Newly appointed basketballscotland Women’s National Team and WBBL coach Bart Sengers and CEO Kevin Pringle sat down with media to talk all things women’s basketball. The duo discussed a variety of topics including recruitment of players, Commonwealth ambitions and playing style.
Take a look at the full transcript below.
Q1: Bart, can I ask you, if you were to pick out three targets that you think are achievable and essential in this, what would you put at the top of your aspirations?
Bart Sengers: Well, I think there are lots of things to be done and I am still trying to figure out what are the most important parts. I was in here yesterday to speak with Barry and Kevin about what we could be doing and what we are trying to do. There are so many things but obviously I would really like to get Scotland to the Commonwealth Games but right now we do not know what the qualification process is going to be so it is a little difficult to speculate on that but that would be a thing that I would really like to accomplish, it would be an amazing opportunity for everyone involved and would really help propel basketball in Scotland. Another big thing is to try and change this culture in to more of a performance culture; I have been looking at some of the National teams during the last 18 months that I have been in the country. I have heard a couple of things and had some of my players be involved with the National senior team and I just think there are so many things that we could do to make it more professional and make the players aware of what we would demand of them to get to that level where you can make it to the Commonwealth Games and that starts with the youth national teams, making them aware early on what it is to play for a national team and what it will take from you and then their parents and their clubs can become aware of how we can make basketball better in Scotland.
Q2: Would you envisage this team (new WBBL franchise) being competitive in its first season?
Bart Sengers: That depends on the other teams in the league, if the other teams get much stronger, that might be a struggle, if the other teams lose some players something can happen but I haven’t looked at other teams and right now we do not have a team so we are still talking to players and it depends who we will get on board and how willing they are to work hard. They’re going to have to work hard and if they are not doing that they will not be able to get on board but rest assured I am going to try and be competitive but it is not the main goal for this team this season. It should be about development and development of our Scottish players. We have two seasons to build up to the Commonwealth Games and I definitely think that players need to develop more to be competitive at that level so I think this will be the main goal for the first season.
Kevin Pringle: Part of that conversation that we had between me Barry, Bart and I was that if it takes 40 minutes for two Americans to make us competitive in the league, we would rather not be competitive and develop Scottish players.
Q3: Do you rule out having any non-Scots players in the team?
Kevin Pringle: No, we are ruling that in, we will have non-Scots in the team because we want to drive the Scottish players in practice every day. We will have non-Scot players playing for the WBBL team.
Q4: Do we know yet, a name and colours for the team?
Kevin Pringle: No, we don’t have a name just yet.
Q5: Would you consider putting it out as a competition or some feedback from the public?
Cameron McLay: We will look to have some community involvement in this process, details of which are still to be decided but we are keen to have community engagement allowing them to have their say in this process.
Q6: Do you have any idea how long you would like that process to be?
Kevin Pringle: We would certainly want to have that process concluded by the end of June because we have got to get the kit, build a brand and be able to communicate that.
Q7: Would you model your style or is there any style of play that you as a coach have been influenced by and how you would like your team to play or does it depend on the players you can get?
Bart Sengers: It definitely depends on the players that you have and so for this season, as I said before; development should be the main goal so we will look to play in a style that will develop all of the players instead of having them run some plays so there should be possibilities for everybody to develop offensively and defensively but I would like to know the team I will be working with before I can do that but you have seen how I have played with the University this year and that would be my preferred style of play but if we don’t have a similar style of players then I am more than happy to change it up. I would have played a different style with the national team this summer anyway so I am flexible with styles so long as it suits the teams.
Q8: Have you seen enough big players since you’ve come to Scotland to think that we maybe could have some height as well or is Scottish stature still going to be a limiting factor?
Bart Sengers: I’ve not seen the height, if I had, you’d have probably seen it as well and you would know of those players so we will have to find a way of working around this. Obviously we are looking for post players but it’s very unlikely that these players will just drop out of the sky so for now we will have to find a way to play small. As you’ve probably seen in the NBA right now, they’re playing a lot of small-ball and it’s not necessarily and issue, unless you can’t shoot. Defensively, it leaves us with some issues but we will have time to look at that and hopefully we can find some height somewhere.
Q9: You spoke about the importance of development within the first couple of years, can you just talk a bit about looking at the younger talented athletes around the country and how you will accommodate for them?
