Shropshire Warriors Basketball Club is a Club based at Telford College of Art and Technology. It is a not-for-profit organisation. This means that all income coming into the Club from any source is ploughed back into the development of the range of activities available to its members.
The Club provides all sections of the community a wide range of basketball opportunities that enable them to achieve their own potential within the sport, regardless of their ability, ethnic background, socio-economic background, gender or age.
The Club was established in 1997 by Tom Sunley, now the Club’s President, and his good friend Frank Di Donato. Tom and Frank were teachers and long time Committee members of the Shropshire Schools Basketball Association (SSBBA).
The SSBBA had previously run its representative age group teams under the Shropshire Wildcats banner, but the Wildcats had folded in early 1997. Tom and Frank wished to ensure that suitably able and committed youngsters in full time education in Shropshire Schools would continue to receive regular high quality basketball coaching and to play competitively at National League level.
The new Warriors Club originally consisted of just a single cadet boys’ team, which trained and played in Telford College of Arts and Technology’s old and cold Bennetts Bank Sports Hall. They wore kits provided by the College’s Principal
Doug Boynton. Interestingly enough those kits were such good quality that they are still in use today – but by our minis (U12s).
Just a year after the Club’s formation Tom was forced to retire from teaching on ill-health grounds. With time on his hands he determined to dedicate much of that time to developing the Club.
Under Tom’s leadership the years from 1998 to 2001 saw an annual expansion in the size and scope of the program, with more and more young people being provided with an increasing number of opportunities to have access to the sport of basketball.
Tom built up an ever-increasing number of volunteer coaches, officials and volunteer administrators in order that the Club could run efficiently and cater for the increasing number of youngsters wishing to become involved and the number of age group development squads and representative teams which it ran increase on an annual basis.
The expansion in the number of development squads and representative teams necessitated not only an ever-increasing number of volunteers but also an increasing amount of court time for weekly training and match play. Consequently, whilst retaining their links with TCAT Tom and his team worked hard to build mutually beneficial working relationships with a number of key educational establishments who were willing to allow the programme to use their facilities free of charge or at heavily subsidised rates of hire.
By 2003 the programme was one of the largest programmes in the UK both in terms of the number of its EB registered members and the number it teams representing it in regional and |National League competition. Its U14 Girls team had won the Midlands League Title in +++ and its U18 boys team had won its Midlands Junior National league Title in +++
The Club was no longer purely catering for junior players (aged 18 and under). By now it had a strong senior section which catered not only for the competitive needs of highly committed male and female players, many of who had come through the Club’s junior development programme, but also provided a necessary exit route for its most talented youngsters in the 6 to 18 age bracket into high quality Senior League basketball.
2005 was a significant year for the Club. In that year its relationship with TCAT led to the establishment of a Basketball Academy at the College. The Club’s head Coach Carsten Dieterich became the new Academy’s Head Coach and a significant number of Club members aged 16 to 18 took advantage of the tremendous opportunity that the Academy offered to them – that of receiving at least 6 hours of expert tuition each week from Carsten during the College timetable, and playing competitively at least once a week in County Schools, English Schools and British College Sport Championships.
2007 saw the next significant event in the Club’s development – the opening of the new 500 seat state of the art Sport TCAT Arena. With two practice courts and a superb main match play court Sport TCAT was immediately recognised as the West Midlands’ number one basketball facility and the College showed its fantastic commitment to the Warriors Club and Basketball in Shropshire as a whole by allowing the Club priority access to the facility for weekly training and for home match play on evenings and weekends at highly preferential rates of hire. After all the years of struggling for court time in suitable quality facilities and always struggling to pay for it if we could access it, we finally had a quality home venue. We could not believe our luck!!!
2008 added great excitement with the Club linking with the new Birmingham Panthers BBL team, feeding two of its best youngsters, Josh Crutchley and Shaun Jones, into the Panthers roster for the 2008 09 season and also hosting 2 highly successful BBL matches at Sport TCAT against Newcastle Eagles and Plymouth Raiders.
