Introducing… Tom Child

Tom is an alumni basketball player who completed his undergraduate and postgraduate degree at the University of Essex. He not only helped the men’s Essex Rebels team achieve success to Division 1 promotion but has gone on to a successful professional career playing basketball in Ireland for the Sligo All-Stars.

Big thanks to Tom for giving time to answer our Q&A.

Professional basketball player Tom Child of EJ Sligo with basketball on court photo by Jordan Cummings

Most memorable moments experienced while playing basketball at Essex, both on and off the court?

There are so many memorable on and off court experiences from my time at Essex that it’s hard to pinpoint which could be called ‘the most memorable’! But, certainly up there would be winning NBL 2 in my 3rd year to get promotion to Division 1 as well as beating Thames Valley Cavaliers in the cup that year. I would also include going to Macau in my 2nd year. In my fifth year, beating Leicester Warriors after trailing by as many as 38 points to stay up in NBL 1 was a definite moment to remember.

Honestly, there are too many off court memorable moments to pick but the friendships made with the likes of Jordan Gray, Tyler Mutemasango, Rory Winter and Josh Moore to name a just few are high on my list.

How did your experience as a student-athlete prepare you for your transition to playing professionally in Ireland?

My experience as a student athlete whilst at Essex was exceptionally valuable in preparing me for my time in Ireland. Having to balance academics and athletics whilst still trying to have a social life meant you had to be super organised and disciplined; these two things have been incredibly important whilst playing professionally. The biggest thing behind being organised and disciplined was my drive to succeed at both academics and athletics. Sometimes this meant long hours on and off the court, including late nights and early mornings as well as the willingness to make sacrifices.

What advice would you give to prospective student-athletes considering pursuing a dual career at Essex, based on your own journey?

If you’re considering a dual career at Essex, I would highly recommend it. I can’t speak highly enough of my time there. From a sporting perspective, the opportunities, facilities, and coaching staff and from an academic point of view, the facilities, opportunities, quality of lecturers and resources available to you is second to none in my opinion.

Just looking at the infrastructure itself, the University of Essex stands out as being an elite level facility both on and off the court and the wide range of staff available to you matches this. The best advice I would give is to be consistent. I barely played my 2nd year but I made sure Coach Ross saw me at every early morning workout so that when I got an opportunity, I was ready, and he knew that I was. It’s important to make an effort to create a real relationship with both the coaches and academic staff. If you make an effort and give to both, you’ll get the same back. Doing this whilst I was at Essex meant that I received guidance and help when I most needed it. There is no doubt that the basketball programme is set up to promote the success of student athletes who are driven to achieve their goals.

What role did the coaching staff and teammates play in your development as a basketball player during your time at Essex?

The coaches were skilled both in terms of developing me as an individual player and also creating a cohesive team of student athletes who supported and encouraged each other and who were able to recognise and play to each other’s strengths. My teammates drove me to be better each day. We had a shared goal of wanting to win which meant there was a healthy amount of competitiveness amongst all of us as we strived to be the best we could possibly be so ultimately the team could thrive.

Coach Ross would be there every early morning to open the court for extra shooting and workouts. This encouraged an environment of pushing to be your best; the facility being available and the example of Coach Ross in making this possible combined with the drive of like-minded players specifically Jordan Gray and Josh Moore created motivation to work out even on those days you felt tired.

Reflecting on your journey from undergraduate to postgraduate student-athlete at Essex, what were some key lessons you learned along the way?

The same core values that underpinned success at undergraduate level continued to be of utmost importance throughout my post graduate years and beyond:

Love for the game, self-discipline and in my opinion most important of all consistency.

How did the promotion to Division 1 help elevate your game and prepare you for the challenges of professional basketball?

Promotion to Division 1 was a huge part in preparation for playing professionally in Ireland. It also resulted in interest from and an opportunity, had I decided to take it, to play in the BBL. Promotion to Division 1 demonstrated the ability to play for and be part of a successful and winning team but also going up against better competition made me a stronger player.

What impact did being part of the University of Essex basketball community have on your overall university experience?

Being part of The University of Essex Basketball community gave me an identity and also an opportunity to have a great social life with like-minded people. This contributed immensely to my overall experience at university.

As a professional basketball player now, how do you stay connected to Essex and the development of student-athletes within the programme?

I watch all the games that are streamed on YouTube and make sure to keep a close eye on how everyone is getting on. I’m still very close with Coach Ross and in regular contact with him as well as still having friends who play on the team so naturally, I am connected in that way too.


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