|04 August 2010|
England U16 coach Simon Fisher believes his team are 'heading in the right direction' and their preparations have given them a clear idea of what they need to do to earn promotion to Division A at the European Championship in Tallinn, Estonia.
Despite only having limited time together after the end of school exams, Fisher's squad have managed to cram in nine internationals as warm-ups for the event, finishing with a 5-4 record.
They finished with a defeat, going down 78-71 to Estonia before a planned game against Belgium had to be cancelled, but Fisher still came away happy.
"The overall record of 5 and 4 is heading in the right direction," he said. "We competed well in parts of every game, but the positive aspect is the progression from the first game against Belgium where we lost by over 20.
"We deserved to lose as we didn't recognise the levels needed, up to the final game in the tournament in Denmark against the Netherlands. This was important as the Dutch will be in Estonia with us.
"The level of play was two or three steps above, the passion and commitment to the overall concept was shown on and off the floor, and most importantly the players started to believe what the core essence of the European team should be."
Like all the Great Britain and home nation coaches, Fisher has been working closely with GB performance pathways director Warwick Cann in an effort to co-ordinate the development programs and raise standards across the board.
The closer relationships across the board are helping teams inspire one another, and Fisher is now hoping to emulate the success of the GB U20 women, who earned promotion to Division A by winning their tournament a little over a week ago.
"We can all aspire to the A division, and the GB U20 Women will realise that aspiration, but I believe to get to there we need to compete at that level, so the games 'opened our eyes' to the gaps," he said.
"The final element saw games in Estonia, in the same gyms as the games will be played in the Euros. This hopefully will help with acclimatisation, and relax the players within the environment we are in. The three days' training we have as well can help 'iron out' the lessons we have taken from the international games we have played to this point."
Fisher took his team to the semi-finals last summer, and now wants to push on one stage further. However, he does not want to get ahead of himself.
"The focus for this age-group like any other in the first instance should be to get into the second round, and achieve a top 8 finish," he said.
"It is encouraging, however, with the results that the other national teams are recording. I know the players want to emulate that. My job along with the other member of staff is to focus their minds to the task in hand.
"With the fact they are 15-16 year olds, taking pressure off them and getting them in the 'zone' playing with freedom is a key to success."
England have been drawn in Group B alongside Ireland, Belarus, Czech Republic, and Slovak Republic.