2023 A SEASON TO REMEMBER
Teesside Lions have enjoyed their most successful season so far as a club and community, but Club Chief James Thomson is eager to not only maintain but expand bigger and better next season.
Teesside enjoyed two teams winning their leagues as undefeated champions at National League level, with the senior men achieving all the known criteria for promotion into Division Two. All clubs must re-submit applications to join the National League and this process will begin shortly.
The Lions u14 team were the other unbeaten winners and the club produced its first England capped player in 13 year old Oscar Mahoney who played an important role in England u14 team achieving bronze at the Globasket Tournament in Spain during the Easter break.
29 players from the club were sent to the North-East Aspire programme with Oscar Mahoney and Charlie Bryson selected to attend North Super Region Camp.
This season Oliver Hylands was brought in to coach the men and assist in delivering junior national league training sessions to ease the burden on James Thomson who directs and coaches the entire junior National League programme.
While his work has helped to shape the players within the club, deliver successful campaigns, and an England Call-up for Oscar, James himself cannot coach four teams and continue to expand, and the need for additional high-level coaching has been identified as a priority.
During the off season, plans are already underway to hold a coaching course to up-skill and qualify coaches within the club. The same is underway for a referee’s course and plans are in motion to hold a table officials and stats course.
It is vital that players and willing parents can access these courses, and support the ever-expanding programme. With more teams, the need for more officials is greater than ever and a rota of able officials is now essential moving into next season.
The core of coaches continues to expand and improve with young coaches Max Croft and Eddy Smith proving valuable assets. 16 year old pair Charlie McKenna and Harrison McDonnell have both advanced their knowledge and techniques to deliver strong coaching sessions.
Rob Bryson and Chris Rhodes have also been valuable members of the coaching team. Rob in particular has been on hand to coach various teams on game days throughout the season, and played a significant role in a number of u14 games as they enjoyed their record season.
Next season the club is hoping to add an extra u12/u14 team and a girls junior national league team and also enter a team into the Durham Women’s League.
To achieve all of this in a sustainable way, not only does the club need to add additional training sessions, but also game days which adds significant cost.
The current membership system is a great way for players to maximise sessions, especially with the unlimited option that allows keen players to rapidly boost their development by attending as many sessions as possible for just one cost.
The popular Tribal League has continued to go from strength to strength with 12 teams in the mini league which is for primary aged players. The Junior Tribal League for secondary aged players was expanded to 8 teams.
In addition to the junior National League and Tribal League teams, the club also operated regional Durham League teams. Our experience in the Durham League CVL was a little disappointing due to the short notice given prior to each event, and lack of a schedule for parents and players to plan around.
We are reviewing our options for local league competition next season, and in discussions with other clubs around potential opportunities.
Thankfully, our players have had their Tribal League games to provide consistent competitive games. On a positive, both our U12 boys teams finished first and second in the Durham CVL competition and the u12 girls team enjoyed game experience against external teams.
Our academic partners in Bede College and Teesside University have also enjoyed progressive seasons with Bede currently topping the AOC North and have ambitions plans to enter the CBL next season which will provide a higher standard of competition for players in the area wanting to aspire towards elite level basketball.
Teesside University were promoted in the previous season and had a target of consolidating their presence in BUCS T3B. The team finished fourth in the league and were close to a third placed finish but for a few mistakes and injuries.
The Teesside Uni second team enjoyed a good year of development and a strong season in the Senior Tribal League where they finished in second place.
A hybrid team of Teesside Lions and University players was formed this season and competed in the Durham Men’s League in Division One and Division Two. This also provides the opportunity for students who graduate to continue playing basketball. Current students Aldrich Atkinson and Joe Kavanagh, along with recent graduates Gideon Olalekan, Sam Morgan and Joseph Onyia all featured this year.
Current lecturer Antony Cain also plays for the team as does the oldest player in the league Bulent Yalcin at 68. Bulent graduated from Teesside University in 1978.
In a move to provide opportunities for female players at Teesside University and in the local area, Teesside Lions will be entering a women’s team into the Durham Women’s League next season.
In the community our Role Models project was launched with support from OPCC via their CURV fund, and support from Thirteen Housing Group. Role Models delivered sessions and engagement within schools and the community in Hemlington and West Middlesbrough.
The project was an excellent success and helped to engage with more than 7000 people with the aim of using basketball players and coaches from the club as Role Models in the community to support and direct young people into positive activity using the vehicle of basketball.
The project and the work of James Thomson was featured heavily in the local media including BBC News and BBC Radio Tees. James was asked to speak with Amy Oakden as an Inspirational man of the area on International Men’s Day. James was also awarded recognition for services to North East Sport, along with Teesside Lions being named North East Team of Year by Radio Tyneside. He has also been asked to feature in the ‘Local Hero’ piece within The Bridge magazine, following on from none other than the legend Chris Kamara. James also won the Teesside University Coach of The Year for the League Championship season of 2021/22.
Men’s coach Oliver Hylands was awarded the NBL D3 North Coach of The Year and Luke Mitchell the Player of The Year, which is great recognition for a memorable season.
James takes pride in the club’s ability to not only provide, but also develop Role Models and is pleased to have had a positive effect on Riley Anderson who joined the club at 15 years old and has benefitted both physically and mentally from his involvement in the club and is an example of how effective the Role Models project can be.
Riley has not only progressed as a player, but also as a person. He was a member of the senior men’s team this season. Basketball has helped provide him with a direction in life and this has now led to the Royal Navy which he joined in March.
In addition to Riley, this season has seen a further three junior players suit up for the men’s team with 16 year old Charlie McKenna a regular feature, and 15 year old Ben Grimes & 13 year old Oscar Mahoney gaining valuable experience too.
Off the court the club continues to grow and we have attracted new partnerships with CIPHER Medical and Thirteen Housing Group as well as the continuation of long running partnerships with JSC Electrics, Concept IT and Ryze.
The clubs fan base continues to grow with many games this season attracting between 600-1000 spectators. The feedback has been excellent and the Game Day experience and atmosphere is recognised as one of the best in the country.
It is hard to believe that the National League journey began just five years ago with a group of young players entering the u14 league. The following year the men’s team was formed. It’s even more incredible considering the significant disruption Covid delivered in 2019.
All of these achievements and much more will be celebrated at the annual presentation evening which is also an opportunity for players, family, fans and sponsors to come together and enjoy a party. Tickets will be cheaper this year at just £5 and includes entertainment. There will be no food on this occasion so please eat prior.
The end of season presentation evening will take place on Saturday 27th May at The Hub, Teesside University. Tickets are limited capacity and available now via the shop section of TeessideLions.com