Hi Bridget. Support through Sport UK is delighted to meet the co-founder of walking basketball. Can you tell us when, how and why the idea came to you?
The idea happened as a 'light-bulb moment' for two people in two countries! My co-founder - Creon Raftopoulos (former Head Coach of Surrey Heat Pro BBL team) - was in America last July and saw some veteran players playing a very slow-paced game of basketball, as they were all in rehab for injuries. At the same time, I was in the UK and saw an article in our local paper about walking football. As soon as Creon was back, I asked him if we could set up walking basketball and he said yes. So I secured funding from England Basketball and, in November, started some sessions in Guildford, Surrey. Creon is now our Head Coach. Initially, we worked with the Heat Community Foundation Basketball Charity in Surrey, but have gone on to launch Walking Basketball Limited in order to roll out the sport across the UK and to act as a base and Governing Body for the sport.
What groups is walking basketball specifically aimed at?
We have started with the over-50s. It's a great, low-impact (on joints) - but high-cardio - sport and allows people over 50 to play a competitive team game. The game encourages camaraderie and team-working when thinking about tactics. Most sports for the over 50s are for single players and can lead to isolation. We play mixed games and even have couples who come along to play together. We think that the game could be appealing / useful to many other age groups and abilities in the future, e.g. obese children, post-pregnancy mothers, basketball veterans, people going through rehab ... the list goes on!
Are the rules exactly the same as for normal basketball (apart from the 'no running' part)?
Creon has developed a specific set of rules that ensure that players partake in brisk walking up and down the court - no standing around for us! The rules flush with the FIBA rules (FIBA being the International Basketball Federation), but are tailored accordingly.
Do participants find that they're often tempted to break into a run?!
Yes! Everyone does in the first few sessions - but you learn to control yourself!
What do your players list as being the benefits of playing walking basketball?
'Often, our advancing years can give us problems with joints, mobility etc. that can limit our ability to play at speed. So walking instead of running gives us the opportunity to partake in this great sport. All things considered, I am able to embrace growing old and have as much fun as I did in my school years.'
'I have been playing basketball for over 50 years and, after many injuries, I never thought I would play again. I really enjoy walking basketball. It’s great to be back on court after so long. It’s fun and it's good exercise. The games are surprisingly good, considering most players are beginners. I hope to develop my skills by doing a Level 2 Coaching Course to allow me to help with sessions in other areas. All in all, I have a great time with some nice people and I find it very rewarding.'
'I have been going to the gym for some years, partly to improve my circulation after having my varicose veins stripped, partly to prevent muscles and joints seizing up. But working by yourself in the gym gets a bit boring. Walking basketball is more fun - you are taking part in an activity with other people and I find I work up a sweat, get out of breath and generally get more exercise in an hour of basketball than I would from spending a similar length of time in the gym.'
Where in the UK can people play walking basketball?
We are introducing new sessions all the time. We are looking for Level 2 Basketball Coaches to train at one of our coaching clinics where we will certify them to go away and run sessions in their local area. If any coaches are interested, please get in touch with us.
So where can interested parties find out more?
Thank you for chatting to us, Bridget. We love what you've done and are doing!