For the first time in ten years Brighton Cougars have put together a women’s team. It’s all come together thanks to an incredibly successful girls team from Dorothy Stringer High School in Brighton.
Opportunities for girls playing basketball in Sussex are scarce, and Brighton Cougars is one of the few places girls are able to play. Anne Andrews had a hard time trying to find a club for her eight-year-old daughter Asha. She said: ”In the south, we don’t facilitate children’s basketball, girls in particular. It’s a declining sport and we’ve found it a real problem.”
Asha has her priorities in place and just wants to play where she’ll be challenged, which at the moment, means playing against boys as well as girls. But, out of a group of twenty in the training session for Under-12s there are less than five girls.
While the number of girls who play basketball is small, a team of girls from Dorothy Stringer High School are doing their best to change that. Charlotte and Amber are founding members of the Cougars team and they played together throughout their time at secondary school. Charlotte says they struggled to find teams after graduating: “they [Cougars] did have a women’s team before but it just failed because not enough people turned up. So we’re now having to play in the Women’s League because there aren’t any other girls that play.”
The girls’ success had been an inspiration to younger pupils at the Dorothy Stringer, which Amber is very proud of: “the teachers all said we were the most successful girls team they’d had at the school, and by us playing loads of younger girls started playing, which is really good.”
Matt Kelly has coached the team for years and is very aware of the lengths the girls have to go to just to play basketball. He said: “it costs around £2,000 to run the team for a year, and at the moment the girls are having to pay out of their own pocket.”
Competing in the Women’s League will be a steep learning curve for a team made of mainly 16 and 17 year olds. Amber said it will improve their game: ”it is quite scary, but we’ll get better playing against them.”
While the challenge for this young Cougars team is going to be tough, the example these girls have set could pave the way for more girls to get into the sport.