Bears ‘coloured’ their glory again…:
… this time, the last touch was the ‘Club of the Year’ award
by Anna Dyachenko, an honoured Lady Bear.
Has anyone ever associated Cinderella with intensive physical exercise, or Prince Charming with fitness sessions and potential in some sport… well, apart from riding? Perhaps, not. However, for all those who doubted traditional fairy-tales featuring a sport dimension, the greatest event of the year for all sport clubs, the Colours Ball, proved to be a gathering of stunning and elegant ladies and gentlemen, princess and prince-like indeed. The fashionable Park Inn Hotel accommodated them in a beautifully decorated hall: exquisite interior, dim lights and the sound of quiet classical music fascinated and evoked the sense of shared delight right from the start. Guests were seated at fine dinner tables surrounding the stage and the open area in front of it; here, in the uplifted atmosphere of the official ceremony, Royal Holloway ‘princes’ were getting College colours in swimming and rugby while ‘princesses’ were equally receiving awards for achievements in football, volleyball and other sports. Remarkably, the triumph of one particular club presented the Kings and Queens of the night – these were the Men’s and Women’s basketball teams whose combined efforts saw them bring home the well-deserved ‘Club of the Year 2007-2008’ award for the first time in club history.
Indubitably, a lot has been done to earn this award, and it is not simply the on-court performance of the teams that ensured their recognition amidst other clubs of the university, but much more than that. The criteria for nominees encompassed every aspect of the club including organisation, development, community work, fundraising, general service, social life and success. RHUL Bears Basketball managed to achieve and maintain these standards on a high level throughout the year; in this respect, the award does the speaking. However, the summary of the club performance 07/08 includes the following…
According to the fixtures in the league tables, the Men’s team secured the second and the fifth place in BUSA and ULU respectively while the Lady Bears similarly came second in BUSA and fourth in ULU. Moreover, the Women’s team advanced to the BUSA Shield National Knockout competition, fought passionately in a Sweet 16 game against Welsh team Aberystwyth and even made it to an Elite 8 match where they eventually gave way to Portsmouth. Having said that, the women’s results have been the best BUSA finish in club history. On the other hand, the sensational success of the men’s team brought them to the series of exciting games in the ULU Cup: after beating King’s College and Goldsmiths in the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 rounds, the team progressed to the Final 4 match where they were defeated by an LSE team that would later go on to win the competition. In addition to the league fixtures, the two teams have successfully participated in the first ever Alumni Sports Day hosted by Royal Holloway in February. RHUL’s current class of sportsmen and women would triumph spectacularly over the alumni across a range of sports, and an overall scoreline of 9-1 included two victories confidently secured by basketball teams.
In terms of the training regime, the emphasis was made on scheduled practices as well as off-court trainings such as SAQ fitness sessions, Friday morning outdoor fitness sessions held by the captains as well as free individual practices on Founders’ tennis courts facilitated by the newly installed outdoor hoops kindly provided by Jon Clark, manager of the Nobles Sports Centre.
Furthermore, the club membership base has expanded with an intention to provide basketball opportunities for people of all abilities. In keeping with this development, additional outdoor hoops are on the horizon for next season as well as the opportunity for disabled and able-bodied students and staff to take part in wheelchair basketball.
The unprecedented and, therefore, one of the most outstanding policies that RHUL basketball has undertaken was the development of a brand, Bears Basketball. Adopting the College’s polar bear mascot, Colossus, Shadi Al-Abdul Razak, MPhil student in Soco-Technology Studies with an incredible potential in art, designed a club logo which was used to front a brand that includes a new line of club clothing. Players’ kits, t-shirts, hooded sweatshirts, tracksuits and bags, as well as the coaching staff’s shirts all sport the new branding, as well as a line of supporter wear that has been sold successfully in the College shop. This has definitely increased team spirit and raised the profile of the basketball club on campus, as has the introduction of the world’s most popular basketball magazine, SLAM, to the College shop. Increased publicity has seen record attendances for home games, and there has even been celebrity endorsement of the Bears brand by none other than Neighbours star, Alan Fletcher (Karl Kennedy). Noteworthily, the club’s website today hosts more information and attracts more visitors from all over the world than ever before and is averaging around 12,000 hits a year.
Furthermore, the involvement of the club with charity campaigning has been remarkable this year; the major achievement in fundraising was with a Cancer Research UK 10km run at Dorney Lake, Eton. All those involved raised a total of 1,650, making it the most successful fundraiser in club history. The financial wellbeing of the club itself was secured after generous sponsorship was secured for the women’s club from local restaurant Village Bar & Grill, and Global Sourcing Solutions (GSS), as well as for the men’s team from Runnymede Hotel & Spa.
