Charlotte, Grace, Jeni and Molly (L-R)
Family, Passion, and Basketball: The Alexander Family
Basketball has the ability to nurture friendships, support teamwork and provide a platform for personal growth and development. But what about the impact it can have on three sisters and their Mum? For the Alexander family, basketball has not only strengthened their connections but has also provided a shared purpose, motivating them to strive to achieve greatness together, Not only do Molly, Charlotte and Grace all play for Highland Bears (where their Mum, Jeni, is a coach) but the four family members also recently found themselves cheering for, encouraging, and competing against each other whilst wearing the Scottish thistle.
Charlotte started playing basketball when she got involved in basketballscotland’s Jr.NBA programme at primary school along with her older sister, Molly. Charlotte received encouragement to participate in the trials for the 2021/22 U14 basketballscotland Regional Academy. Despite feeling nervous about going, her passion for basketball overcame her feelings of unease.
“We just wanted to play basketball.” After the first session, Charlotte was hooked. “The buzz and excitement of Regional Academy was excellent. Me and my sister were looking forward to it every weekend, it was all we basically talked about!”
While outside practicing her layups in the summer of 2022, Charlotte landed on her ankle badly causing it to break. She was heartbroken when she was told she was not allowed to play for 12 weeks, however it also made Charlotte realise that basketball was where her heart was. “It showed me that I never want to stop playing.” Unfortunately, her injury meant that when her Highland Bears team travelled to Spain to train and play with a team in Lugo, she had to sit and watch from the bench. “During that summer I learned a bigger lesson, after sitting out for 12 weeks it made me want to work harder and get stronger for the next season.” When fit to play again, Charlotte returned to the Regional Academy, stronger than ever, and worked her hardest to ensure that when the 2022/23 teams were announced, her name would be right there. “To get the privilege to wear the Scotland jersey is something that is indescribable. With all the work you put in, all you want to do is have fun and not let your team down. Playing for the Scottish team it feels like a whole other level you really do have to step up to the challenge…The memories I have from the experience will last a lifetime.”
Grace’s basketball journey started when she was 9 and watching her sisters play in basketballscotland’s Jr.NBA programme. Wanting to join in, her Mum got her involved in their local club, Highland Bears, and the rest is history.
Grace first got involved in the 2021/22 Regional Academy. Initially uncertain about participating in sessions alongside players from all across Scotland, Grace mustered her courage and decided to take a leap of faith. Since then, she has never once regretted her decision. The Regional Academy not only gave Grace a place to learn and work on her skills but also allowed her to meet new friends. “I have met amazing people and learned so many new skills not just in basketball but life lessons which I am still learning. The coaches have been great and them along with the players have helped me become an overall better player.”
After the 2021/22 season ended, Grace played in a 3×3 tournament for Highland Bears with good friends Sarah, Maddison, and Baileigh, where they played against teams from all over Scotland. Grace and her teammates ended up winning the tournament, with Grace being named the tournament’s MVP. “It was during the finals I realised that [basketball] was what I wanted to do.”
Grace returned to the Regional Academy for the 2022/23 season, where she once again was selected for the Scotland team. While being selected to play in the Scotland Blue team was a great honour for Grace, it meant that in the tournament she would be facing the Scotland White team and their coach – her Mum. “One thing that was not so good about [my Mum] being the other Scotland teams coach was having to play against her team. It was a bit strange as her child to go up against your own Mum!”
“I have learned to be more resilient, responsible and how important it is to practice your basketball but still have fun.” Grace commented when asked how the Regional Academy had helped her. “It also has helped me be a better teammate and [how to] stay positive when things are not going your way.”
Molly, like her sister Charlotte, started playing basketball in Primary 7 with the school team. However, Molly’s journey to representing Scotland was a little different from her sisters. Just like Charlotte and Grace, Molly first tried out for basketballscotland’s Regional Academy in the 2021/22 season; unfortunately, she did not make the programme. However, that did not stop her – if anything, that lit the fire of determination inside her. This was the exact moment Molly realised that she wanted to invest more time and energy into basketball.
Determined to make the programme the following year, she spent countless hours working hard on developing her skills, improving her fitness, and watching basketball to gain the technical knowledge needed. This grit indeed saw Molly make the Regional Academy programme the next year, and when the time came, she got the message to confirm she had made the National Academy team. Her ‘don’t give up attitude’ and bravery to try again had paid off; she was officially a Scotland basketball player “I could not believe it. I was just so happy.” Molly was joining her sister, Charlotte, to represent Scotland at the U16 level. “It is an honor to put on a Scotland jersey and compete. It is a very privileged experience, and I am so glad I got to be part of that.”
Molly, Charlotte, and the rest of the U16 Scotland teams travelled to Ireland for their tournament – with Mum, Jeni, and little sister, Grace, in tow for support. “Competing in Ireland was one of the best experiences in my life because of all the girls I met and great coaches we had who were so supportive. We all got on so well right from the very first Regional Academy all the way through to our last game in Ireland.”
