In this first phase, many of the foundations of future success were laid.
The creation of an extended team of staff, including the appointment of a coach responsible for leading the men’s senior team, and assistant coaches in place for each team; a Performance Manager leading our five performance sports, a Strength and Conditioning Coaching Team; an on-site sports therapy clinic; the development of strong links with the Human Performance Unit, and the planning and completion of a new state-of-the-art Essex 1,655 seat Essex Sport Arena, the largest indoor spectator sporting venue in the East of England, which opened to much acclaim in January 2018.
Coach Sadler, was recruited to the post of Head of Basketball Performance for the 2018/19 season and over the next five years led the women’s Essex Blades program to 4 BUCS Premier South titles and in 2022 they were crowned the BUCS overall national champions, bringing the title to the University of Essex for the first time.
The step-up to the WBBL, with the Rebels Women’s team competing with professional teams was challenging, with the Rebels winning only 3 games in their first 2018/19 season. However, the women’s team now aspires to be in the WBBL play-offs each year, features in the latter stages of knock-out competitions – and on its day, the women’s team is capable of beating almost any team in the WBBL.
Coached by Ross Norfolk the men’s team is also now firmly established in Division 1 of the NBL, with the Essex Arena one of the most popular venues on the basketball circuit. Both teams have a strong ethos, a coach-led athlete development focus and a family feel – and both teams share a habit of leaving it late to win games.
In the 2018-23 period, the Essex Rebels programme launched a complete pathway through schools’ engagement, children’s activities and a junior club.
We now have one of the largest junior basketball programmes in the country with around 350 children attending weekly activities, supported by an amazing team of 14 volunteer staff.
The Junior Club management team is led by Rob Angira, who was recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2021 for his work with the club.
Our Essex Rebels professional players are now delivering school assemblies and PE taster sessions to around 3,000 children each season, and we also collaborate with local charities and Essex Police in delivering basketball in local parks in areas of social deprivation.
Off court, the University has supported the basketball programme with the creation of sector leading locker rooms.