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GB Basketball Gives BCU Sports Therapy Student Greg Downes a Glimpse of Life in Elite Sport

Greg Downes, a First Year Sports Therapy student at Birmingham City University(BCU), gained some invaluable work experience with the Great Britain Senior Men’s Basketball Team at a camp held in Leicester towards the end of last year. It was a fantastic opportunity for Greg, who was only in his first term at BCU, to spend three days in an elite performance setting. He talked to us about the experience

Greg, how did the opportunity come about?

It came about through Birmingham City University's BSc Sports Therapy Programme Leader Peter Thain PhD. Peter works closely with GB Basketball and he has in fact just been appointed to Team England’s medical team for the Commonwealth Game. Through his connections, this opportunity with the senior men's team was an experience not to be missed. So I applied and I was lucky enough to be selected.

How did you find your time spent with the GB team?

Originally the experience was organised for two days but I was lucky enough to be invited back for a third, in between my university timetable. All three days were very long and consisted of a hands-on approach. I shadowed Head Physiotherapist Paul Fisher, Physiotherapist Nick McCarthy, Strength and Conditioning Coach Mark Williams and Team Doctor Dane Vishnubala. I hadn’t worked with basketball players so this was a brand new experience for me and it was amazing.

What do you feel you have learnt from your experience?

For me, to be thrown in at the deep end ito a national team camp in only my first year of studying Sports Therapy, was a big step and certainly pushed me out of my comfort zone. Camp life is very different to clinical life as a sports therapist. The days I experienced were very long and never stopped but the time flew by. For Paul, Nick, Mark and Dane, their duty is non-stop for 24 hours a day, from taking baseline measurements to creating personal strength and conditioning programmes for every player. All of the staff continued to work very hard, giving the best opportunity for every player to be able to pull on the union jack jersey and still be so enthusiastic and passionate every day.

What was your highlight of the experience?

I experienced so many highlights and it would be unfair to pick out one. Right from the very first day I was included to organise the medical room and measure baseline data of each player as they arrived into camp. This gave me the opportunity to meet each player and strike up a friendship with them. The second day was more hands-on. The team had their first training session of the camp and it was a great experience to be courtside watching professional basketballers and picking Paul and Mark's brains of what to watch out for and the reasoning behind certain exercises and limitations of each player. Over the course of the next two days, players booked in with me for sports massages. This was one of my favourite highlights as I was able to put my skills to the test but also to have conversations with professional athletes when they were in a relaxed state of mind. I think being able to communicate effectively with the players enhanced both my experience and the player's experience. I was also very lucky to be invited to eat out with the team for two meals, and I really felt a sense of inclusion with the GB team.

Did you manage to watch the team play any games?

Within the camp period, two world cup qualifiers were played. I was able to see team GB play their first game of the campaign against a very good Greece side at Leicester Arena. It was my first ever basketball game and it certainly won't be the last. Team GB fought back in the last 30 seconds to level the scores, only to lose narrowly in extra time. It was fantastic to see the players and staff out on the court representing their countries and knowing that I had helped some of the players during the week.

Is basketball a sport that you’re interested in working in for the future?

After an amazing experience with a fantastic group of professionals, I would love to be involved with basketball in the future. My knowledge of basketball was very limited, and still is to some degree, but the experience I had with the staff and players made it a sport that I would consider going into in the future. I will certainly keep in touch with Paul, Nick, Mark and Dane through social media and I will definitely put my name forward if any more experiences were to arise with GB Basketball. One piece of advice Paul gave me was to gain as much experience as possible in many different sports and environments. This certainly will not be the last opportunity that I put my name forward for.

How are you enjoying life at BCU?

Life at Birmingham City University is going very well. I am really enjoying the BSc(Hons) Sports Therapy programme. It is a practical-based course with a lot of content but I am thriving on the challenge to learn and keep hold of every bit of information. The lecturers, Peter Thain, Chelsea Papworth, Tim Leary and Helena Lowe, are all very knowledgeable and consistently offer their help to all students who need it. 

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