Category: Coach Jim’s Report

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.

Coach Jim's Report

Coach Jim’s Report Mystics U14 at Sheffield

Despite being understrength, Mystics U14 came through their toughest test so far this season when entering the Land of the Giants to play the previously unbeaten Sheffield Hatters on the wrong side of the Pennines last Saturday. This particular Battle of the Roses again saw red triumph over white in a contest of contrasting styles.

We rely heavily on our speed and could raise a couple of very good 4 x 100 metre squads from our team. Their strength lies in their strength! Consequently, we sought to out-run them. They wanted to pound the basketball into the paint (the key, not a tin of Duluxe brilliant white emulsion.)

This worked very much to our advantage throughout the first half. Our excellent starting 5 of Jane, Mojan, Tiana, Mya and Eniola ran up and down quicker than a high-speed lift to dominate the first quarter by 21-8 and the second by 25-11. My calculator informs me that this meant we led 46-19 at half-time, with Akeala, Adele and Elsa filling in admirably when called upon to give those team-mates gasping for breath a deserved break. Up to now, I had only been able to give Sophie and Fatima very brief appearances but neither let us down in any way.

Sky Sports News would have deemed this to be ‘game over,’ while Bet Fred would have locked their doors. However, whatever Sheffield had to drink during the interval caused a re-think. They were now proving more awkward than trying to write a letter with your wrong hand with gloves on in the dark! They were helped by the fact that, for some unknown reason, we had stopped doing what had worked so well in the first 20 minutes. They won the third quarter 13-20.

Adjustments were required and suggested. Their parents may disagree, but these young ladies are an obedient bunch. They responded well to the advice given and pushed our lead back up to a very safe 25 points before those who hadn’t had the chance to get out of breath were afforded at few minutes to show their worth.

Our 69-51 victory over worthy opponents was fully merited in a performance which bodes very well for the future. Many thanks to James, Laura and Louise for all their invaluable assistance and to all parents/taxi drivers for your wonderful support.

Coach Jim's Report

Mystics U14 2 couldn’t catch the Breakers


An away quarter-final tie requiring a 300+ mile round trip to darkest Buckinghamshire to play the country’s number 2 seed sounds daunting for any U14 1st team. That was the latest challenge facing Mystics U14 II and a mere 4 minutes in, with the scoreboard reading 0-11 it appeared to be on a par with someone falling off a cliff – one step too far.

A time-out to insist that nerves needed to disappear plus a suggestion that attempting to beat the land speed record on every possession was not the way to go, was made and heeded. All 5 Mystics showed the obedience displayed by champion sheep dogs to turn things round.

Despite sounding more like an urban street dance crew, Milton Keynes Breakers are a well-drilled, lightning quick side. Nevertheless, by moving the basketball with speed and precision instead of opting to over-dribble which had proved to be as fruitless as a dead apple tree, we went on a stunning 21-12 run to bring the score to 21-23. With the momentum heavily in our favour, foul trouble (which dogged us throughout) forced me to take a key player off (not Chubb or Yale!).

Now unable to use the defensive match-ups which were causing problems for the opposition, the deficit swelled to 15 by half-time as confidence began to sag in some of our players. My half-time cosy little chat focused on self-belief and simple strategies for combatting a 5 out offense with clear outs for one on one drives to basket.

At least one of them must have listened because we totally bossed the third quarter even with having to endure more foul trouble – in this case not a troublesome chicken! We won this 10 minute period 23-18, in no small part thanks to an incredible 16 points from our inspired captain in the quarter. 

In the ascendancy once more, this time our momentum was hampered by 2 loud spurious claims. The first, which appeared to come either from an adult on Milton Keynes’ bench, or someone hiding under it, felt it worthwhile to inform everyone that ‘combination defences are not permitted at this level.’ ?????? Possibly as baffled by this as everyone else was, a home supporter seemed to disagree. ‘It’s a zone,’ he shouted. I can only assume that this was code for ‘That can be the only reason why they are catching up.’

He could have been a VIP because without evidence or consideration, the referees suddenly (and immediately) came over to tell me we were playing a zone! My assistant, James and I both explained simply and factually why this was not the case. Both team’s defences were similar and remained as they had been throughout. One referee listened intently and seemed to waver. The other one didn’t. Ten seconds later he charged us with a technical foul for playing a zone!

