This Member Showcase we talk to Gillian Thomson, Trustee, Secretary and Treasurer at Falkirk Fury Basketball Club about their success developing talent and the challenges of keeping girls in the sport.
Who are Falkirk Fury and how did the organisation come about?
“We are a basketball club based in Falkirk and Grangemouth in Central Scotland. The club was started by John Bunyan, our Head Coach and his son Keith, the Senior Men’s Captain, 27 years ago. The first season they had to play Division 2 at U18 and managed to be promoted at the end of that season. We now have 16 teams, from U10 to Senior Men and Women. Over the years the club has produced many internationalists, including the recently retired GB Captain Kieron Achara.”
What benefits does your club bring to young people and the local community?
“We have a really family atmosphere in our club. Our players form firm friendships through the sport. We try to make allowances for those not so well off and try to keep our fees as low as possible – it may well be the lowest in Scotland. Our teams have the largest spectator support of any basketball club in Scotland with Senior Men games seeing 300+ at home games, this includes our younger players who come to watch after their own training sessions. We do have support from the local community and business to help the club strengthen both financially and socially.
Because John started the club for his son 27 years ago, who then went onto play professionally, there’s a lot of respect shown from the younger players. He has a presence in all 16 teams, so they know who he is, they know who his sons are and what they’ve achieved and how many internationals we’ve had over the years. He’s got a great pedigree which the kids admire. He also well known in the local community as he works in one of the High Schools in Falkirk supporting their basketball academy…plus he used to be a policeman!
We are a very multi-ethnic club, which you may not think would be the case in a small area of Falkirk and Grangemouth. Our Senior Men’s team has a mixture of nationalities. Being one of the strongest non-professional clubs in Scotland we attract ex-players from the professional leagues. We also have strong ethnic representation in the lower age groups, which encourages other kids from all backgrounds.”
What challenges do you face running your women and girls teams?
“About 30% of the club’s membership is female at the moment – we have girl Under 12,14,16,18 teams and a Senior Women team. But by the time girls reach 16 to 18, there’s a large dropout rate, which is common in sport and physical activity and we’re lucky to have girls to play across team age groups. We know that’s the danger area, so we work hard to keep people in the club and strengthen the number of girls coming through.
We have several female coaches which is a strong benefit to our female teams and provides them with a safe and understanding environment in which they can flourish. But like a lot of grassroots sport club we recognise the need and benefits of keeping girls and young women in the sport. I’m constantly having conversations with my male counterparts that they don’t know what it’s like to be a woman! ‘Boys don’t pass to you even if you’re really good, you have to really prove yourself first!’
I’ve worked in PE and sport for 38 years and have seen many initiatives to encourage more girls to be active. There’s no easy answer, you just have to try and chip away because you’re battling against social influences, gender stereotypes and peer pressure to conform. It’s not even confined to more recreational players. I’ve seen girls playing at international Scottish level drop out because of these pressures.”
What are the organisation’s plans for the future?
“We would like to have our own venue at some time in the future and be able to field a team in the British Basketball League. At the moment these are only aspirations as this would take major sponsorship and huge financial outlay. Our short term plans are to continue to provide strong teams in the leagues which we compete building on our seven national titles this season and work with partners basketballscotland and sportscotland to strengthen the girls game making the membership of the club 50% male / female!”
To find out more about Falkirk Fury, please click HERE.