Aspiring wheelchair basketball coach, Jen Scally recently visited Köln in Germany to spend some time with professional wheelchair basketball team, the RBC Köln 99ers. Jen took the time to put together this short blog post, reflecting on her time in Germany and what she learned from the experience.

As a developing Wheelchair Basketball coach in pursuit of a coaching career, I wanted to understand what it takes to coach and play professional Wheelchair Basketball. Wheelchair Basketball has a professional structure in countries such as Germany, Spain and Italy. I had the opportunity to meet professional coach, Mathew Foden, at the National Championships the previous season. I jumped at his offer to visit the professional team that he coaches, the RBC Köln 99ers. When basketballscotland learned of my trip, they were keen to support my ongoing development. basketballscotland enabled me to stay with the team for a week in order to see a complete week of training and professional game. Out in Cologne, I was fortunate enough to stay in a hotel next to the players and was able to get a lift with them each day to training. The team had five professional athletes who trained every day together. 1 member of the Bosnian Men’s National Team, 3 members of the Japanese Men’s National Team and 1 member of the Japanese Women’s National Team. The professional players had at least one strength & conditioning, fitness, chair skills or shooting session around midday each day. This was followed either by another of these sessions in the evening or a team training session where the rest of the team joined. 1 such player is a member of the Dutch Men’s National Team, who was in driving distance following Dutch National Team sessions. The rest of the team were German residents who travelled for training sessions in the evening, but worked during the day.

Head Coach, Mat Foden, was in attendance for some of the individual sessions and all the team training sessions. There was a lot of responsibility on the players to complete their individual work and to complete it to the best of their ability. Out with of the training sessions, it is ultimately up to the players to decide how to spend their time. There is lots of opportunity to personally develop or to relax following the sessions. Whilst nutrition is a key component of performance for athletes, it was managed by each individual player and could either compliment or contrast the training sessions. Training sessions focused on both areas for team development and based on scouting on the opposing team.

I was elated when game day came against RBB München Iguanas and was very grateful to the club for allowing me to sit on the team bench. Having the opportunity to hear the team strategy and listen to Mat’s adjustments was brilliant. In the professional team, the teams are mixed gender with female players playing a key role across squads. Female players contribute additional classification points allowance to their teams and have a large influence on the game. The female players were strategically targeted by both teams and the help defense typically rotated to leave the female players temporarily open.

Both female players, Lisa Nothelfer & Laura Fürst are very high level athletes; with both being named to Germany’s National Team ahead of the World Championships this summer. Paralympian Laura Fürst was incredible to watch and punished the RBC Köln 99ers for leaving her open at every opportunity. The level of shooting proficiency was very high, and there was certainly an onus on the professional players to be at a higher standard throughout training and games. The high standard of shooting formed the way the game was played, with players forced to jump instantaneously to shots and creating lots of pick & roll opportunities.

The Cologne team had a 3 man press consisting of the Men’s Japanese National Team players which was a level above. Their unison and communication with each other highlighted how well drilled the Japanese National Team are. The game went back and forth but ultimately the Munich offense outshot the home team. Mat Foden is a very strategically brained coach and spent hours of time watching footage from their games and the opposing team for the weekend. The amount of time and preparation that Mat put into every aspect of the game was incredible. It inspired me to keep working as hard as possible to plan and prepare. It reaffirmed what it takes to be a coach at the highest level – and how much I would love to do the job myself. Ultimately my trip reaffirmed that being a professional wheelchair basketball coach or athlete is very much determined by an individual’s talent behaviours. These behaviours can be exhibited irrespective of location and my aim is to develop these in myself and support them in others across club and country.

I would like to thank the RBC Köln 99ers for their warm hospitality throughout my time there and making my trip the wonderful opportunity that it was. I cannot express my gratitude enough to basketballscotland for their continuous support. If you have a desire to drive your own personal development, they will certainly support you as much as they can.