2016: “what a year! major changes & giant steps forward!”
2016 saw the birth of a new basketball club based at Gloucestershire College. With the dissolution of the Blazers and new College ownership, the Gloucester Saxons Basketball Club was born.
A lengthy period of consultation and due diligence by Gloucestershire College highlighted a need for change in the way Basketball was managed and delivered at the College. The history and partnership of Blazers was not to be forgotten but a new club, with a new ethos, a new leadership team and with a wider development plan was required.
Blazers were dissolved and closed as a club in April 2016 from which point Saxons took over.
“Saxons? Gloucestershire? 2016?
2016 saw a meteoric change in the provision of basketball within the county of Gloucestershire and surrounding counties. Here are a few of the key changes:
- The Gloucestershire School of Basketball
The College facility was renamed the Gloucestershire School of Basketball and became the regions only basketball specific, 7 day a week facility. This provided a designated home for basketball development in county of Gloucestershire.
- Glozball Central Venue Leagues
was launched which now has regular competition for Under 12/13, 14, and 16 age groups with over 24 teams represented. A weekend of CVL will see over 250 young people engage in Basketball. Supported by Basketball England the CVL will develop new age groups for 2017 to include Under 11’s and Girls as a priority.
- Gloucester Saxons
Membership grew by 40% with the introduction of a whole club ethos, development and coaching plan allowing the growth of coaches to support the sessions.
- Community Basketball
Saxons Community initiative has seen the growth of 7 Satellite Clubs across 3 counties emerge with funding from Basketball England and the County Sports Partnership to support this. An additional 140 young people per week gain access to quality coaching in local settings.
- Basketball Camps
The Basketball Camps delivered by the Club have been hugely successful with proof of their success coming at Christmas. The Camp saw 6 local clubs represented and boasted coaching staff which included National Teams Coaches; who were on hand to pass on skills and tips to the participants. Participant Numbers have boomed and the playing standards are higher at each Camp.
- Open runs: The opportunity to develop open sessions to just turn up, Team up and Play have been a huge success with numbers regularly more than 25 for these sessions. A focus of growing opportunities to grow the game is proving fruitful and shows the sport’s popularity locally.
- Schools partnerships programme has seen the number of school partners with the Saxons Grow. This includes Primary and Secondary Schools. In partnership with the County Sports Partnership, The University of Gloucestershire and directly with schools this is set to grow further.
- Coach & Official Development
Development is not just for those playing the game, Saxons have trained and developed 8 new coaches, 15 new officials and has courses set to develop more Coaches and Officials in 2017 to support the growth of the game. There has also been a growing Number of volunteers coming forwards to take on numerous roles within the organisation of teams, match days and join the club committee. This has all been Key to building a bigger and stronger development model is to have the infrastructure to do so. This will remain a priority at the Club as it moves forwards.
- Regional Development Programme
On the court across the club the standards of coaching have risen significantly which has reflected in the team’s producing fantastic results in both CVL action and Regional League competition. The Number of Saxons representing the South West has also grown with players being invited to join the Regional Development Programme. Saxons have had their first International player at U15 girls level. This is also not just reflected by player’s successes on court but also the numerous Saxons coaches who have taken advantage of invites to coach at county and Regional Level. The whole organisation and delivery of Basketball at the Club has risen in standard which can be seen throughout. One Club, working together, sharing experiences, growing together, and giving our members the best opportunities available.
- Partnership Development has been key to the Clubs success by working with numerous key partners, and stake holders the opportunities to attract funding, to grow branding and to work together to grow the game locally has led to meteoric success in 2016.
There were many more success stories during the first year of the Saxons as an organisation and everybody involved with the club was hoping the next year, 2017 would produce the same positive growth, to reach the club bench marks set out in its 5-year Development Plan.
The year 2016 saw a huge growth in opportunities for individuals to access the sport, benefit from the interaction with an inspiring community and basketball organisation, helping them to meet their personal goals both on and off the court, to have fun and to grow all facets of the game through positive development and much more besides this.
The Rise of Saxons and Basketball within Gloucestershire and its surrounding counties.
During the 2015/6 season, a number of important changes happened to the club.
Gloucestershire College and the then, Gloucester Blazers club appointed Danny James as Head of Basketball Operations for the season ahead, and with some hard work and perseverence, for quite a few years into the future. The ex Gloster Jets, Plymouth Raiders and Bristol Flyers player who is now an Advanced Level 3 BE/UKCC Coach, previously represented England at both u19 and u23 level.
Danny has another role within the club. He is also the GC Academy Team Head Coach
The club runs a variety of game preparation sessions for kids, offering a varied and practical experience of many of the life skills required to get along today.
Additional coaches join the club:
Graham coaches at club and regional level for both Team Gloster Jets and the South West Regional Development Program. Graham provides a range of assistance to the club, including running an after school satellite club at a secondary school in Hereford as well as working with a feeder primary school.
