Here Come the Girls... Interview with Coach Jo Brawn

After a historic week for the Girl’s and Women’s side of the programme, we caught up with #AllGirls Ambassador, and Bulldogs Coach, Jo Brawn.

Coach Jo Brawn with Basketball England CEO Stewart Kellett and five of our original girls' team members on the #AllGirls launch day

BB: Coach, Thanks for taking some time to catch up after what must have been a crazy week for you!

JB: No worries!

BB: So how did you come to get involved at the club?

JB: Around a year ago, I met with Arron MacDonald, because after a year away from coaching, I was looking to get back into the game. Arron shared his vision for the future of the club and our sport in West Suffolk with me, and I knew right away this was the club I wanted to be a part of, because getting Clubmark status to show how highly we value player welfare and growing the female side of the club to show we truly offer basketball for all were such high priorities for Arron and the committee at the club, and it was something we were absolutely aligned on.

From then, we’ve been working to build the female side of the club, and increase the basketball offering in West Suffolk. It’s been a lot of hard work, but I feel so very privileged to be able to help turn our shared vision for our club into a reality.

I know it’s a cliché – but the club has such a family feel. Everybody is so very supportive! Arron is always available to lean on, but it’s so much more than just the two of us… Alex Bartholomew, my Team Manager is absolutely superb, I don’t know how I’d get by without her help; and then you have other members of the club, like Angie Williamson and Hayley Rigby, who started coming along to the Get Back Into Basketball sessions, and have become absolute pillars of the girls and women’s basketball programme we have here in such a short space of time. We’re a volunteer-led club – and our volunteers are amazing!

The club's first #AllGirls Schools session saw over 80 youngsters get on-court at Skyliner under the guidance of Coach Jo Brawn

BB: That’s amazing to hear, Coach! So all of this hard work has culminated in a few highlights this week – tell us more about the #AllGirls event you ran at Skyliner this past week…

JB: This has been a massive week for girls’ basketball in Bury St. Edmunds and West Suffolk. To think that six months ago, there weren’t too many opportunities for girls and women to play the game in our area, and just this week I’ve seen over 100 females playing basketball is just incredible.

With the help of players and coaches at the club, I’d organised an #AllGirls event, with 86 girls taking part in a two hour session. Most importantly, everyone had fun and played hard with smiles on their faces – which is vital in growing the sport.

BB: And has that led to an increased number of females playing at the club?

JB: The #AllGirls session was only a few days ago, but the signs are pretty promising… Our Club Service team have received more emails over the past week than at any other point in the season, and we’re really lucky to have fantastic volunteers, like my Team Manager Alex Bartholomew, who take the time to respond to these emails and make sure everyone has all of the relevant information in order to come and take part in a session.

From only six girls at the start of the season, we’ve more than doubled the regular attendance, and this week saw our highest ever number of players at training – and we look forwards to growing these sessions and teams even more.

BB: And the first intra-squad scrimmage followed this session, so how was that?

JB: In a word? Intense! But also a lot of fun, which is what you’d expect from any level of competition at our club – it was hard work, we competed – but everyone enjoyed themselves!

Similarly to the girls’ sessions, we started with only five players in the women’s sessions – but we had sixteen senior women taking part in the fixture, so I really have to thank the hierarchy at the club for continuing to support this session and giving us a platform to grow from.

The game was neck-and-neck all through, and the teams were only separated by three points at the end – which shows how far we’ve come, and starts to show the levels that can we can attain.

It was all smiles from the Bulldogs Ladies at the end of a hard-fought game

BB: So with much-improved participation in the girls and women’s sessions, are you still looking for new members?

JB: Absolutely! We’re keen for anyone who’s looking to get involved to reach out! We offer a first session free, and while we have a few more experienced players at every age group, I’m really keen that everyone knows that we truly believe in offering basketball for all – so it doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner, or if you’ve not played for years. It doesn’t matter if you’ve just turned 10 or you’re an adult looking for a new hobby… you’re never too old to try something new, and I believe you’ll find a warm and welcoming club, who are keen to give you an opportunity to try the game and see if it’s for you!

BB: That’s fantastic to hear, Coach. So what’s next?

JB: It’s fair to say we’ve spent this season building our foundations, and I believe that we have strong foundations to build upon.

In order to do so, we need everyone who’s currently involved to stay involved – and we really need to keep growing the club, both on and off the court.

The aim absolutely is to have multiple female teams competing for the club in the 2020/21 season, and while we’re already on the right track for that, we’d welcome anybody who wants to be a part of the Bulldogs Family – so please, get in touch with us if you’d like to join us; and to our current members, I want to say thank you for being such wonderful advocates of our club, but please, keep it up – share the good work we’re doing and keep inviting your friends and family to be a part of our basketball community.

BB: Thanks ever so much for your hard work this season, Coach, and thank you for your time.

JB: It’s my pleasure, thank you!

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