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Dribble to Work Day: How basketball is on its way to becoming the UK’s second favourite sport
Dribble to Work Day was started several years ago on March 14th to ramp up excitement for the NCAA Women’s Basketball League, with people posting videos of them dribbling a basketball to work. The 5 million social media impressions caused quite a stir, and the event has done wonders to increase participation and awareness all over the world.
Basketball popularity has been exploding in recent years. The NBA commissioner believes basketball will be the second biggest sport in the UK. Among teenagers, it has already achieved this. With the regular NBA season game in the UK shattering record after record and basketball media presence growing, the number of young basketball players has increased dramatically.
As popularity grows, basketball can flourish in under-served communities and is a powerful tool to inspire future generations into sport and beyond.
Does funding reflect popularity?
According to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, 32% of children play basketball compared to 54% for football. Other statistics have shown that 52% of the 155,000 people over 16 that play basketball every week are of black or ethnic minority (BME) origin, the highest of any team sport. With such fantastic levels of participation throughout the UK, it’s a shame that basketball funding doesn’t reflect this.
Elite level basketball and heavily broadcasted high-profile events, like the NBA and the Olympics, do wonders for inspiring new waves of participation. Sadly, elite level funding was cut after the 2012 Olympics because of the lack of success of the GB basketball team, who competed against countries with large numbers of NBA players.
UK basketball did get some great news when Sport England, the organisation that runs local and club level sport, increased their funding for basketball. This gave birth to many fantastic and innovative grassroots projects to increase participation in both playing and coaching.
UK community projects
Basketball has had an extraordinary impact on deprived communities. Projects like the Reach & Teach network are a prime example of positive community action. They set out to provide free basketball lessons while also training local people to become coaches. This has a deeper impact than just increasing participation. It provides a constant supply of coaches to keep the project going and allows even more communities to reap the benefits of free basketball lessons.
The project has led to at least 6,500 people playing regularly and nearly 150 coaches being trained. Basketball works so well for mass participation because it’s accessible. It’s a simple sport to learn and practice that can be enjoyed with varying numbers of players - after all, you only need a hoop and a ball. Basketball’s price doesn’t exclude individuals from poorer backgrounds either, unlike other sports such as rowing, horse-riding, or tennis.
It’s these factors that give basketball its popularity and diversity, which will only increase as we move into the future.
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