As far as skills development is concerned, the club has recently established links with nearby National League Division 1 outfit London Heathrow Acers. The collaboration between the clubs has so far seen Bears players participating in the Acer’s weekly training sessions and scrimmages, providing additional and high level play for Holloway’s more talented players, as well as greater access to resources and talent to assist in development of the teams and club’s plans for the future. Another recent innovation has established the tradition of video reviewing – during these sessions, both Men’s and Women’s teams watch the highlights of recorded matches spotting major areas for improvement, devising game tactics and building up the team potential; similarly, opponent teams are scouted as thoroughly as possible if relevant game footage of key plays and players is available. In other words, impossible becomes nothing when the teams prepare to fight.
Finally, it is self-evident that the unity inherent to the members of both teams largely determines their on and off-court productive co-operation, whether it is a mixed social with some peculiar drinking games or almost war-like paintballing in the dirt and puddles of the countryside.
Taking into account everything given above, there is no doubt why the basketball club has been voted club of the year: it represents creativity, talent and skills, motivation, inspiration and determination combined and shared between the ballers of both teams. Those ultimate features comprise the club’s pride. ‘Bear’ pride.
Moreover, the success of the club was also reflected in the distribution of individual awards. Based on the high level of performance, external achievements and contribution to the club, Half Colours were allotted to four players: Przemyslaw Niklasinski, Anna Dyachenko, Candice Moses and Thessy Garganese, whilst Full Colours were awarded to Lee Williamson and Michal Kiska. The outstanding dedication above and beyond the call of duty was attributed to the honoured members of Men’s basketball, with Athletic Union Crest Awards received by Julian Bailes and Louis Baxter.
The achievements of the club rewarded in the official ceremony, constituted their highlights of the Colours Ball and celebrated the overwhelming feeling of joy, excitement and delight which the teams carried further into the night.
Yet, the fairy-tale does not end here. No sooner had the season finished, new objectives were contemplated. Women’s coach, talented and adorable Julian Bailes aka J, eagerly imparted his personal aspirations in the context of the policy agenda for next season.
In the first place, he stressed the intention to attain promotion in BUSA which will require more practice, more hard work and more dedication from the players; both teams are keen to maintain strong links with London Heathrow Acers, fight harder and pursue the league’s first place more passionately than ever before.
Likewise, J. Bailes suggested the incorporation of the Cancer Research 10km run into the schedule of annual events, so that next year more people will be encouraged to participate and donate and, hopefully, raise more funds for the charity. Concurrently, he is considering the idea of additional fund raising campaigns such as sky-diving… Royal Holloway might need to keep an eye on that during the next year.
The following pages of the coach’s year planner cover community work, too: here, J proceeds with coaching sessions and sketches the ‘Cub Club’ programme; the latter referring to the Club’s ambition to provide weekly basketball sessions for local school children based on the development of fundamental basketball skills and developing a love for the game.
In respect of ULU matches, J. Bailes would like to see the launch of a symbolic competition between the colleges of the University of London, in other words, some sort of University of London Basketball ‘Ashes’ with a trophy passing into the hands of the winning team after each game.
With regard to the Bears brand enterprise, J plans to reinforce promotional policy with the beginning of next academic year and introduce more students to the club straight off during the Freshers Week; the club will also be expanding the range of Bears-braded merchandise available.
Constitutional reform for the Women’s club saw the committee expand to include the role of a publicist aimed at publicising the club’s events and, thus, generating ‘Bear’ awareness among students; from now on, the publicist will be responsible for producing detailed game reports and organising them into the archives of the club.
These and possibly a couple more policies make up the club agenda for new season, but for all that, maintaining standards of the seemingly ‘old’ days remain crucial. Other than that, J admitted his overall satisfaction with the performance of the club and noted that most objectives in his planner have been ticked this year. However, he insists, there is always room for improvement and a lot more to achieve is out there…
On behalf of the club, I invite everyone to follow the news of RHUL basketball online, on pages of the College magazine Orbital, and best of all – through live experience of the games.
As is evident, Bears have had a hard year – many more battles are ahead, but a number of players will not appear fighting them next season: they are Jennifer Kehlbeck, Tsungai Mumbengegwi, Alice Equestri, Victor Kioko, Ryan Bishop, Niko Kalfigopoulos and last but by no means least, Lovis von Adrian. Although these players leave the club this year, each and every single one of them retains the membership of the Bears family for the rest of their lives; the club, in turn, will remember their contribution and commitment to basketball and pass the club heritage they have earned to the new generations of players.…
Let this sentimental note signify the end of Bears story for 2007 - 2008… Finally, there is this last wisdom worth pondering over:
(quoted from Ryan Bishop, Men’s Head Coach)
Anna Dyachenko, an honoured Lady Bear