Category: Coach Jim’s Report

Coach Jim's Report

Coach Jim’s Report: Mystics U14 at Sheffield Hatters

Following our comfortable victory over Conference side Stockport last Monday, we returned to the more competitive world of the Premier League to face our main rivals Sheffield Hatters. As we knew from the two previous contests against them, they are a strong, powerful, well-coached outfit who are ranked in the country’s top four at this level.

Without the blistering pace of Jane, the shooting prowess of Adele and the rebounding capability of Elsa, we needed to be at our best if we were to remain unbeaten. Sheffield is a city renowned for steel but on this occasion it was Manchester who showed its mettle!  Much of this was due to the make-up of our side which was as well-balanced as an expert tight-rope walker with all players on show capable of filling a variety of roles.

Despite the efforts of Sheffield’s excellent point guard and their size advantage, Mystics hard-working team defence and highly skilled offensive firepower enabled us to win all four quarters for a convincing 83-50 win. We now move on to the business end of the season with a home tie, on either 20 or 21 April, versus the team who finished fourth in the south, Sussex Storm. Will they be lightning quick or full of wind? I will endeavour to find out.

If we win that, next up will be either Kingston Lions or Lancashire Spinners on the first day of the Final Fours, 4 May. With 3 or 4 friendlies lined up in preparation, there remains plenty to play for, both for the team and individuals, as I finalise what I consider to be the most effective all-round combination of players likely to give us the best chance of success.

Thank you to my erudite assistant James, to all parents who gave lifts and their support as well as to Laura for standing in so seamlessly as team manager.

Just one training session, tonight at the Centre 5.30-7.30pm, before we all tuck in to our over-priced Easter eggs, after which we play Spinners away at 7.00pm on Thursday 4 April.

Coach Jim's Report

Coach Jim’s report: Mystics U14 at Mystics U14 2

Going into a local derby without 4 of your starting 5 could be either deemed as risky as rock climbing in flip flops or as generous as giving a small child £5 per tooth as the Tooth Fairy. The fact that all 10 Mystics u14 I’s stepped up in the game versus Mystics II proved that focus and effort can compensate for such apparent disadvantage.

We started as nervously as a soft-backed turtle swimming in shark invested water. This reduced the first quarter mainly to a shoot-out between the outstanding Akeala Daniel and the powerful E. Osifo. We shaded it 18-14 but improvement was called for and subsequently, delivered.

We simplified our offense even further to begin the second period. The girls carried this master plan (!) out to perfection to score 21 points from 7 different players to make it 3 baker’s dozens to 2 by half-time. Our third quarter haul of 26 points from a slightly different Magnificent 7 gave us breathing space at 65-41 easing into the final 10 minutes.

This may explain why the fourth quarter was as tame as a house-trained hamster. More shading, via a 13-10 score line, brought the final result to 78-51, a pleasing tally for a team without its 4 leading markswomen. Mystics II put in a spirited display as they look to cement their play-off chances. They pushed us all the way (sometimes literally!) and deserve credit for doing so without a couple of key players (not Yale and Chubb!) 

With 2 league games remaining, another win against our closest rivals, Sheffield next Saturday will see Mystics I crowned champions of the inaugural Northern premier League and ensure a #2 seeding with a home tie in the play-offs.

Thanks to James and Louise for their assistance as well as to our loyal band of supporters. 

Coach Jim's Report

Coach Jim’s Report: Mystics U14 vs Hatters

Coach Jim's Report

Coach Jim’s Report: Mystics U14 vs Spinners

The lead up to Mystics u14 I’s fixture with Lancashire Spinners last Saturday resembled a scene from ‘Casualty.’ For various reasons, mostly medical, we were without one short of a Magnificent 7 players. I’m pleased to report the 10 who remained standing honoured us with a brilliant all-round performance from beginning to end.

Sometimes, when you search for highlights, you are most likely to find them in someone’s hair. Not on this occasion. The adept finishing of Adele, Akeala, Anya and Mojan ranged from uncomplicated to draw-dropping. All four were equally impressive on defence but so were their team-mates Alycia, Eniola, Fatima, Lola, Mya and Neeusha. Whichever combination I had on the floor proved as difficult to get past as a 20 stone night club bouncer.

Our opponents do have 3 or 4 potentially high scoring players in their squad but our team defence was so in sink that they were often reduced to trying pot luck from distance. A small number did hit the mark to win them a coconut but the majority were more likely to hit the ceiling! That said, Spinners are no push overs and they competed well until the final whistle.

As mentioned previously, it is extremely difficult for young athletes to play at their optimum level for a whole game. Every now and again, (twice?) things happen that prove to be the exception to the rule. For instance, Man Utd did play quite well in one game this season and ‘comedian,’ Jimmy Carr did once say something which nearly made me smile. Likewise, in this game, Mystics treated us to some quality team basketball in every quarter. 

