Last updated at 17:54, Monday, 13 August 2012
GREAT Britain has not played basketball at an Olympic Games since 1948, the last time the event was staged in London.
And it was not until organisers decided they wanted competitive teams for every sport, that the Great Britain’s men’s and women’s basketball teams were formed at the start of 2006.
Basketball was invented in 1891 by Dr James Naismith, a Canadian physical education teacher and the first game, which took place in December 1891, used peach baskets for goals.
In the 120 years since these humble beginnings, basketball has grown into one of the world’s most popular and fastest-growing team sports.
Contacting Hoops basketball centre, I arranged to meet coach Chris Smith, on a Tuesday night to take part in his under 16 girl’s training session.
Being my 20th Olympic sport,I had become used to arriving at sports halls with little experience of the game I was about to play, and I found myself eager to learn rather than worried about my lack of ability.
Basketball is played by two teams of five players on an indoor court that is 28m long and 15m wide. Points are scored by shooting the ball into your opponents’ net (or ‘basket’), which has a diameter of 450-459mm and sits on a backboard 3.05m above the floor.
Two points are awarded for a regular shot from open play, with one point for each successful free throw (following an opposition infringement) and three points for a shot from distance (beyond what’s known as the three-point line, 6.75m from the basket). Games last for 40 minutes, split into four 10-minute quarters.
Despite being almost double the age of some of the players, I was one of the smallest, and I was disappointed to realise that my lack of long legs could put me at a disadvantage.
Beginning the session by practising a passing drill, we lined up facing a partner, taking it in turns to hurl the ball to each other while running to the opposite side of the sports hall.
It was obvious that the girls had been playing for years as they rarely missed a throw while managing to skillfully pass the ball between them.
Unfortunately, I found the concept of running forwards and passing sideways a little more complicated, seeing me regularly missing and chasing after the ball.
Next, we moved onto our ball handling skills.
Beginning with practising a stutter step, we were asked to dribble the ball towards a partner before shuffling and scuffing our feet.
The aim of the move is to confuse your defender by giving the illusion that your next step could be to the left or the right.
Focusing on managing to successfully bounce the ball, I didn’t spend much time attempting to perfect the stutter step and subsequently tripped over my own feet when I gave it a half-hearted try.
Moving on to the next challenge, trying a cross over, I set off towards my partner with the intention of swapping the ball into my opposite hand abruptly, to trick them into running the wrong way.
Despite not being too great with my left hand the cross over proved to be a little easier and although I carried out the move slowly I did manage it eventually.
Instructing the girls to practise a backward dribble Chris took me to one side and talked me through how to score.
“Place your feet forward facing towards the net and aim for the top right hand corner of the box,” Chris coached.
And his advice paid off.
Every attempt I made saw the ball fly through the net and left me feeling like Michael Jordan.
But eager to help me progress Chris was not content to let me remain throwing stood still.
“Footwork is the most important thing in basketball. You only get two steps and then you have to pass or score. So in the early stages we concentrate on getting this right rather than scoring, as taking too many steps could lose us the game,” he explained.
Practicing scoring from a run up was much harder.
Taking two steps and then aiming for the net seemed like an easy concept but I couldn’t get to grips with it.
And each attempt saw me taking an extra step, not taking enough or completely missing the net.
Teaching basketball for six years, and playing since the age of 13, Chris has always been involved in the game.
He said: “As a spectator, basketball is very exciting to watch. “With teams of five, it is a very fast paced game,with the ball constantly close to the basket.
“I would say you have to be fitter to play basketball than a lot of other sports. There is nowhere to hide in basketball, you have to be active all the time, you don’t get a breather and there is always someone to defend.”
Watching the girls play a nail biting game at the end of the session, I could see why Chris found basketball so intriguing.
And I will definitely be tuning in to watch how the British team do this year.
- To find a basketball club near you visit www.activecumbria.org/basketball
First published at 11:35, Wednesday, 29 February 2012
Published by http://www.nwemail.co.uk
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