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England must do better

England coach Laszlo Nemeth has been overseeing the progress of the English Women's teams at junior and senior level. In Britball, Laszlo gives us his frank assessment of the current status and potential for the future.

I spent time thinking should I do this assessment in writing again and again and I do not know if what I write will touch the people, but I have the never give up spirit and therefore i decided that I should hand over this assessment.

Above all lets start with the positive points.  The England Junior Womens team competed with everybody who was present at the qualification round.  They made an enormous effort to try to qualify but that was not an easy task with these (the usual) circumstances. 

We suffered again from lack of funding and the preparation was not as excellent as their coach, Michael Ball, planned.  He always had to compromise and at the end he did not get a proper National team to play prior to the tournament and during the games this was evident that the experience of individuals was not there and caused, in crucial moments, breakdown in movements at both ends of the court - offence and defence - looked naive.  In every game the team earned respect from their opponent and they were not inferior to other participants and of course the full story became apparent to those who were present.  The very unfortunate thing is that a couple of years down the road this is going to be a simple result in the history books and we will show that England did not win a
single game again.  The English team were nothing else than a bunch of tourists.

This is not true but it is how the world assesses them.  Our team played
very hard against Germany, the winners of the tournament and far best team.
 They had size, structure and they had proper preparation with full time
paid staff and fifteen international games to prepare for this particular
Junior Tournament.  They secured their qualification and won the
tournament, though surprisingly lost to the host nation Ireland who put-up
an extremely fanatical and enthusiastic game against the German team and it
paid off for them as they won.  

Our players cracked under pressure when the chance was there to turn the
one point trail to a one point lead, like 42 seconds to go at the end of
two games and this happened twice. It happened against Finland and it
happened against Sweden.  They could not handle the pressure and they shot 
from the foul line  4-0, 6-1 at crucial moments, they made naive defensive
mistakes and it was so obvious to me that the lack of experience was a
major factor that England was stamped out again for the European
qualification game  and could not break the ice and finally after ten years
winning one European Womens game at any level.  Like any other time, the
English team train to complete but cannot really win.  Many times it has
been said that teams that want to represent the Country on the European
scenario and they want to qualify they must have proper preparation.  Now,
as the Sports Council have mentioned,  the Seniors are not interesting
anymore,- which is very surprising for me-
 What about the Cadets and the Juniors - why are they not funded by the
Sports Council and on top of this I must mention yet again - success is the
biggest generator to attract more  participants.  When success happens
people want to be part of it and want to try and reach the peak.  This
happened when Ireland beat Germany, the next day against England the gym
was packed with no room for an extra person to fit in and it was just as it
should be for a Junior Womens game.  It is clear to me, that apart from the
enthusiasm, we still have not enough players who are properly trained and
who have spent enough time on the court and it starts when they are young
as they get older they prefer to go on holiday to the Dominican Republic
instead of working hard through the Summer on their game, and it is no
wonder that the standard at womens level became a big issue for a National

It is clear that we have to improve the talent and identification and we
need big people to play.  Our players who were important in this team, many
of them have never been selected or been part of organised England
programmes and this stunned me.  Michael Balls dedication is
unquestionable and I would like to repeat that I cannot find a more
suitable person for the England Womens programme than him.  His high
standard of professionalism and dedication to the work in all circumstances
makes him perfect for the job and  he is really performance orientated.  It
is frustrating to watch England going down and shut out from further
competition when normally they should go further.  I still feel embarrassed
that our England team preparing for European qualification still assembles
and sleeps in a tent towards the end of the Summer just to be able to make
it to a neighbouring Country where the qualification round is held.  I
repeat again, my highly critical point against the so called Development
Officers, because this is what they develop and their work is a disaster. 
The Development Officers are paid and even get cars to travel around the
country and yet they still do not accept  the responsibility to recruit and
identify players and bring them to the attention of the National Team

I would suggest the following as a target - if within the next two European
 qualification rounds at Junior Men/Women, or Cadet Men/Women teams do not
qualify to the next round, every Development Officer salary is cut by 10%

I had an extensive chat with the Head of the Delegation who again
complained about our Head Quarters and office support of the team . I hope
all this will be investigated and properly dealt with. I did not take the
complaints on board, because heard these befeore, and the same things have
happened again and I hope Mr Norman Waldron will present a report and will
discuss this issue with the Chief Executive.  The same things are happening
repeatedly to our teams and its also getting increasingly frustrating that
we are unable to deal with it.

We should also question what happens to the team and the team members now
after this tournament.  I say they should carry on to the next level to the
under 20s.  They should not have to be abandoned or ditched and dumped,
instead they should get more court time, more practice and more
International games organised in an economical and efficient way.

Again, the tournament for me proved that our human material is by no means
inferior, what is inferior is the structure and the way that we deal with
the elite end of the sport.  

From this current England Junior Womens team there are about three or four
players who are potentially can go into a higher level if they practice
enough and if they work enough and if they improve their game.  I am sure
they will not if the game comes secondary behind holidays, nice trips and
other social activities.  Winning will come only if everybody wants to win
and focuses on it and prepares to do it - there are no miracles in a modern
sport anymore, and Basketball is particularly not that.

I would like to remind you that the Irish team which qualified the first
time ever came second in the tournament and was assisted to organise the
European preparation programme by Brani Bazany and myself a year ago and
this is a grim face of the competition that they turn for help to the
England staff to arrange proper opposition and camps while we who are
working here cannot provide anything to our own teams.  It is the usual
story - lack of funds.

