Bronze Club Mark awarded - North Kildare Basketball Club
January 05, 2021
Can you tell us a bit about your club?
The Club was established in 2018 by a handful of energetic volunteers, starting with an academy and summer camp and then expanding to seven juvenile teams playing in in the Midlands league. We also had the benefit of a Sports Changes Life scholar for two years (Steph Poland and Jamie Sherburne), who coached in primary schools and community games, in effect preparing the ground for the club.
We cater for players across North Kildare, including the towns of Maynooth, Celbridge and Clane, and the villages and rural areas in between. We are very proud to be the first club from North Kildare to play in the Midlands league. The Midlands Board has been very helpful to us in getting off the ground as a new club.
Our first season was a baptism of fire as the standard of basketball in the Midlands is very high. By the second season (19/20), we were much improved and had four teams in contention for the top 4 playoffs. Indeed, one team (Andy’s team!), u14 boys, were unbeaten and were expected to be crowned league champions.
Huge credit must go to the coaches, team managers and players on the club teams, for the many hours of training. We also acknowledge the contribution of the parents, table officials and referees to the many home league games.
What challenges do you face in the club if any?
North Kildare has a very young population and it is no surprise that the Club has expanded very rapidly. We have learnt an awful lot in a short space of time, we’ve made mistakes, but they can be the most valuable lessons. The club is very grateful to its volunteers who have helped it grow in such a short space of time. The club is evolving, we have compared its creation to having a child, nurturing it, some sleepless nights and helping it reach key milestones.
The young age of the club has meant the rapid growth in interest and player numbers, and a big challenge is to maintain a good coach: player ratio. There are so many more things that we would like to do and offer, but we need to train more coaches in these areas first.
Moreover, as we grow, securing even more training hours in local facilities may be a challenge, although we are very grateful to Maynooth Education Campus (MEC) for its generous support so far.
It can be a challenge for an indoor sport to compete against the big three outdoor sports. We feel that we offer something different to field sports and reach into parts of the community that traditional sports can miss. We very proud of the gender balance within the club and we have a high number of children from migrant backgrounds.
What made you want to try and achieve the Basketball Ireland club mark?
When we saw the notification in August, we immediately felt that the goals matched our own objectives to make the club sustainable and helping it achieve its full potential. We had been “professionalising” the processes, procedures and philosophies at the club and the Club Mark challenge gave us a ready-made set of criteria to benchmark against and deliver on or exceed.
We also learned that to be a successful club was more than just having children coming through the doors. We needed the infrastructure and governance standards to provide a positive environment for our coaches, team managers, parents and children.
We have developed a very good relationship with Basketball Ireland in the last two years. We participated in the Jnr NBA programme, provided a guard of honour for the women’s cup final and got to train in the national basketball arena. Applying for the club mark was a natural step in strengthening this relationship with our NGB.
How did you find the Basketball Ireland Club Mark process?
It’s a very easy process. Basketball Ireland has published excellent support material and assisted us with any queries we had. The Leinster Development Officer, Paul Carr, was also very open and helpful to advise which we appreciated and are thankful for.
What difference is the Basketball Ireland Club Mark going to make for your club?
This is huge for us. We are over the moon. We are already working towards silver and gold. We want to be ambitious.
Do you think you will engage with the club mark system and achieve all the way up to Platinum Club Mark? If so, what do you need to do to get your club to this stage?
Absolutely, we do have a dependency on building out our pool of volunteers. Another key factor is support for the coaches and helping both new and experienced coached achieve their full potential aligned with the Club philosophy.
We have already been thinking about a lot that is in both the gold and platinum levels although we know that silver has to be attained first. That does not mean that we will not continue thinking about club and coach development as well as the younger children (we had an Academy and Fun Hoops programmes before COVID-19) and other parts of the community.
Platinum is our target, and we have only just achieved Bronze level; so we need time too.
What are the goals for the season ahead?
The Club is still young and we are very focused on building partnerships with schools and the community in which we play.
During the summer, we adapted our traditional indoor summer camp to become outdoor ‘FUN Hoops’ camp, using the facilities of local primary schools in Maynooth and Celbridge. We had a great response, with over 110 primary school children attending. It was a big challenge to deliver the camps in a COVID-19 environment, but we showed how this could be done in a safe manner.
A second challenge is to develop outdoor training facilities for our juvenile teams. Kildare has been at level 3 or above since September. We commenced outdoor training in mid-September and have trained every weekend since then for 13 weeks in a row! We are extremely lucky to have recently secured access to five brand new outdoor basketball courts on the newly built Maynooth Education Campus. Probably the best outdoor facilities in the country!
We have started our first adult women’s team. We have had a very good response, with a number of women returning to play basketball, along with some players who have progressed from underage teams. We would like to expand this to an adult men’s team and also to social and master’s teams in due course.
COVID-19 or no COVID-19, we are fine-tuning the Club’s philosophy for publication. A number of additional programmes are in the planning phase with a focus on providing access for people who may not normally have the opportunity to play basketball or indeed any sport. We’ve managed to train outdoors during COVID-19 and it will be wonderful to see the new players have the opportunity to take part in matches and show off some of their newly acquired skills. Our goal is to have fun and make the club sustainable in order to hand on to future players, volunteers and committee members.
KWETB, the school principals, caretakers and local councillors have been extremely supportive and we are very grateful for their partnership.
What would you say to other clubs thinking about getting involved in the Basketball Ireland Club Mark?
Do it! It’s a real boost and validation of all the hard work and time that members and volunteers have given your club.