An Anti Social View From A Different Angle

Sport, and in this case basketball, can be much more than just a game as Teesside Lions hosted an international basketball tournament that sought to enhance social and cultural opportunities for young people both in England and from Canada.

Basketball can help break down cultural, social and racial barriers and is popular among young people with close links to music and fashion providing an element of street credibility among its players and fans.

The sport is also used as a vehicle by Lions to structure and direct young people in a positive way with many players improving their health, fitness and attitude in addition to being off the streets and away from video games.

The ethos has been introduced by Club Chairman and head coach James Thomson. The Teesside chief has just turned 40 years old and has been coaching for 23 years in addition to playing and his more recent role as club owner. Thomson began coaching on the Reach for Success project when he was 17 years old and played a vital role in engaging young people in what was a very successful project for tackling crime and the fear of crime in neighbourhoods such as Grangetown and Southbank during the late 90s and early 00s.

Fast forward 23 years and the problems are still, if not more, prevalent today. Knife crime and anti social behaviour in addition to obesity and lack of activity are all issues that can be improved using Teesside Lions and positive sporting role models, according to Mr Thomson.

“At Teesside Lions we currently work with circa 180 children from across the region that play basketball up to six sessions per week. We have a wide range of ages, abilities and physiques and the method we instil is that each is just as important as the rest. We don’t favour better athletes; our job is to improve them all.

“The result is a vast number of young people improving their lives through basketball and it’s very rewarding to be involved in this.

“We have also developed a project called Role Models which aims to use positive sporting role models from Teesside Lions to deliver school and community sessions with the focus on early intervention and directing young, impressionable people away from negative influences and crime and into more positive activity such as basketball.

“Basketball is a unique and appealing sport among young people and the fact that professional basketball players are willing to take an interest and support a young person can have a tremendously positive effect.” said James.

The visit of two Canadian basketball teams to Teesside has allowed players from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean an opportunity to train together, socialise, learn and respect differences, and compete in an International Tournament.

James, along with key figures from the business community, including Martin Anderson, managing director of Lemon Business Solutions, have ambitions to bring professional basketball to Teesside and have already established a team to enter National League Division 3 in September. They are hoping to expand on the success of the community sessions so that more people can benefit and the club’s players and knowledge of early intervention can be delivered throughout the region to help tackle crime, fear of crime and anti social behaviour with the knock on effect delivering a healthier and more productive generation.

“We have plans to expand our sessions and community outreach and are also hoping to roll out the Role Models project into schools. Funding is an issue. As a club, we don’t receive any funding. We have developed a club that is sustainable, which is the correct way, but to move forward on what we have already proven is a successful concept, we are hoping to secure interest and funding to enable us to do so much more in the community.

“Every child has the ability to develop into a positive member of society, the key is early intervention and positive engagement, which, at Teesside Lions, is what we do very well.”

Teesside Lions begin their National League campaign on the 28th September away to League contenders Lancashire Spinners before their first home game at Eston Sports Academy on Sunday 6th October 3pm tip v Liverpool. For more details visit www.TeessideLions.com or call 01642 262818.