I would like to make the following points:

For the Senior Womens team five practices is scheduled until May 2000 and I
do not think that we can call this a programme.  We did not enter a Senior
Womens team into Europe saying that the money was spent on European
participation and preparation is too much and for the same sum we shall
enter three International tournament ad in due time and due course they
will enter into Europe. What  really happens is we schedule five practices
and then they will play the so called world famous Home Countries
Tournament which sporting value is not bigger than a 3v3 competition
organised in the supermarkets parking lot.  I do not think that anybody can
be proud of how the England Senior Womens programme is treated.

I cannot identify everything that happened on the court that was wrong but
it can be corrected only in one way - on the court - all the talking and
meetings will not help it can only be corrected on the court.  I also
suggest that the OBI should contribute about six or seven outdoor baskets
and backboards with rims and these should be put up on the arch or a
doorway if possible so that those women players who we have identified as
potential can use them and we talk to their parents and see if they are
ready to sacrifices and will understand from now on the Summer is our time
and the holidays adjusted.

I shall tell everybody that to treat Ireland as an inferior basketball team
is wrong, they definitely passed us and now in the current state are ahead
of us. We are the underdogs at women level. Sad but true.

I hope this quick assessment will ring some bells to all who have the
option to do something for this Countrys womens game.


I closely followed in the last three years the England Womens performances
and I would like to put the following suggestions forward which are very
radical, but I am extremely frustrated by the performance of the young
female teams representing the Country.

They always crack under pressure because they do not have enough experience in competition and they are not fit enough because they do not spend enough time on the track court.  They are seriously under-trained because they do not spend enough time in a Basketball gym learning basic technical skills like shooting and passing and their attitude is infected by the leisure basketball and not the competitive  basketball.  They should feel
competitive from the very first second they set their foot onto a basketball court.

To change this there are no other options than at Cadet level.  Since I
have no appetite to go down to minibasketball and start there that competition is important I identify that the Cadet level where we should really seriously start to build up a successful International womens programme.  Through about two championships  a clear goal is :
two qualification rounds and after that on the second England Cadet team must
qualify and the Head Coach, namely Ian Day, should personally be responsible and accountable for that.  

If we want this to happen we also have to provide them with everything
possible to make it possible for him to achieve this task.  

The first step, we have already identified the three girls who could do
very well in the championships.  We have to identify others who will
support the team at trials and nation-wide games.  The Development Officers
must be involved in this, they must be part of it and they have to notify
the coach if in any area a talent is living regardless if she is affiliated
to the School Basketball Association or not or her school team is in or
not.  It is very important that we find tall people to play and in identifying tall people at a young age must be a large responsibility, it is irrelevant if they are involved in a basketball programme or not.  

If they are exceptionally tall and expected to be big then we must approach
them and use every skill to pursue them to play basketball.  We must
approach the coach and officials, the parents of these identified kids and
explain to them that from now on the priority to them is the game and every
time they are called they must be available and family holidays and social
activities must come second after the sport.  We also must reassure the
parents, as well as we have to find a way of how we shall manage these
future players and how we can assist in their academic life.

Every Regional Development Officer must provide one occasion every three
months a free access to a basketball court for the identified cadet talents.  Ian Day should travel with his assistant and conduct a proper technical session for the players.  The Outdoor Basketball Initiative or Sunny Delight should give a  basketball board that these players can put up in their garage or doorway just outside their homes, not in a public area, where they can do daily shootings which will be become positive for them and a shooting book should be provided by the Head Coach and regularly, through the years, looked at and signed to make sure they do this work.

The girls should also get a running programme and regular work on stairs
which should be done regardless of the wheather, is it  raining or not. Above all the team has to come and practice together regularly and this must be a priority and the Regional Championship programme should be adjusted to this request and so the Head Coach must table it to the Competition dept and this is a priority and everything must be adjusted to his programme.

We have to find out how we can arrange enough international games within
this period for them.  Maybe across the channel and we will have to have the means for proper transportation.  Basically we have to have a mini van that does not cost us anything but the fuel.

The school holiday time during the year must be the time of a camp when
they have two two hour sessions at least and about a one hour individual
session for guards, wingmen and pivots every day.

It is at Easter and Christmas time and when the first term ends and we must
have them and finally the most important period is the Summer when they
must have a two week camp preferably somewhere outside England and one week off followed by an additional eight ten day camp.  An elementary
requirement must be to practice daily twice  + one individual session and
it must include strict programme and planned track and field work.

On the men management side the players must feel this is a priority and
they must feel guilty if they do not turn up because the team, the community which put up a goal that they will play in the European Championship and they must qualify and that is the ultimate goal.

From Sunny Delight every player must be presented with her own basketball
and they also should be encouraged to find opportunities and time to shoot

Since we are dealing with young people who are growing a necessary nutritional advice must be given for the numerous sport science supporters of the organisations around Britain from the British Olympic Committee to the National Coaching Foundation, finally they will do something useful maybe, but just maybe.

Of course this is an ambitious plan and I want to move out from this tourist status, where we are always congratulated by everybody how nicely we lost, and where we always say that this was the closest ever loss - it has to end and it must end if we implement these suggestions.

I suggest that the Executive Board members, the Chairman and the Chief
Executive takes personal responsibility that the Coaches get everything
that is needed within this programme.  This programme must be funded and if
it is funded it will produce results and success.  I guarantee that results
and success will generate a much bigger interest then any other trials that
you have made prior to that.  At the same time I will indicate what is required from the coaches on court, the British Style of play which is obvious already from this material that on the technical side the passing and the shooting as a priority, fast breaks and powerful defence based on extremely high fitness levels. We have to increase the girls ability to comp ete and under no circumstances not to crack under pressure.  We must have winners not born losers.  

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