|22 February 2006|
FIBA Europe’s Year of Women’s Basketball starts on 8th March 2006 in Pecs with a bang at the EuroLeague Women All-Star Game. The All-Star Game gathers together 24 of the best players in the EuroLeague Women and is the perfect backdrop to launch the Year of Women’s Basketball.
But the campaign is not designed to focus solely on the game’s best on-court performers.
The Year of Women’s Basketball is about raising the profile of women’s basketball, and while that revolves mainly around the players, there are plenty of other women who are impacting the game from beyond the sidelines.
One such example is Belgium women’s team manager Caroline DeRoose.
|DeRoose, who was a 2-time All-American with Rutgers, in action during EuroBasket Women 2003|
A lifestyle management advisor for professional athletes and a former national team player herself, DeRoose is using both her playing and professional experience to bring a new focus to basketball in Belgium.
Funding, as in any sports governing body is critical, and Belgium is on the right track in terms of securing finance for the national team programme.
“Basketball is now a category A sport in Belgium and we receive support from both the government and the regional Olympic Committee,” says DeRoose.
With the money available and a new coach on board (the Belgian federation have hired Valenciennes coach Laurent Buffard on a three-year contract), the next goal for DeRoose is crystal clear.
“I want to professionalise Belgian basketball.”
A key step in that process has been the use of new technology. Almost the entire national team play their club basketball outside of Belgium and regular communication is essential. Each player is asked to fill out an online diary every day detailing their practice sessions, training and general sense of well-being.
“We want to know what kind of physical condition the players are in. Then our conditioning specialists can take a look and see how the players are doing and whether they are over training. It's good to know how the players are both physically and mentally and we can give them special exercices if they have any problems,” says DeRoose
“When the players come together for national team we want to make sure they are all in good shape and ready to play. Right now we are in a transition phase with some players on professional teams, while others practice just four or five times per week. The goal is that when the players come to the national team, they are all at a similar level in terms of practice and conditioning."
This approach to monitoring players is not only used for the senior national team, but also in developing young talent.
“This is the first year of the project and it is also used in sports schools. All our national youth (young) teams are now in Europe's Division A and we want to work more on talent detection. We need to make sure that when our current generation gets older, we have the players to replace them,” says DeRoose.
Unearthing young talent is a tricky process and a key aim in FIBA Europe’s Year of Women’s Basketball is to help the national federations inspire a new generation of potential national team stars.
For DeRoose, the participation of the entire basketball community is vital for success.
“Sometimes it is not enough to work from the top. FIBA Europe can work to improve women’s basketball but the countries also need to participate actively to become successful. You cannot have high level sports without the thousands of grassroots participants who make it possible for the top level to be successful,” she says.
In Belgium, the promotion of the national team and its star players, most notably Ann Wauters, has proved invaluable in encouraging young girls to take to the basketball court.
“Ann Wauters is a star but she is not so much in Belgium. When we finished sixth in the 2003 EuroBasket Women the team was on the news every day and lots of young girls started to play basketball,” says DeRoose. “Wauters recently had a fan day in Belgium and 800 kids turned up, but she is not there (in Belgium) enough. It is therefore very positive for Belgium Basketball that she has agreed to participate with the national team."
With Buffard at the helm and Wauters back on board DeRoose is positive about the future.
"We hope that we can elevate our international basketball level during the next years. This is our main objective!”