Freya is a talented 15 year old who started playing basketball aged seven and has been playing in a team since the age of nine. Having competed in many different levels she is a talented team player who, despite lockdown restrictions and injuries, has become a role model for younger girls in the basketball club she is currently at. Since receiving a conditional offer to go to the City of London Academy to play basketball alongside her A-levels, she has been working tirelessly to improve her skills. This year her team will be competing in the under 16s National League, under 16 National Cup and, possibly, the under 18s Central Venue League. I felt it was an honour to meet with her and our interview can be found below:


1. What made basketball stand out to you and why do you enjoy it so much?


I enjoy basketball because it’s so much fun and unlike any other sport out there and the energy you get from playing it… Just the fun and the good experience you get from it is, for me, unlike anything else out there and through it I have been able to meet great people and I have been very fortunate to play with many amazing girls who are crazy talented and some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. We have become good friends and my team is filled with so many talented people and I believe it is the best team I could possibly play on just because everyone supports each other. There are some people I have been playing with since I was nine, some I’ve only been playing with a year but everyone gets on. I have an amazing coach who I play for who supports me and it just makes the experience that much better. But also the community of basketball is pretty amazing. I just love to play.


I’ve been very fortunate that my club has given me a lot of opportunities, the biggest one being able to go on tour to Barcelona in Spain. We got to play a lot of matches over there. It was good fun and good for team bonding. It was a brilliant experience and I loved it. Another opportunity was created by my coach who noticed there weren’t any open runs nearby for just girls so he decided to open one over the summer. During the summer we have to keep working, we can't stop, so I was training very hard doing seven hours a week or so and trying to keep up my fitness for the upcoming season. So I would go to open runs. We would have a couple younger girls and then we would have academy players and university players. You got to learn so much from them.


2. In your opinion what makes a good team?


Obviously it’s controversial to say we are the best team; that doesn’t necessarily mean, like, skillswise but it is, for me, the most enjoyable team to play on just because we have all the fundamentals for being a good team: we support each other, we trust each other, everyone is crazy talented. When you are doing county and England trials (if you get to that level) you’re going against each other but it’s healthy competition. We want to be better, we want to get better, we help each other, we push each other and when we’re at training, we’re playing a match or something, we get insanely competitive with each other. However, you wouldn’t see it off the court, you want everyone to do well and you can see that everyone wants their teammates to do just as well. You can’t do what you’re doing without everyone else on the court doing their job so you have to trust that to be able to do what you want to do, if you want to gamble and make a play, you’ve gotta trust that your other players, if it were to go wrong, have your back and can stop the other team. You have got to trust their ability, that they can make it and I think we do that very well.


Also our coach does so much for his players, every single one. If we release a highlight tape, he shares it and supports us. He does one-to-one sessions with us, he does extra skill and puts in extra time for us and he does truly care. He passes on wisdom to us about the game, how we can improve and just wants us to have the future that we want and helps to do that through basketball.


3. Who are your sporting heroes?


Two women I definitely idolise in basketball are Sabrina Ionescu and Paige Breckers. 

Sabrina Ionescu plays for New York Liberty which is a wMBA team and she broke the college record not just for women’s college basketball but for men’s as well and for her to be able to do that shows women’s basketball matters, we can do things just as well as men if not better. For her to be breaking these barriers is amazing. I’d love to be able to see what she’s gonna do for the basketball world next. Another girl is Paige Beckers who is currently at the University of Connecticut playing for the Huskies and she is amazing. Just the talent she has and the aspirations and her work ethic is something that I really look up to.


4. What about your experience playing basketball in school? Have you found it difficult balancing your school and personal life with basketball?


Playing basketball in school is a very different experience. It is a lot more recreational and I take it a lot less seriously. It’s a chance to let loose. I play most lunchtimes but I’m the only girl that plays howeverI play with boys that respect me and they will treat me like any other player on that court. It's so much fun and I have been fortunate to be allowed to play on the school boys basketball team due to them not having a girls one. Sadly there aren’t enough girls who would want to do basketball to be in a team so I was grateful I could play for the boys so that I could still compete. We have to inform the other schools and ask them if they are ok with me playing. We would explain I played basketball outside of school and had grown up playing basketball against boys. So I was allowed to play as long as the schools agreed. I’ve never been turned away so I got to play a lot of good competitive games. When I was younger, before we played in the national league we played in the central venue league which was a predominantly boys league.


I’m grateful I get to see my friends at school and my basketball team mates are also my very good friends so I see everyone a lot. Currently I only train about seven hours a week so I have plenty of time to do homework and see friends. However, basketball is always the top priority but I am used to it. I love it so much anyway that it isn’t a chore. Now that I am in my final year of my GCSEs the amount of work we get is far more so i find it harder to balance school and basketball. However, I can take textbooks to games and can study on the way to matches. If we have exams our coach supports us and tells us our education takes priority so we sometimes have to miss training sessions so we can revise.


5. It’s amazing your school supported you and focused on allowing you to have the same opportunities as the boys. Have you felt being a woman impacted you in any other way?


