WBBL star Stef Collins has been there, done that and got the T-shirt. And she can pair that T-shirt with more than 130 Great Britain caps following a stellar basketball career that has taken in the London 2012 Olympics and numerous domestic finals with Cardiff Met Archers writes @rushonrock .
Now player-coach with the top-flight Welsh club, the 34-year-old has one eye on the future – a future that suddenly seems far less uncertain thanks to a new initiative aimed at preparing players for life after basketball.
“One of the biggest challenges basketball players face is adapting to a life that doesn’t create the same buzz, adrenaline rush and competitive challenge of playing in games,” said Collins.
“A rigorous routine and methodology have been ingrained in basketball players from an early age and that can make things very challenging as they try to explore a different outlet. “For many players who go straight into the workplace the daily Monday-Friday schedule can be daunting in terms of working normal office hours.
“However, most basketball players who have succeeded at an elite level are already well equipped with the mental skills needed to cope with demands placed on them. And they have developed basic life skills in the team environment.
“The real challenge is away from the court in building that knowledge and understanding of how to put that into practice and shift their focus.”
That’s where the Certificate In Talented Athlete Lifestyle Support (TALS) comes in. The qualification is being offered to former – and soon-to-be-retired – professional basketball players by the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS) and the European arm of the sport’s world governing body, FIBA. Its aim is twofold – to retain the expertise and skills of elite players and train those players to use that experience to advise and inspire the next generation of hoops heroes.
TASS is building a global reputation as a provider of dual career support. It already supports more than 400 UK-based athletes in full-time education and FIBA spotted an opportunity to work alongside the Sport England-backed organisation in order to deliver a groundbreaking programme to a group of international stars.
Kamil Novak, the FIBA Executive Director Europe and former Czech international star, echoed Collins’ sentiments. He said: “Planning a career following retirement as a professional athlete can be a daunting prospect across most sports. Basketball is no exception and we are delighted to have found the right partner to offer this exciting initiative.”
Belgian Anne Wauters, who plays for Los Angeles Sparks in the WNBA, is one of the many European players encouraged by FIBA to embrace TALS. She said: “I am in the autumn of my playing career and am preparing a new chapter of my professional career.
“It is hard to let go of something you have been doing pretty much your whole life and you are so passionate about. This new project gives me the opportunity to stay involved in sports in a different role and try to make – particularly women’s – basketball more professional.”
It is hoped a second group of basketball players will enrol on the TALS course in 2018 with interest in the scheme soaring. Guy Taylor, TASS National Director, said: “We are excited about our partnership with FIBA and the support we are offering more than 40 world class athletes as they look towards their future careers.
“Our TALS course will provide the athletes with the necessary skills they will need to guide future stars across the world and ensure they can make the most of the opportunities available to them.”