British Basketball League clubs can continue to grow on and off the court by tapping into the sporting “anomaly” of their strong community connection to help inspire the next generation, according to chief executive Aaron Radin.
As the regular campaign draws to a close, attentions will soon focus on the play-offs and making it through to the BBL Finals at The O2 on May 14.
There has been plenty of success so far – the London Lions wrapped up the British Basketball Championship with six games left to add to their BBL Cup triumph as well playing in Europe while Caledonia Gladiators won a dramatic BBL Trophy final after a score in the last second to delight the home crowd in Glasgow.
While the action on the court continues, BBL clubs remain proactive in developing connections through the local community.
Sport England’s latest Active Lives Survey showed 1.18 million children and young people are playing basketball on a weekly basis, the highest participation levels for five years.
Last month, in partnership with Basketball England, the BBL announced the launch of the ‘Your Coach’ campaign to drive engagement as well as champion the work of those that have gone above and beyond for their club, school or community.
As part of the BBL’s on-going Ambassadors initiative community programme, players and staff from the clubs have been visiting schools, aiming to inspire 150,000 young people across the UK by promoting the importance of an active lifestyle and the positive influence sport can have on mental health.
Radin took up his CEO role with the BBL during December 2022.
The American is determined to ensure the hard work off the court within clubs’ local communities will continue to play a vital role.
“Everything we do is under the radar. From my perspective, I want it to be more prominent,” Radin told the PA news agency.
“I was at a game in London recently and had a chat with a few of Plymouth’s supporter group. I met this kid, who was 11 or 12 years old, and plays in their club programme.
“His family were telling me about how closely involved the club has been with them, that he loves being a part of the programme that they have in the community.
“He knows all of the players – and all of the players came up to the family after the game to give them ‘high fives’.
“(To see) just how strong that connection was – that is so wildly unusual in professional sports, that is an anomaly.
“One of the things that our clubs do is after the game players make sure to take the time to go around to see the kids, to take photos and are also spending a lot of time with them, like in school programmes.”
Radin added: “With how often and how involved (in the community) our teams are, it is a unique differentiator for us. It is all about how we can bring in and create more involvement, more connection to the clubs and the players.
“When you have the role models for these kids to aspire to, it is only going to help in terms of developing not only the affinity for the game, but the desire to play.
“I coached for a long time in my own community in New York at a grassroots team. A lot of these guys went on to be very successful, were professionals and some played in the NBA.
“But the thing that is probably most gratifying is that a lot of those guys have now gone back, contributing to their community because they don’t have to do that.
“The fact that our (BBL) players here also want to come back and sort of share that experience of being a positive role model is a huge part of the Ambassador programme and the Your Coach programme.
“It is about establishing the role models that are going to have really beneficial effects in the community.”