I am so grateful that so far it has not impacted me too much. It has definitely driven me to want to prove a point that girls can play basketball just as well as boys can; we can be just as successful. I have been so fortunate to be at a club where the boys are not prioritised over the girls: we get the same amount of training, we play at the same place, we wear the same kits. Sadly my experience is likely to be different to many other girls in the country.


6. It’s clear your teammates, coach, and school support you a lot. How has your family supported you also?


My family has been amazing. It’s been almost eight years of them having to drive me all around England to get me to matches and then stay and watch. I wasn’t always the best; I've definitely improved a lot over the years so they had to watch a lot of not very entertaining games when I was younger and they have always supported me and bought me what I needed to be able to play. They are at every game and give up so many weekends to be there.


7. Quite early on in your basketball journey you decided you wanted to go to a basketball academy and found the City of London Basketball Academy; can you say a bit about why you wanted to apply there?


I applied there because, starting from next year, I’m too old to remain at my current basketball academy. I have had an amazing journey however there was no way I could give up basketball and I knew that I had to continue it so the next option for me was to go to a basketball academy.

I wanted to actually see how far I can go in basketball so I decided I wanted to go somewhere that would give me more opportunities to go further in basketball after sixth form and CoLA does that. I had a meeting with the head coach who is amazing and he talked to me about the school and it’s everything that I wanted in a college. It isn’t just there for you basketball-wise; they want to make sure you get a good education so when we are there we do our a levels or btec courses alongside basketball training. It is very family-like there, they really do support each other and the girls get to play at a high competitive level. Currently there are quite a few girls at CoLA that went to the basketball club I am at at the moment. I’ve played with them over summer training sessions and they told me about the school and hearing it from their perspectives made me like it even more. They have been able to do great things there. I was given a conditional offer so if I get the grades, I’m welcome to go there and that is hopefully where I’m heading next year as soon as I get my GCSE results.


8. Leading on from this, what are your basketball related short term and long term goals?


In the short term this season I would with my team I would love to win the National League and National Cup. It’s something we’ve been aspiring to do for years and we haven't quite been able to do it yet. Also I would love to be successful at CoLA and get a scholarship to America, as the facilities and competition is at such a high level where I can continue my basketball journey. I just have to work hard for it. Long term I would like to be able to be part of a community that is as amazing as the basketball one but also just be able to have fun with basketball and continue playing it even when I am an adult. Without basketball life just seems a bit boring.


9. What difficulties have you faced so far on your basketball journey?


During the COVID-19 lockdowns we worked very hard as a club and as a team to make sure we could continue playing basketball and training however this was almost impossible. We did Insanity twice a week to try to keep our fitness levels up. However it never feels as good as training with others in real life. Lockdown was really strange because when you are training in season you see these girls every other night per week so not being able to see them all of a sudden was really strange.

Luckily when we got back from Covid, that connection definitely didn’t change, we were all still very good friends and we still got on really really well but our fitness levels were impacted. It took us a while to get back from that but we managed.

During lockdown I was extremely privileged, I mean we have girls on our team who didn't have gardens. I was very fortunate to have a nice hoop in my garden and enough space that i could get decent workouts in. I don’t know how I would have been able to have adjusted if i didn’t have that.


Also I have had a couple of injuries but, although they were severe, they could have been much worse so I am thankful they, relatively, weren’t too bad. My first injury was due to an accident at school; I had a fracture in a bone in my foot. Thankfully it was a small fracture so it wasn’t too bad but it did cause me to use crutches for a month and not be able to play for nearly two months which meant I missed a lot. I missed county trials, I missed trials for my club, I wanted to play national league basketball because it was the next step up and I was finally able to do it but I missed trials due to my injury which was very hard for me to adjust to. However I recovered from that pretty quickly and I was able to do it the next year so everything was ok.I definitely missed basketball but I was younger so it didn’t affect me as much as my second injury.


My second injury was a lot worse mentally. Again, it wasn’t too bad of an injury. I tore a ligament in my ankle whilst training but the training that day was one of the first ones since coming back from COVID. We were just allowed to start going back inside and playing matches and I rolled my ankle worse than I cared to admit to anyone and I decided to hide the injury so I could play as I had waited for six months and didn’t want to miss it. By doing this, stupidly, I had made the injury a lor worse, who knows. It may not have even been torn originally. But it eventually led me to being out for two months and that was very hard as I had already missed six months. I just wanted to get back. All I wanted to do was play and I couldn’t. However I would go to practices and watch them and help out when I could. But it was strange and hard not being able to play. I would referee at training but was not popular; I wasn't liked as a referee! I was a bit slow at making calls and missed a lot so I got a lot of annoyed shouts but it was all in a jokey way. But yes people weren’t too pleased when I refereed.


If you have an injury I would advise you straight away talk to people who know what to do and make sure you don’t push yourself as you don’t want to get injured again. When you have recovered then work hard and you will soon be back on track.


10. And finally, have you got any advice you would like to give to any young girls who want to start basketball?


Ensure you have fun with it as it’s so important. It is one of the great things, and probably the best thing, about basketball and any sport really that can be so fun. There will be times when your training will be harder but just push through it and work hard and you will get to where you want to be. Also, there is a sport out there for everyone so just keep looking and trying out each sporting opportunity you get.