We are writing to you as the Club's Lead Volunteers for Coaching, Welfare and COVID-19 to update you all on what the latest guidance from Basketball England and the UK Government means for us all.
Firstly, we understand that people feel very differently about this situation. The people who have attended our sessions have seen the steps we've put in-place at the club - at a fairly significant cost to us - to ensure that basketball was taking place, and judging by the numbers of players who have attended sessions across the eight sides who had returned to training, it's clear that you feel we offer a safe environment.
With that said, the decision made by Basketball England and the Government is not a reflection of our ability as a club to provide a safe space from this virus, but is in response to the genuine concern of the potential damage which could be caused by a second wave, and we have to respect that decision and move forwards.
It is our hope that this decision is a "speed bump" and not a "road block"... and that this decision merely delays the start of the 2020/21 season, rather than stopping it happening.
As a club, we pride ourselves on being open and honest in our communication - and as such, we are sharing everything that we're presently looking at below, and will also address some of the "frequently asked questions" that have been received.
As of this morning, the club will not be operating Senior sessions until there is an update from Basketball England. This impacts our Senior Men's National League, Men's Local League, Women's Local League & 'Get Back Into Basketball' sessions.
Whilst the "Rule of Six" may be something which we can abide by in some groups, in others, the overwhelming numbers of potential members makes this logistically impossible.
With our club not owning or operating its' own venues, the cost of training within "bubbles" is simply not financially viable without receiving significant support from the venues hiring the court to us.
In the spirit of transparency, we have engaged with our venues, with a view to operating some form of "bubble" training for up to six participants at a time in the near future. If this goes ahead, it will commence with the Senior Men's National League side, before reviewing any other options in due course. Any such sessions would be on a "pay as you go" basis.
Our sessions this Saturday and Sunday will be going ahead for our U12, U14 & U16 sides.
The sessions this weekend may look a little different - as we are looking to assign players into smaller groups, and work on individual skills and (in some age groups) some athletic testing. This is so that we have some information as a club and as coaches, to assist us in delivering specific activities to players to aid in their skill or athletic development, in the event that the restrictions are increased in the future.
Players MUST wear a mask coming into the sports centre, and follow the one-way system. We would also ask that parents are ready to collect their children ten minutes early, to allow us to clear the hall, wipe down all touch points and be ready for the next group.
The guidance from Basketball England indicates that the National League is still due to go ahead for Juniors, and is due to commence in November. As such, we believe we have a duty to our players to investigate the opportunity of our sessions continuing, and this is something that we will look into over the remainder of the month of September.
In light of this, ALL SESSIONS AT THE CLUB WILL BE CANCELLED FROM MONDAY 28TH SEPTEMBER TO SUNDAY 4TH OCTOBER, INCLUSIVE.
This gives us an opportunity to liaise with our volunteer coaches and team managers to understand any concerns that they may have, and for any parents or players to communicate their concerns with us, before making an informed decision as to what our next steps are.
Can the club hire the hall, and I go in and shoot/we play 3v3?
This isn't possible. Our agreement with our court providers requires a club coach to be present, and for us to follow specific COVID-19 screening procedures. Whilst we understand people want to keep playing, we will not risk the great relationship we have with Skyliner & Culford under any circumstances.
What about season fees?
The likelihood is that this setback will extend the season, and this may cost the club more money. It is always our aim that each side breaks even, and whilst there is a clause in every membership agreement that fees may have to go up if we have increased costs due to an extended season, this is the last thing the club wants to do. With that said, with limited fundraising options at this time, we also have to be pragmatic about the situation we are in, in order to safeguard the future of our club. With this in-mind, we would ask all members to ensure that one-eighth of their season fees have been paid, so as to cover the costs of the relevant part of the season we have been training for. If we can all do this, it mitigates the risk of having to seek further monies from our members - as we will already have some funds in the account.
Why are the Men's NBL Side a priority to return to "bubble sessions"?
It's a matter of parity and resources, and is a means of piloting ahead of the potential return of other sessions.
In terms of parity, the men's side play in a division in which every other side has access to their own facility, and will be able to train in bubbles. Additionally, two of the sides compete in the EABL, and will be able to have both full team training sessions and compete in some of their fixtures.
Additionally, we have engaged with members of the basketball community across Suffolk, Cambs and Norfolk and there is a growing belief that the local league season will be significantly delayed, at the very least. Whereas, we believe that there is a strong possibility of the NBL Senior league restarting without a full 8-10 week pre-season, and as such, it would be unreasonable to expect this side to represent our club in a division in which every other side has a significant competitive advantage. Withdrawal from the Senior National League was also considered, but noting the significant cost of doing this, and interference with sponsorship agreements, this is not plausible at this time.
In terms of resources and planning ahead, the team's staff include our Head Coach, and our Welfare/COVID Officer - so this is the best opportunity we'll have to oversee a safe way of senior players returning to the floor, under the new guidelines.
Should I still sign on with Basketball England?
We would ask everyone to register themselves to the club with Basketball England, though would suggest that the Senior NBL players do not purchase a National League license at this time. This downtime is also an opportunity for our volunteers to ensure that their qualifications are up-to-date and they are eligible for the season ahead. By ensuring that you are registered, it helps us to better plan for the season ahead, and may facilitate a faster restart at the club.
If this is extended to a full 'lockdown' across the club, what will be going on?
At a Junior level, we'll be sharing strength and conditioning programmes and some skill development work for our players. However, given the changing seasons neither outdoor group sessions, nor Zoom sessions, would be appropriate. We may also look to run "Classroom" sessions with our players on Zoom - looking to help our players to better understand the culture we're building at the club, and how they can help us do it.
At a Senior Level, we can look into the possibility of using Zoom for socialising in larger groups, and our coaches will happily share areas of focus for any players in terms of skill development with you.
What about the Under 18's side?
Once a decision is made about returning to the court, a formal trial will be run for this age group, and a team selected for the season. We will communicate separately with the members of this team in due course.
When will we all get back on-court?
This is the question we all care deeply about... after all, we're a basketball club, so we want to play basketball! Whilst there are answers to this question, they don't give specific timescales - it's going to be "when the government eases the restrictions" and "when Basketball England allow us to play".
On behalf of the club, we will be engaging again with our local leagues and the National League to ask:
What is the latest start date is for the 2020/21 season?
What is the latest "cut-off date" prior to this to return to the floor and allow the competition to take place
What can we do to plan towards a return on this date?
Whilst we're not sure that this gives the certainty we all crave, we believe that these represent the most pertinent questions for our club and the wider basketball community, and we believe that the two things we desperately need as a club right now are the hope that the season will re-start, and a timescale to plan for this. If you have any questions regarding the above, and would like to discuss it further, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Arron MacDonald, Hayley Rigby & Lynne Quelch
On Behalf of the Management Committee of Bury St. Edmunds Basketball Club