Joe joined the club, having been kindly asked by Head of Basketball Operations, Danny James.
Joe’s previous coaching experience covers a range of age groups. He became the youngest ever Professional English Full Time Assistant Coach for the Manchester Giants during the 1993/94 having previously being a player for the Giants in the BBL. Joe’s playing experience includes playing for England at u19s as well as playing for the Oldham Celtics in the BBL, with stints at Bury Wildcats, Cheshire Jets (now Cheshire Pheonix) and Swindon Sonics.
The club also began developing referees and coaches, providing Basketball England courses at Gloucestershire College. A large number of players from the academy team successfully passed the courses and become fully qualified coaches and referees. Some of the newly qualified coaches also began coaching club sessions, with Callum Bird becoming the head coach of the u16s and Rhys Farrel becoming assistant coach of the u14s.
The 2015/16 season also saw the introduction of Gloucestershire College hosting Central Venue Leagues (CVL). The debut CVL was a Men’s Summer League which took place over 12 weeks from the start of June 2016, with over 80 players taking part.
The Regional Development Pathway
Three players from the u12 team, coached by Darren Cooke were invited to join the u13 South West Regional Development Programme. The three players selected for the Programme were Joseph, Pharell and Luke. One of the u12 players, Pharell, was also invited to represent the South West at an international basketball tournament held in Longues, France during the spring/summer of 2016. The South West u13 boys were the only team representing the UK/Great Britain or England at the tournament which featured boys and girls teams from across Europe. There were teams from Lithuania, Germany, Spain, Holland and a number of other countries. There was also a team from the local previous Euroleague superstars, Cholet Basket.
Later in the year, two players, Pharell again, plus Luke, were selected to play in an u13 Regional Development Tournament (RDT). The tournament was scheduled to be held in Sheffield, featuring two days of basketball. The 1st day consisted of pool play, i.e. 2 courts, 2 pools of teams. Final placings after playing everyone in the pool once. Ok, best teams advance to knockout stage. Other teams have playoffs to determine final positions.
Basketball England also introduced a skills challenge, pitting the players wits with passing, footwork and scoring tasks. Points gained were added to the total points gained from wins, i.e. 2 points for a win, plus a point for winning the skills challenge.
During 2015, the club also gained two new sponsors; Frankie & Benny’s Gloucester and Alistair Bone Mortgage Services.
The club’s first entry into National league was in the 2005/6 season, when it entered an U18 under head coach Ken Nottage – the former chief executive of Gloucester Rugby Club.
Eventually, the club became partners with Gloucestershire College and became known and GC Blazers (Gloucestershire College Blazers Basketball Academy). The college provided the club with modern facilities and helped to develop youth basketball in Gloucester.
By 2003 the club had grown to five times it’s original size. There were now a number of teams, including U12s, U14s and U16s, plus the female players formed their own team. The 2002/03 season ended up being the most successful ever for the club, with the U12s playing in tournaments against Newport, Chepstow, Stonehouse and Swindon, the U14s entering into a South West League and the U16s playing friendlies. Finally a young team of mostly 18 year olds entered the Gloucestershire Basket Ball Association (GBBA).
The club grew considerably between 2000 and 2002, providing players for the Western Counties Youth Games, 3 on 3 tournaments and Regional trials. The club also grew it’s coaching base, and by the start of the 2002/3 season, had three fully qualified basketball coaches on it’s books, including Chris Birt, Brian Allen and Dave Scott. The club was also successfull in winning funding from the National Lottery and also started to feature regularly in local newspapers.
The first game that Terry organised as head coach was back in 2000, when Blazers played their debut games Rhondda Rebels youth team. A few months later, Blazers were entered into a league along with other local youth teams. Swindon Steamers, Stonehouse Stars, Corsham Cougars and KBI Bath featured in the competition which Blazers ended up winning with Rookie Coach, Gareth Mills.
The original club was formed in 1999, starting out as the Gloucester Blazers and originally was a course for beginners at Oxstalls Community School. The first coach of the Blazers was Terry Stephens who had the idea to form a basketball team from players who had played in the BT Basketball Tops Course he had run at Oxtalls School. The original members of the team got to vote on a name, choosing “Blazers” which then stuck until the start of the 2016/17 season.
Gloucestershire School of Basketball History
The Grainger brothers, who both played for Gloster Jets in the 80s, ended up competing on the same team at the 1st European NBA ready Arena. Panji, the younger of the two, as well as winning an English u19 trophy with Gloster Jets, represented his country on numerous occasions, while Joe, the eldest, was appointed full time professional Assistant Coach to the Giants during a 90s BBL playoff run, aged just 23 years old.
Gloucestershire School of Basketball History
Danny James, Director of Basketball
Danny attended Cirencester Deer Park School, got his 1st National League action playing for the Gloster Jets, represented his country at multiple age groups, played professional for the Plymouth Raiders and was a key player in the development of current BBL franchise, the Bristol Flyers.