To register as many as 84 points without even the hint of a press against decent opposition is to be applauded. To limit them to just 34 and give our girls a victory as comfortable as an expensive mattress, bodes well for fast-approaching fixtures against Sheffield Hatters who are currently second in the Northern Premier League. We are the only team to have beaten them. We have done it once, we can do it again (and again!)

Many thanks to Louise, Ivan and our loyal band of supporters.

Best wishes


Coach Jim's Report

Coach Jim’s Report: Mystics U14 vs Newcastle

Once again, what stood out for me, apart from our bright red kit, in Mystics U14 I’s game versus Newcastle Eagles last Sunday was our terrific team spirit. Whether it be on court or on the bench, everyone roots for their teammates. They all seem to understand that trying to give reasonable court time to 12 players is extremely difficult (and not an option in close games.) This is a rare, very mature attitude for young athletes. I firmly believe that this togetherness will prove to be like a signed Thierry Henry Arsenal shirt – very valuable as time goes on, as it often does!

Before the game I spoke about mental toughness (a quality which can be taught and acquired) and how to respond positively to mistakes. Although we steamrollered through the first quarter 23-2, some of our finishing was looser than an XL t-shirt on a pet hamster. Understandably, some of our girls mirrored the fate of several English Kings and Queens in that their heads dropped momentarily. I explained that a preferable response is to quickly analyse what went wrong and move on. They are a very receptive group and I believe they will pay heed.

The fact that we missed more lay ups and put backs than there are Wonders of the World was far less of a problem than if we had been unable to create as many scoring opportunities as there are in a maximum break at snooker. Another plus was our team defence. As is always likely, our 4 internationals, Anya, Jane, Tiana and Mojan, did play exceptional on and off the ball defence (although one or two of them can be more like a tortoise than a hare in their defensive transition at times!) but so did the vast majority of their team-mates, notably Neeusha, Mya, Elsa and Alycia who can all be proud of their overall contributions. 

In attack, I was reminded of the Sioux nation getting it’s own back on the US cavalry at the Battle of Little Big Horn in that we proved too powerful for the Eagles despite the fact they never gave up and did their coach proud throughout a well officiated game played in excellent spirit. Most of our points were shared amongst 6 players, most often off the dribble but what pleased me most was the decisive and accurate passing shown by Lola T, Sophie B, Mya and Neeusha. I was also happy to see Fatima’s and Alycia’s confidence with the basketball and Lola P not being afraid to put her body where it hurts (and inevitably, it did!) 

A 76-34 victory obviously could have been even more resounding had I not shared the minutes around but players who train hard deserve the opportunity to show what they can do in case they are called upon in tougher contests. Equally important, in my opinion, I see absolutely no value in demoralising opposing players and coaches by running them into the ground accumulating an unnecessary cricket score.

Many thanks to James, Louise and Dawn for their invaluable assistance and to all parents for your support and cooperation. 

Best wishes


PS. Please note that this Thursday’s training session is from 6 til 8 at Chorlton HS – not the one I first went but the one nearly all of you hid from me at! Next game. Saturday 27 January at home to Spinners at 1.00

Coach Jim's Report

Coach Jim’s report: the local derby

Despite being like Samson after Delilah lobbed off most of his hair, -we weren’t at full strength – Mystics U14 produced a first half performance to be proud of against near neighbours Mystics II last Sunday in front of a sell-out crowd. My pre-game team talk centred around defensive roles (as opposed to forward rolls) as well as looking for the early pass rather than unnecessary dribbling. Those who were awake – it was, after all, a 10.00 tip off – certainly took notice for most of the proceedings.

Our impressive ball and player movement, orchestrated, in turn, by Adele and Akeala, were rewarded with a massive first half 50 points. Alternatively, our focus on individual and team defence since the Christmas break did what the Co-op used to do – it paid dividends. Despite their efforts, the hard-working, well-drilled (due to regular visits to the dentist?) Mystics II were restricted to a mere 12 points in reply. 

Someone must have spiked our drinks at half-time because we came out after the interval with all the energy of a sloth! Our display over the next 5 or 6 minutes proved the notion that it can be as difficult for young players to perform at the top of their game for an entire game as it is for former American Presidents and British Prime Ministers with dodgy hair to tell the truth. Our passing became as wayward as a broken Sat-nav and I was concerned that some of our girls had suddenly been stricken with colour blindness! 

A decision to start dribbling all over the place prompted me to think about playing in bibs and our previously water tight defence now had more holes in it than a golf course and a shop full of colanders. To their credit, our opponents took full advantage to win the quarter 16-20. To our girls’ credit, they appeared to list to my mixture of advice and constructive criticism and responded in ideal fashion.

