Interview: Jen Scally

Two weeks on from the basketballscotland Wheelchair National Academy winning gold at the Leuven Bears International Youth Tournament in Belgium, hear from the squad’s Head Coach, Jen Scally, as she discusses the tournament, the team’s performances and how the trip has helped to develop the young players both on and off the court.

How did it feel to win the tournament representing basketballscotland?

“Our definition of success ahead of the tournament was based on the potential for learning and development for both athletes and team staff. It was fantastic to see the squad maximise these opportunities and that certainly felt like winning.

We showed our character, tenacity and composure in two tight 4-point games against Team Nord (North of Germany.) All athletes contributed to that tournament win and every athlete saw the floor in the final. It’s great when the team comes together across the tournament.

Obviously, it motivates the squad to continue developing as well as affirming all the hard work you’ve done when you come away with a trophy. To do this when you’re representing basketballscotland is even sweeter.”

How did you find the other teams competing in the tournament?

“The two Belgian teams exhibited great passion, sportspersonship and effort across the games. Both Belgian teams were a bit younger and I am sure that Belgium will see the benefit of that great junior development in the years to follow. I was impressed with Team Nord; they were a well drilled team who executed well strategically. They ran the man out play very well and their athletes knew how to react based on the defensive reads.”

How did the team perform over the weekend?

“The team did a good job of managing the fatigue of travelling and the realities of tournament life. We had a strong squad of 10 and it was great knowing that any athlete that saw the floor would give their all. It set a great tone for the weekend. Captain, Ben Leitch and Vice-Captain, Ronnie Cassels lead by example on that front.

I was most impressed with how we handled the pressure of a tight final against Team Nord. We had moments where we lost our composure, turned the ball over or enabled easy baskets – but the team treated each other with a high level of respect, learned and moved on from those small moments and found their own rhythm.”

What was the best part of the tournament for you as a coach?

“The best part of the tournament for me was feeling the rhythm and flow of athletes and team staff alike. The athletes bonded well with each other, enjoyed each other’s company and supported each other well. basketballscotland staff provided an incredible amount of support. I felt that myself and the other Academy Coach, Mark Stevenson, worked cohesively as a coaching team.”

Have you learned anything new with regards to coaching?

“I personally benefitted from basketballscotland Coach Developer, Darryl Wood, attending the tournament. It was helpful to communicate with a different coach and learn from his years of experience from high performance environments. Darryl audio and video recorded time outs, which has enabled me to do some further self-reflection.

The trip helped me reaffirm when I need to perform personally for the team and when off-court, there are times where it’s important for me to reflect the energy that I give situations that do not impact on performance.”

How do you think this experience has developed the players, both on and off the court?

“Our captains set a high standard for the team in terms of their communication and preparedness, both on and off court – and I am sure that all athletes benefitted from this leadership. The trip has enabled athletes to increase their own confidence and self-efficacy, by travelling independently to another country with a different culture and language. Their confidence on court certainly increased from taking on the challenges of unknown players and teams.

The experience enabled the entire squad to gain experience of a tournament environment, which I believe will better prepare our pathway athletes and team staff for any future performance environments. Simulating that pressure, which comes with a closed matched tournament final, is invaluable.”