed and trying to play within a new system not easy… all part of the process.
As we continued, more plays were implemented and practiced. All of which have multi opportunities for multi players to score. My feelings were the system implemented by the coaches was great giving us all the opportunity to show what we could do. I was asked to lead the warm ups and cool downs for the rest of the weekend, I hope I had a slightly different approach, giving the players enough time to do their own warm ups if needed. I have been playing for many years; I have some developed my own system for getting ready for basketball. Which does vary, if I feel sluggish I will do more speed and SAQ drills to wake up central nervous system, other days more stretching if needed, and sometimes I simply want to shoot and see the ball go through the net. With this group I focused on mobilisations and increasing everyone’s heart rate, then tried to allow everyone a few minutes to do their own thing. Stretch; ball handling, shoot, running etc.
The second session of the Saturday Liam had us run our new offences against live defences, he also was drawing up plays spontaneously to see who could execute instantly, whilst my team didn’t win, we ran the play every time got to our spots, I enjoyed this session and finished the day feeling indifferent with how I had played. Both Tom and Ed, told me I had played very well, they are my mates, but they wouldn’t have said it if they thought otherwise. I must be more self-critical then they are.
We headed to the hotel, sorted ourselves out and walked to Sheffield town centre and headed to Wagamamas, again. By coincidence we met two of our squad mates, Simon and Jamie, outside and sat and ate the biggest order of food with them. It was great to get to know these guys a bit more and talk about our experiences with them. If nothing else the Maxibasketball has allowed me to meet some great people all with different backgrounds and life experiences. We got back to the hotel just in time for the end of the Tennis and Match of the Day, my team won, Tom’s didn’t!
Day 2 started early, I never sleep well in hotels. I tried to relax and at least, waiting for my alarm to ring. When it did I got up stretched for a bit before breakfast and heading out with Ed and Tom. I felt quietly confident after the first day, I had the offence in my head therefore slightly more relaxed than the previous day. Liam had us in different teams, seeing how different players worked with each other, and who lead and who followed. We ran through the plays, added some defensive principals, which are slightly different to what I am used to playing, but hopefully I did not take long to adjust. We added a variation to the offence, which allowed for a couple of outside shots. Whilst I knew that this was by no means for me, I was told by the coaches and a couple of the other players that it would allow me to get a couple of shots from various spots, and it was nice to see a couple go through.
The final session of the weekend we played full court game simulations. 7 minutes, running clock, Liam officiated (kind of), and the winner stayed on. My team went 2 wins out of 3; I hit some shots, played some nice defence and tried to bring some energy at the end of a long weekend.
I really enjoyed the weekend the Sunday especially, hanging out with Tom and Ed, and getting to know a few more guys was really good. Everyone is on the same page there really is no ego’s and everyone seems to be enjoying this opportunity.
Thanks as always to Sadie, Emma and Craig for the all the organisation and logistics for the program. Thanks to Ed and Tom for being my personal PA’s and drivers for this camp (I did no organising this time). Thanks to the coaching staff and other players for helping me catch up, and to Liam for being understanding. Thanks to Bonny and Greg at Unit 22 for helping my body get through all the training and lastly sorry to Julia for being away again.
Two days later I received an email inviting me to the next camp. I survived the initial cut. The next camp is at the National basketball performance centre in Manchester. We are told that after this camp more cuts will be made, after which we will have some friendly matches and the final team to fly to European championships in Malaga will then be picked.