Jeni’s basketball coaching journey began when her daughters, Molly and Charlotte, joined Highland Bears after loving being involved in the school team. The school team needed some help, so Jeni volunteered. “I played a bit of basketball at school, national league, and University many moons ago. I was very eager and enthusiastic but lacked the talent!” One night while at Bears, Grace and Jeni were sitting on the side watching and they needed help to coach the U12 boys. Before Jeni realised it, she was up on her feet coaching the boys. “I am just a very enthusiastic parent who wants to help so volunteered.”
Jeni first saw the Regional Academy programme as something to help develop her daughters with their basketball, and thought it was a fantastic opportunity for the players in Inverness to meet other girls, work with different coachers and try something out. “Then I thought well if they are involved in this programme, and I am driving them down to Dundee for sessions maybe I can make myself useful and learn too.”
While Jeni has become a much-loved figure within the basketball community, she did not start out in the game. In fact, she has 69 caps for Scotland’s Women’s rugby team, has played in three World Cups, four European championships and many Home Nations Tournaments. “My Rugby experience and background have sometimes challenged me as a coach, it was the winning that was so important to me and my team as we were pretty successful. As a player I know how much hard work it takes to compete at the top. I know how resilient you need to be, how hard you need to train.” Jeni remarked when discussing how her rugby career has helped her as a basketball coach. “I understand what it is like to pull on a Scottish jersey and compete for your country. I know what it feels like to win and lose with your team. I know you meet people through sport who will be lifelong friends.”
It was not until the 2022/23 Regional Academy season that Jeni was given her own Scotland team to coach at a Home Nations. Scotland U14 Girls White. Like her daughter, Grace, Jeni also found playing against a family member difficult: “As I was coaching team white this year and Grace was in team Blue that was challenging for us when I had to coach against the blue team. I could not cheer Grace on and was trying to get my players to stop her with the ball. It was a much tougher situation than I imagined, and one Grace and I have both learnt from.”
The Alexander Family’s Support For One Another
It is clear to see, from just a little time with the Alexander family, how strong their bond is as a family and how their love for basketball has woven through their lives. We asked them all how it felt watching their sisters/daughters and Mum on the court and being able to share a passion for the game together, they commented:
Grace: “When my sisters were on court, I was so so proud of them and how far they have come this year. When my Mum got asked to be the Scotland coach, I think it was a shock for the family, but she deserves it. I thought she did an amazing job with her team, and she is one of the most positive and caring coaches I have ever met.”
Charlotte: “Getting picked and being able to play with Molly this year at Scotland was so cool. I was super proud of her and how far she has come, from not getting into RA last year to getting picked in the top 12 U16 in Scotland this year was just brilliant! With Grace she has really stepped up this year. Even though she is only 12 she displays so much confidence, support and energy on the court. This year, compared to how she played last year, there is a big difference. Finally with Mum, when she told me she was coaching team white U14s I was over the moon for her. The amount of work she has done it was well deserved. Every month we went to RA she would always bring back new knowledge she had learned and teach it to the younger ones and share it with Coach Anna and Coach Jeremy. It is something very rare getting the whole family to wear the Scotland jersey at the same time but our passion and support for each other is incredible.”
Molly: “Getting to play with Charlotte was such a surreal experience, it was amazing. Watching Grace play I was so proud of her because of how much talent she has at such a young age and also how she captained her team, she was so encouraging and did a great job helping to keep the energy up in the team. Watching Mum coach, I was so happy for her because I know how much work she puts in on both coaching the girls and in her own time which is unreal. We would sit for hours watching basketball and analysing games. I think she has come on miles as a coach!”
Jeni: “For Molly, she never made it to RA last year and that was tough for her especially when Charlotte, Grace and I were away so much. However, Molly worked really hard, and it was a dream come true for her when she played for Scotland this year in Ireland.
It was special seeing Charlotte and Molly being on the court at the same time at the 4 Nations. As a parent you just want your children to be happy, it was lovely to sit back with the other parents and be a Mum instead of the coach and try and appreciate every minute of the games. Even though I did yell a wee bit!
Last year when I got the emails to say both Grace and Charlotte had made the u 14 team but were in different teams, I didn’t know who to speak to first so opted for the youngest, Grace’s first question was did Charlotte make it and when I spoke to Charlotte her first question was did Grace make it ? Family dynamics are interesting to be part of when you are all competing in the same sport.”
In the world of basketball, talent and dedication often stand as crucial elements in shaping an athlete and coaches’ journey. However, for Jeni, Molly, Charlotte, and Grace, there is an additional ingredient that sets their story apart – the unbreakable bond of family. Their collective passion for basketball has not only seen them represent Scotland but has also created a path of shared dreams, a unique support system, and new friendships. Together as a family, they have celebrated victories and faced setbacks, proving that basketball is more than just a game for them – it is a part of their life.
About basketballscotland’s Regional Academy
The Regional Academy is basketballscotland’s long-term programme designed for athlete and coach development within the U14-U18 age categories. This programme is centred around enhancing various aspects of the game, including physical, technical, tactical, psychological, and social. Geared towards dedicated individuals, both players and coaches, who are committed to advancing their skills, the Regional Academy aims to develop essential skill and abilities crucial for their continued growth and success in the sport.