Despite being unbelievably fortunate to have access to Sport TCAT the Club’s eyes were now focussed on the possibility of having access to, and managing, an even bigger dream facility of its own than Sport TCAT.
This opportunity was presented by the Telford and Wrekin Council led TESLEC initiative. TESLEC saw a range of sports clubs, National Governing Bodies and funding partners working together to develop a multi million pound “Sports Village” in the Wellington area of Telford. The Village would have comprised a range of super self funding facilities, one of which would have been a 1500 seat minimum basketball specific arena, which would have bettered Manchester Magic’s flagship Amaechi Basketball Centre at Wally Grange High School.
England Basketball identified our Club as deserving of such a facility and backed us to the tune of £500,000 – the whole of their facilities budget for the financial year 2009 10. Sadly, for political reasons too detailed to mention here the project was killed off just 3 days before all the Is and Ts were to be crossed on the deal.
We were kicked in the teeth, gutted and apparently crushed!!!! However, we did not give in on our dream. We determined to work in conjunction with TCAT, Sport
England and EB on a smaller scale project, part of which was the expansion of Sport TCAT into a 1200 seat multi court arena.. After 6 months on frantic action we were again just days from our dream becoming reality when the local finances required for the deal to be clinched failed to materialise, and the idea of us having our own Club facility finally died.
We could have thrown in the towel, and were down hearted for a few weeks. Then we realised that we were still in a better position than the vast majority of other Basketball Clubs in Britain. We had access to Sport TCAT and fantastic support from the College, and by working with the College and also with Telford and Wrekin Council our relationship with both had been strengthened. We had also made a giant step forward by winning the West Midlands Basketball League’s flagship Premier Division Title for the first time ever, with our team having clinched the Championship with no less than 4 games left to play.
Further discussions with TCAT led to us jointly deciding to display our ability to bounce back again in the face of adversity by applying to both operate as an EB- approved AASE programme and to run an EBL Senior Men’s team.
AASE Programme accreditation would lead to TCAT being one of a small number of educational establishments in the Country able to offer suitably talented and committed players aged 15 years to 19 years the opportunity to undertake a Level. 2 GNVQ in Sports Studies and also to receive a minimum of 12 hours of basketball specific tuition from Coach Dieterich and his new assistant Ash Cookson, who had come through our programme and is now in the process of completing his level 3 Coach Award. This would be a significant extension of the TCAT Basketball Academy, and another major opportunity for our players in the 16 to 19 age range. The achievement of National League’s Division 4 status for our Senior Men’s team would take us to the next level as a Club.
DOUBLE BINGO.!! For September 2010 TCAT became an AASE establishment with 6 male players on its books, all Shropshire Warriors Junior Men’s Squad players. AND, the Warriors were awarded a place in EBL Division 4 Midlands for the 2010 – 11 season.
HOW DID SEASON 2010 – 11 GO? Good news. It started well with the Club being voted Telford and Wrekin’s Club of the Year for 2010, and our Senior Men’s team also winning the Team of the Year Award. These Awards were followed with the Club and the Men’s team being runners up in the Energize Shropshire’s Club and Adult team of the Year Awards.
We registered 186 members and ran 13 teams across the whole age range All of these teams represented the Club with distinction in their various leagues. Our U12s and U14 A Teams won their respective Shropshire CVLs: our U16s finished fourth in the National Cadet League’s Midlands Conference; and our U18 boys were crowned Champions of National Junior League Midlands Conference II, having won the title by no less than 12 points. The icing on the competitive cake was that our EBL Men’s team tied for top spot in EBL Div 4 Midlands (sadly being deemed runners up to Coalville Cougars by virtue of the head to head results between the two Clubs during the season). Both the U18s and EBL qualified for the end of season National League Play Offs.
Photos & Movie Copyright By Carsten Dieterich