Crawley Storm has 3 main aims;
1) to develop the skills needed to participate in the sport recreationally
2) to develop the skills needed to be able to compete in the National League
3) to be an outlet for National League players to continually develop the skills to compete at the next level (16-19 Academies, Internationally & Scholarships)
Crawley Storm has been all about the development of players, not winning. We are not trying to create Sussex Champions, we’re trying to support recreational players to become life-long participants and develop talented players into National Champions.
Crawley Storm looked to promote development at every potential opportunity. We split talented players geographically at U11, U12, U13, and had developmental teams for players at U12, U13, U14 & U16. We have all-girls teams at U12, we played our U15s up into the U16 league, and our U16s/17s into the U18 league.
However, one question has continued to arise over the last 2 years... is this the best method of development for players in Crawley and the surrounding areas?
We don’t think that it is.
Transport for Crawley players has been an issue since day 1 getting to other teams in Sussex. Back when my dad ran Crawley Cagers he had to upgrade (or downgrade, depends on your perspective) to a 7-seater Vauxhall Zafira to transport players to fixtures across Sussex. I inherited this (my dad’s still alive, he just gave it to me) back in 2012 when I took over Crawley Cagers, for the same reason, which meant we could at least get 6 players to games.
2-3 years later we upgraded (or downgraded, depends again on your perspective!) to ‘The Beast’, a ’95 DAF minibus from The Holy Trinity School. This meant that we were able to get a whole team to fixtures without having to ask parents for support with transport. It also meant we looked fresh travelling around Sussex. ‘The Beast’ became uneconomical when Storm first launched and so did the Zafira.
This has meant that for the last 2 seasons we have had to rely on the same supportive parents to help with transport, for which we are very grateful. However, this support has not stopped the fact that we have had to attend a lot of away fixtures with less than 12 players. In some cases, coaches have had to come from other parts of Sussex to Crawley to pick up players for fixtures, travel to the game, only to repeat the journey in reverse and still only have 6 players.
This has been counter-productive for development.
Across the 15 teams that we entered into the BasketballSussex (BSX) leagues this season, a total of 178 fixtures were played, with just 10 resulting in a win/loss margin of 5 points or less. This means that just 6% of all of our games played this season could be perceived as being ‘competitive’.
If we look at the number of games this year with a margin of 10 points or more then 87% of the games played, 154 out of 178 this season put our players in a ‘non competitive’ environment.
This has been counter-productive for development.
Multiple times this season we have been in a situation where we are 20 points up after the first 5 minutes, so we’ve instructed players to only play half-court defence, taking away fast break scoring and taking away lay-ups. We’ve also implemented a passing limit before we attempt to score, and in some cases even taken away all two-point shots, in an attempt to make the game as competitive as possible - all at the expense of the natural flow of the game.
On the flip-side, we have been in positions where we are on the receiving end of a large scoreline deficit. Some opponents, like ourselves, did all they could to make things competitive, while others did not.
A scoreline of 101-11 is counter-productive for development.
If all 12 players in any given game were to play exactly equal minutes, they would play approximately 16.5 minutes. As much as we try to make this happen in certain games, it is not entirely realistic and more often than not the lower down the bench you get, the fewer minutes the players get. When we look at this across a 9-14 game season, we’re looking at playing 1, maybe 2 games a month where any given player may get only around 16 minutes to put their practice into a game situation.
This is not the best formula for development.
The Storm Basketball Foundation (SBF) has already had a HUGE impact on the amount of kids picking up a basketball in Crawley and the surrounding areas. Our sessions are delivered to over 1000 children on a weekly basis and we want to be able to offer as many of them playing opportunities as possible. As it stands we have 2-3 teams at each age group, meaning 30-45 places in squads to play games. Joining part way through the season is also very difficult and sometimes not even possible, if there is no space in the squad.
Not having enough opportunities for the number of our players is counter-productive for development.
Having 15 teams and just 4 coaches has been difficult. It has meant that a lot of training sessions have had to be moved or cancelled due to coaches having to travel to or host fixtures.
The inconsistency of reduced practice or no practice on a weekly basis is counter-productive for development.
So what is our solution?
The number of kids playing basketball in Crawley and the new partnership with Everyone Active has put us in a privileged situation to be able to run our own intramural league in an attempt to maximise development opportunities. The league will run every Friday across the 3 courts at K2 Crawley. The ‘Crawley Basketball League’ (CBL) will run at U12 Boys, U13 Boys, U14 Boys & U15-U18 Boys. The new model will also give us the opportunity to launch two all-girls leagues at U12-U13 and U14-U18. Battle of the Borough (BotB) will also continue at U9, while an U11 age group will be added this coming season for boys and girls.
Sign up to the CBL will be the same structure as BotB. Players will sign up as individuals and will then be drafted in teams of 6-7 players. Teams will be split equally in an attempt to make all games competitive. CBL games will be played with 9 minute running clock quarters, allowing 12 games to take place each Friday night at K2 Crawley. Having teams of just 6-7 players, will allow players around 25.5 minutes of playing time per game (if everyone played equal minutes).
Teams will play 2 games every 3 weeks in the Crawley Basketball League, and the league will be split into 2 terms. Term 1 will be played from September to February, and will allow teams to play everyone in their league twice, totalling 10-16 games. League winners will then be announced at the end of Term 1.
Term 2 will see teams play each other once from February to July, before heading into the CBL playoffs, with a finals event to conclude the CBL season. Having 2 terms will allow us to best track development, and will reward teams that have progressed since the start of league.
Having the league at a central venue means that transport issues will be majorly reduced, meaning that teams should have full squads for games, with more players relishing the opportunity to compete. Individual sign ups mean that joining part way through a term will no longer be an issue. Players will be added to whichever teams have space, and new teams can be added to expand the league in term 2.
Each Crawley Basketball League age group will have 2-3 fixed training sessions spread over the week at different venues across Crawley. Due to all games taking place on Friday at K2 Crawley, these sessions will no longer need to be condensed for home fixtures, or cancelled for away fixtures as before. The sessions will all follow the same player development-focused curriculum, regardless of venue or coach. Players will be expected to attend 1 of the 2/3 sessions each week to be eligible for games.
As well as player development being a priority, the Crawley Basketball League will be a perfect environment for aspiring young coaches, referees and table officials to develop. The intramural central venue nature of the CBL will provide a great opportunity for ongoing observation, evaluation and mentoring - developing the vital workforce that supports our players as they develop.
The Crawley Storm primary blue kit will remain the same, however an alternative grey jersey will be included in the Crawley Basketball League sign up costs. Players will need to make sure they bring both jerseys on game night, so that their team can play in either colour.
The Crawley Basketball League is by no means a rival of the BasketballSussex leagues, it is simply another avenue for players in Crawley to develop and compete. Players from other clubs in Sussex are welcome to join the league alongside their existing local league clubs, and vice versa - players from Crawley are free to play in the BSX league for other local league clubs, if desired.