Change Must Happen Sooner Rather Than Later

Basketball-Ireland-314

Last month the Ireland Senior Premier League Men and Women’s teams faced off against their Welsh counterparts in front of a small crowd at the National Basketball Arena in Dublin. The embarrassingly small crowd wasn’t the only thing that had people questioning why this game was even taking place. The Men’s game finished 90-47 in favour of the rampant Irish Premier League side. The Women’s game concluded with the Irish once again victorious on the scoreline of 90-34.

A 43 point win for the men’s team and a 56 point win for the Women’s team really makes you ask the question of why this game was ever taking place. Surely it was nothing more than an unnecessary distraction and expense for everyone involved. It is understandable why Basketball Ireland want to get the Senior Men and Women of the country back playing international basketball but a Division C women’s team against a Division B team that would be pushing for promotion to Division A really does beg the question as to can we not do better.

It appears that the basketball public of the country will have to wait a little longer to see this country’s finest pull on a green jersey for a European Qualifier. Realistically unless it was England this game would fail to pull any sort of a crowd. The U16 and U17 boys teams managed to attract a bigger crowd for their games against the English earlier in the year.

Charging into the event meant that a match on a Saturday evening against Wales was never going to bring back that big match atmosphere that basketball supporters and players are desperate to rediscover on these shores. Hopefully this feeling is only another year or two away with hopes that an U20 and maybe even an U23 team is about to be set up over the coming 12 months or so.

On the idea of setting up an U23 team, I think it is certainly something that could be beneficial. It is undeniable now that nearly everyone currently playing the in the Premier Division is either over 30 or on the other end of the spectrum and still in school. While also having the majority of players required for a team already playing at a high level it would also be of minimum cost to Basketball Ireland at a time when the association is extremely sceptical at spending the small amount of money they have managed to save up over the last number of years.

While the association has downgraded its staff dramatically since the “good old years” it still must try and begin a complete revamp of the entire structure of basketball in this country. In some ways Basketball Ireland is in a similar position to the one the FAI find themselves in. The only difference in the two organisations position is that the FAI is under much more public pressure to bring about change due to its naturally bigger fan base. The difference between the two is that the best and most passionate basketball coaches and the ones that would be interested in coaching at international level would be willing to work with Basketball Ireland to make this revamp a reality.

To start with, having only six or seven referees that are up to the required standard to referee top games is something that needs to be addressed. I personally think that referees should be able to move down aswell as up the refereeing ladder with an increase in pay depending on were they sit on that ladder. I would also recommend that in counties such as Dublin and Cork were there is a high number of officials the ones that are believed to be below any sort of standard be suspended from officiating and make them redo the course before they can officiate again.

There are many talented coaches in the country but the idea of certain coaches believing they are better and bigger than the sport will have to change. I am also a firm believer that if a coach is given an international team and fails to get the best out of that talented group of people he should not be given another team until he has proven that he can once again get the best out of his squad of players.

There are too many areas that need improving to mention but there are also some positives such as the primary school basketball programme that has been in motion over the past two years. It is vital that basketball begins to be thought to kids at this young age as it is a proven mechanism of success when they reach second level education. Money, as limited as it is , should be put into the areas that will help to develop the athletic kids of the country. These are the kind of kids that our sport often lose to GAA, Rugby and Soccer. The time for change is now.

Image courtesy of Basketball Ireland

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