Bart Sengers: I think that this club should be an example for every female player in Scotland. Any player that has the desire and ambition should want to play for this club so if we have young girls who are performing well with their clubs or the youth national teams then I see no reason to not invite them to a practice or let them join in for a bit to have the exposure of high level training as well. Anywhere we can inspire the young talent that we do have, we should use that so I shall definitely be looking at how I can do that.
Q10: What’s been the reaction from the Scottish clubs so far? Are you going to get co-operation from clubs in terms of releasing players from their clubs to play in this team?
Kevin Pringle: That’s a good question. I think the clubs are interested in the impact on the clubs themselves and we know, we understand that some of our clubs rely on the better players to pull their teams through so we need to have those conversations. We haven’t started these yet but have said quite clearly in our communications that we will be starting with players whom are based outside of Scotland so the GB athletes and the second phase will be athletes based in Scotland with the third phase being players overseas. Although it might not happen in that order, that would be our preferred course of action. The majority of clubs are relatively positive about what we are doing. Obviously there is that concern about the sustainability and competitiveness but if we can address that then we’re hopeful that the clubs will be on side.
Q11: Your role will work alongside and influence the development of coaches across the country, what plans do you have for that side of that role?
I’m definitely excited about it but it is a little bit premature to come up with some plans for that, obviously, our practices will always be open so anyone who wants to come in can do that and have a look, discuss and be a part of it if they would like to. The idea is to have volunteer coaches for anyone who wants to be more heavily involved but does want more of a serious role in the team set up. I am definitely keen to have other coaches involved in different parts of the team as long as they are up to that. As you might have seen this morning, there will obviously be an assistant coach hired by the University of Edinburgh so that person should be involved as well. It would be great if all of these coaches were Scottish and this will be preferred to give us a chance to develop and go back to their clubs and start using the information they learn. We will also look to work with younger talent at their clubs to ensure that the coaches are there and can pick up what they want to from that. We’re looking to find a lot of ways to interact with the coaches and obviously I am more than happy to share everything that I know and that I have but coaches also need to be open for that and ask for it. If they’re proactive, coaches will have a great chance to climb on board right now and get a lot out of it.
Kevin Pringle: A small part of Bart’s role will be to do individual workouts with potential GB players, long-list players and some of the younger players who are GB potentials and the preferred option would be that the player comes in to that session with their club coach so that the coach knows what is going on and can take that back to the club level.
Q12: In summary, it’s a big challenge isn’t it?
Bart Sengers: Yes.
Q13: Is it achievable? Can we, in two years, be competitive to put a performance in at the Commonwealth Games and be competitive in the league to ensure you have a future in the league as well?
Bart Sengers: Well, I’m not so worried about being competitive in the league in that determining if there is a future. I don’t think that is really that relevant but I would have to say yes, if I did not think it was possible, I would not have applied for this job. Obviously a lot of it rests on the players that I have to work with and who is available but I am also confident that we can get them on board and enthused and get them to behave and live as performance athletes. There’s definitely talent there, it is a case of do they want to develop that talent and put in the work required of them? If we can convince them to do that then we definitely have a chance at being successful. I hope we don’t have to convince them, I hope they jump at this great opportunity.
Q14: Come the middle of 2018, the Commonwealth Games will be out the road, regardless of whether we qualify or not, will this team still be in existence?
Kevin Pringle: It is certainly the plan for the WBBL team to still exist. There are two sides to that, the first, being competitive enough and I certainly trust Bart with that, we wouldn’t put him in place if we didn’t think he was capable of developing Scottish players. If we can compete at the 2018 Commonwealth Games with this team, then we can certainly compete in the WBBL. The second challenge with this is that if we are developing players to that high standard, they may well be getting better offers elsewhere and we will not hold players back if they are going to make a living elsewhere – the question then comes down to making it sustainable financially and that doesn’t come down to Bart, that comes down to me. This becomes about developing partnerships around the programme. Getting the coach in, building the franchise and the brand all become really important in the short term to allow us to develop a package that makes the programme financially sustainable in the long term. My goal for this is certainly that this is a long term, integral part of the development pathway, it’s not a two year plan to solely prepare Scotland for the Commonwealth Games, this should be one of the aspirations for our young players, it should be part of that performance culture that Bart talks about for the next 50 years rather than the next two years.
Q15: Where are we with the men? Is there work still to be done on creating a similar programme for the men’s game?
Kevin Pringle: Yes, there is work to be done. We hope to be able to announce something next week on that and I can’t really say much more on that.
Q16: The intention for that is that it would be a similar programme for the men?
Kevin Pringle: The intention is that we have our most talented players in Scotland preparing from the Commonwealth Games.