When it comes to basketball in the region Garstang’s youth are really the giants Nicola Jaques speaks to Garstang PE Teacher Gordon Kidd.
In a rare moment of down time Garstang teacher Gordon Kidd had a vision to build a community sports club for young people.
Wanting to expand the use of the Garstang Community Academy £2m Sports Hall and entice youngsters into new lifelong sporting hobbies outside of school, he set about introducing a weekly basketball training programme.
He studied for his coaching qualifications, created a website, eagerly sought sponsorship and accreditation and Garstang Giants was born.
That was three years ago and now, with nearly 50 members and another 30 more expected to join with the addition of a new under 12 squad, Gordon is living the dream.
“I was sat on my sofa on a Sunday and came across a documentary on the British Basketball team preparing for the Olympics. That was it. Then the work started.
“Starting up the Giants Basketball programme is one of my proudest achievements and the success the players have achieved over the past two to three years has been remarkable for a community our size.”
The club is the first of its kind in Garstang and the only one in the Wyre and Fylde area; and as a result has attracted the attentions of basketball-loving enthusiasts from Preston to Lancaster.
Garstang Giants offers professional and sociable training for 11 to 16-year-olds whilst also allowing the opportunity to play basketball at a competitive level within the prestigious Lancashire Cup.
The league involves 90 teams across the region, including Southport, Blackburn, Chorley and Blackpool
And play is what the Giants have done to great success - across all age groups in the 2012/13 season, the club won 40 of their 42 fixtures, securing cup and championship titles.
Honours included the Under 12 Lancashire Tournament, Under 13 Lancashire Champions, Under 14 Wyre and Fylde Champions and Under 15 Lancashire runners-up and Under 16 Wyre and Fylde runners-up. “In just two years the club has made massive progress mainly due to the dedication, passion and hard work of the players but also the support of the parents,” Gordon says.
“The players love their basketball with boys turning up to training sometimes an hour early to play on the outside courts or in the gym.”
He adds the senior players have also stepped up to help improve the game of their younger counter-parts.
“As a club we also provide opportunities for older players to coach the younger ones.
“This gives them fantastic experience in developing their leadership, communication and coaching skills.”
Members have also built on the success with John Challioner and Ellis Coach selected for the Under 16 national league level with Preston Pride and Tom Alston representing the Under 15s.
A former college player for Cardinal Newman in Preston, Gordon, was eager to develop the sport when he became PE teacher at what was then Garstang High School (Garstang Community Academy) and has also enjoyed success with his school teams in the Wyre and Fylde School competitions.
He single-handedly manages the running and coaching of the Giant’s Wednesday night sessions amongst his school and extra-curricular commitments and admits there are frustrations and challenges, namely the lack of national recognition and support funding for the sport.
He says the lack of funds has had a knock-on effect for the wider recognition and development of the sport.
“Basketball in the UK is struggling nationally with Sport England cutting funding recently not helping at all.
“It is very frustrating when I see so many youngsters in Lancashire playing basketball in schools but there is a big drop in participation when it comes to clubs that offer it out of school.
“As a club we couldn’t get any local fixtures played as the only junior club near to us is Preston Pride.
“For a sport that is played in every school, unaffected by the weather and requires all the same team skills as our main invasion sports, I am surprised basketball is not one of our national sports.”
That said he is undeterred in his ambitions to make a bigger success of the club and is looking forward to the expansion of the new Under 12 squad.
“The club has been great for the youngsters of Garstang.
“The reputation that they have created for themselves around the county has given a great sense of pride for the players.
“We celebrate the fact that we have players with wide ranging abilities from those who play to have fun and those that live and breathe basketball and play at a very high standard.
“I love the fact that these type of players play alongside each other.”
Training is held every Wednesday at the Garstang Community Academy Sports Hall with sessions for the Under 13s and 14s squads from 5.30pm, following with the Under 15s and 16s at 6.30pm