I was convinced our downturn was principally due to complacency prompted by such a big lead. I called for greater focus and effort. I got it. The five who started set off like a scene from Gun Fight at the OK Coral – with all guns blazing. Multiple substitutions then, understandably, slowed our momentum somewhat but, inspired by the ubiquitous Jane and the unstoppable Mojan, we totalled 84 points. Excellent defensive displays from all 12 Mystics, most notably Neeusha, Alycia, Elsa and Mya limited our gallant opponents to 36 whilst positive contributions from Lola T, the two Sophies and Eniola are also worthy of mention.

We host Newcastle and Spinners over the next two weeks before season-defining fixtures at home and away to our biggest rivals Sheffield on 4 and 17 February.

Many thanks to James, Louise and Annette for your assistance and to all parents for your unfailing support.

Coach Jim's Report

Coach Jim’s Report: Mystics U14 vs Mystics U16 3 Friendly

Despite enough hiccups to get into the Guinness Book of Records, our friendly game – if there is such a thing – versus Mystics U16 III did go ahead against all the odds last Saturday. At one point it looked as if it had as much chance as Red Rum has of winning the 2024 Grand national! We overcame illness to the u16 coach, replaced by the U14 assistant coach James, who did a brilliant job, a very late change of tip off time plus a lack of referees. Many thanks to Esha and Sheri who stepped in and were superb.

Without our 4 internationals, who have yet to appear together in games or training, our 12 remaining u14s reminded me of Edmund Hillary’s challenge in 1953. They both had a big mountain to climb! Fortunately, it was the younger of the two sides who sprung into action in the first half. I had asked the girls to play harder and smarter than our opponents. I defined harder as getting up and down court faster, winning loose balls , rebounding early and aggressively as well as playing tough defence. Being smarter meant striving to be one move ahead with a plan A and B, doing the simple things well and winning the post-match quiz!

Our exceptional play during the opening 10 minutes yielded a massive 21 point via 7 different scorers. Our opposition appeared as bewildered as Marie Antoinette was just before her head and shoulders parted company. We were nearly as good in the second quarter and went into the interval deservedly 14 ahead at 39-25, something even Psychic Sally could not have foreseen.

In the back of my (tiny) mind, I was concerned that it would be asking too muck of such a young team to over-produce once more in the second half. The U16s have some talented players. Surely they would raise their game. They did. Big time. They used their physical superiority to their advantage by being far more aggressive going to basket and on the boards. This made defensive match ups problematic for our team. We capitulated to go into the final quarter 6 points down. This quickly extended to 11 before an impressive fight back reduced it to 6 at 57-63 by the final whistle.

We had produced basketball of a high level for 30 minutes against strong opponents and the girls should be as proud as I am of their overall performance. Sincere thanks to James, Louise, Dawn, Sheri and Esha for helping to ensure this local derby went ahead  (nearly as scheduled.)

Coach Jim's Report

Coach Jim’s Report Mystics U14 Friendly vs Northants

Amidst a dearth of league fixtures which leaves us with a spell of 1 competitive game in 10 weeks, I arranged a friendly in the not-so-nearby Northamptonshire to play Northants Lightning U14s last Sunday. As is the norm, this was one of many games which clash with Mystics u16 I so Mojan, Anya and Tiana were once again unavailable, as was Sophie O whose glass ankle gave way for a second time last week.

This meant it would be a good test for the remaining 12 Mystics U14 I squad. Fortunately, most of them are good at tests! In the event, the match was as keenly contested as the annual games of crazy golf I have with my wife (who keeps the score card whenever she wins!) Lightning stormed (!) into an early lead and first impressions were that this was going to be as tough as an arithmetic exam for an innumerate candidate. 

Some magic from Mystics (!) quickly restored parity but it wasn’t easy containing  well-drilled (their coach might be a dentist), physically strong opponents intent on driving hard to basket whether there was an open path or not. Despite not wearing body armour or crash helmets, Jane, Akeala and Neeusha courageously did all they could to minimise this threat to both the basket and their well-being. 

As the game progressed, Elsa, Eniola and Adele also put themselves in line for a gallantry award by way of some effective help defence. Eniola further assisted our cause with some very determined defensive rebounding. Offensively, in the first quarter, the excellent Mya and the effervescent Lola T demonstrated their prowess from the short corner with shooting accurate enough to to win a coconut at a fairground. Our 1 point  lead after 10 minutes became 5 by half-time thanks mainly to late baskets by the ever-improving Elsa, 3 in a row from the inspired Sophie B plus the move of the game involving Lola P and Jane.

