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Bristol Flyers Women - Inspiring a generation

One regular, and much-welcomed, feature of all Flyers Women home games is an enthusiastic and vocal crowd of young supporters.

For the Flyers, having a young fan base means more to them than just home support – it’s a chance to light the fire for future generations of women’s basketball. 

“It's great to see so many girls at games. They give the team a real boost by being there and cheering us on,” says the team’s captain Fiona Fox.

Guard Liisa Juul agrees: “I love when young fans come and see us. They always cheer so loudly, and we feel the support on our home court.”

Although basketball enjoys popularity among young people in the UK, a lack of grassroots learning programs will prevent many aspiring athletes from pursuing it as a career sport - this is something the Flyers Women are looking to rectify.

Aware that seeing a game is just the first step on the journey for future basketball players, they have set about creating new playing opportunities and providing guidance for young girls who want to take up the sport.

“It’s amazing knowing we have a chance to inspire a whole new generation of female basketball players,” says Erin Hunter, who plays an active part in the Flyers’ youth operations.

“Getting to talk to them and tell them that we’ve all been through the same things they are now is really important. Now I get to be the person I wish I had when I was their age.”

Erin Hunter

The expansion of their youth operations includes creating new youth teams and running training camps for girls. 

Those who attended their latest camp were all put through their paces by the team’s top players, but said they were learning a lot, having fun and already feeling excited about their futures in basketball.

Mai Zilbeti, Flyers Women star and coach of their Under-10s girls team, talked to bristolflyers.co.uk about getting her young prospects to think different, as many of them were entirely new to the sport: “The majority of them have never even seen a basketball game before, so with most of them we have to start from nothing.

“We started with just a few girls, three basically, and now we’ve got around 50,” she explains. “We only get one training session a week with them, but there’s a lot of progress made every time. It’s amazing to see how much they improve.”

The Flyers are already starting to see their investments in the future pay off: a new Under-16 squad is seeing great success in their inaugural season, while one of their players, Molly James, has appeared for the Great Britain team at the Under-16 European Championships.

“It fills me a tremendous amount pride and satisfaction to see such a great response to our new girls’ program,” says Flyers head coach Gareth Till. 

“I think it will really inspire a future generation of players and fans of the sport. Our senior women are now role models and I think that’s exciting for the future of basketball in Bristol.”


ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR

Written by Jack Ford. A recent member of the Flyers Family, Jack has been volunteering with Bristol Flyers writing game reports on Flyers Women for the website and game day programme.