After the break, despite no half-time oranges or cups of tea, we re-started well but fell away in the latter stages (possibly due to a lack of breath caused by too much singing on the journey!) and were 38-39 down with 9 minutes remaining. The team’s togetherness and wonderful team spirit then helped us turn things around. Jane’s one-person full-court press proved more fruitful than many an orchard. It produced as many steals as a kleptomaniac in overdrive. Our impressive team defensive transition, exemplified by Alycia, Neeusha, Adele and Lola T, nullified Lightning’s appropriately named fast break. An eye-catching score from Fatima drew thunderous (!) applause from the capacity crowd and 2 free throws (which were harder to come by than a kept promise from a politician) from the reliable Akeala sealed the deal at 56-48 to bring just reward for a team display full of all-out effort and determination.

Sincere thanks to Louise and Darren for going above and beyond to help us out. Unfortunately, there is still no venue for our Thursday evening training sessions but we do have a game vs Mystics u16 III this Saturday at 12.30.

Best wishes to both my readers.

Coach Jim's Report

Coach Jim’s Report: Mystics U14 vs Mystics U14 2

Any Mystics I versus Mystics II can be as welcome as a severe dose of cramp at 3 o’clock in the morning. As Mystics I coach, you don’t want to run up a huge margin of victory (50+) but you certainly don’t want the embarrassment of a really close game (10 or less.) This impacts on your team selection. How many of your strongest players do you omit in an attempt to be considered ‘a jolly good sport’ by the Mystics II coach? Which of their players should you have chosen to be in Mystics I? Horror of horrors, what if the unthinkable happens and you actually lose the game? (Headline on Sky Sports News: ‘Youth team basketball coach goes into hiding.’)

After many sleepless nights deciding (not really), the talented quartet of Anya (with a ‘y’), Jane, Fatima and Alycia didn’t feature for us. 3 of them came to watch and 1 was playing football for England U15s. (No, not Fatima!) To begin, I resisted the Temptation(s) (my favourite group – ask an old person!) to go with my preferred starting 5. Mystics II took advantage of my generosity/naivety to draw first blood. They looked very lively and were very much our equals (another good group) at 12-12. An even first quarter ended with us 16-12 to the good despite an unconvincing opening 10 minutes. (We normally play in red but they were in red this time and our confusion caused us to occasionally pass to a player in red!)

I thought about using an alarm clock to get my team to wake up but, instead, invited them to up their defence and start moving the basketball instead of dribbling the seams off it. They listened and performed significantly better from then on. I was pleased with our team defence in the second period which limited our worthy opponent s to just 3 baskets over the 10 minutes. That said, they did very well to restrict us to a below par 16 points.

We had discussed find ways to improve our fast break potential and putting theory into practice, we ran in 45 points in the second half in an impressive display from all 12 players. To their credit, Mystics II posted 27 points of their own to make the final score 77-45, neither a huge margin nor too close for comfort. Our opponents had thrown us a banana skin but we prefer strawberries!

Coach Jim's Report

Coach Jim’s Report: Mystics U14 at Lancashire Spinners

In theory, an away trip to Bury to play Lancashire Spinners U14s doesn’t take as long as it does to cook a Sunday roast. It took us even longer than that yesterday due to the fact that we had to contend with the fact that every car owner in Greater Manchester and Lancashire decided to take their cars out for an evening spin!

The resultant late arrival for our players and kit left us with a severely curtailed warm-up session. Instead of our usual 30 minutes, we were afforded a less-than-generous 2 minutes to prepare. This was about as useful as asking the girls to warm-up by sucking a peppermint in an igloo!

Unsurprisingly, we under-performed in the first quarter, initially falling behind when scoring appeared to be as difficult as eating soup with a fork. We managed to draw level at 12-12 before hitting our stride in the second quarter which we won 16-9 with our 8 baskets shared amongst 6 players.

I asked for a fast start after half-time and that’s precisely what I was given!  At times, we had been guilty of too much unnecessary dribbling but now no bibs were required as we replaced this with incisive ball and player movement. This yielded 23 points in 10 minutes to make the outcome as safe as a safe!

I was now able to change players as often as Italy changes its Prime Minister throughout the fourth period without compromising the outcome. We still managed to shade the quarter 15-14 to emerge with a hard-fought, fully deserved 66-48 victory over worthy opponents.

I was pleased with with number of scoring opportunities we created when we kept things simple to share the basketball rather than dribbling it into areas more congested than Tokyo (the world’s most densely populated capital city.) Our rebounding became more and more impressive as the game progressed and all 12 Mystics made positive contributions on and off the bench.

That said, the most gratifying aspect for me, as with the away game at Sheffield, was that 2 of those not playing on this occasion again turned up to support their team-mates and friends. The team spirit amongst this group is sky high. This will pay dividends in close games. Despite being happy with the win the girls seemed more delighted with the claim that they had surpassed the target I set of 5 box outs by 1 to receive the reward of donuts for all which I made in a moment of weakness. I shall refrain from demanding a recount and search some out for Sunday or Monday. 

As always, many thanks to Louise and James for all they do and to all parent taxi drivers. Your support was much-appreciated and most apparent. See you on Sunday.

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