Although this didn’t have a huge impact on the eventual outcome, it did throw us out of our stride at the beginning of the fourth period. We missed 5 early lay-ups in a row which resulted in 8 breakaway points at the other end. That plus mounting foul trouble caused the game to gradually slip away. This prompted me to make liberal substitutions throughout the final 6 minutes with such frequency that some players thought they were coming while others thought they were going and vice versa! Our opponents capitalised upon this to stretch the margin to a flattering 24.

This is not a true reflection of how tough a contest it was for both sides.  Milton Keynes coped well with our superior size, shot exceedingly well from their multitude of free throws (garnered from the massive total of 31 fouls awarded against us) and got a number of steals from their press when we had bench players on the floor. Our never-say-die youngsters played their hearts out but struggled defensively with the opposition’s pace and organisation.

There is always likely to be disappointment after a defeat but it is imperative to lose with grace and dignity without blame. On this occasion, the team who made less mistakes won the game but I do believe that if we played them again things might be different! 


Coach Jim's Report

The dance goes on for Mystics U14 2

U14 girls play-offs last 16. Manchester Mystics U14 II 53 Harris Federation Knights 51.

For a second team to qualify for the play-offs is highly commendable. To then get through to the Quarter Finals is exceptional. To do so when trailing by 7 with 90 seconds to go in a tight, low-scoring affair is bordering on the miraculous!

Harris Federation Knights not only has the nation’s longest U14 team name, they are also blessed with possibly the physically strongest. We would have stood no chance in a tug of war head-to-head! When we really needed her, Oldham’s most powerful teenager, Victoria, decided to abscond to Austria (maybe to challenge Arnold Schwarzenegger to an arm wrestle.) We certainly missed her rebounding prowess.

As predicted, this was never going to be a tie in which I could fully involve all 12 Mystics, but I’m pleased to say that they all rejoiced as one in the final celebration, which shows what wonderful team spirit we have. In a game such as this whereby the outcome is as unpredictable as how many crimes Donald Trump will go unpunished for, every substitution is likely to be game-changing. 

It was immediately evident that Harris’s talented #13 made everything tick for them and after Jane picked up her second foul early on, it was left to our much-improved team defence to ward off her strong drives to the basket. They did well collectively, which reduced the opposition to trying their luck with pot shots from distance. It turned out to be their lucky day because 9 of their 14 points came via this route, with three two-handed 3 pointers thudding off the backboard and through the hoop.

This meant that, despite being the more creative side, we could only muster the slenderest of 1st quarter leads at 15-14. A combination of ‘big match nerves’ plus a tendency to rush and look for the killer pass resulted in too many missed lay ups and turnovers. We were also struggling on the boards against a very strong rebounding team.

The second quarter proved to be equally close. This affair was now as tight as any Yorkshireman, most of whom view every pound in their possession as a prisoner! Knights shaded it 15-16 to tie proceedings at 30 apiece at half-time. We were the fundamentally superior outfit, but lack of experience in close games had made us play too quickly and over-complicate things. My half-time team talk centred around slowing down, relaxing making shorter passes and being more aggressive in our rebounding. I assured the girls we would be fine!

The third quarter did not go well. I made too many changes which upset our rhythm so that we only managed 4 baskets in 10 minutes. This meant we trailed by 5 with 10 minutes to play. That may not sound much of a deficit, but in an even, low-scoring game, clawing it back would be as difficult as trying to eat soup with a fork!

We continued to struggle on the boards, but our hard-working team defence meant we were still in with a fighting chance if we stayed focused and more composed. We did. The five who came out for the fourth quarter sparkled like Elizabeth Taylor’s diamond wedding ring as we quickly narrowed the gap to one at 42-43 with 4 unanswered points. A great play by the Londoner’s leading light restored their lead before potential disaster struck. We missed two open lay ups, and they increased the margin to a whopping 7 thanks to a couple of speculative heaves, ironically from the previously anonymous #7, which crashed, rather than swished, home.

Knight’s excellent coach now called a time-out, after which it became obvious, he had told his players to run down the clock. Having spotted this, I called out of my own to offer a counter derived in discussion with my able assistant James. The response from the 6 players I used in the dying embers of the contest was magnificent. We scored 9 points without reply in the final minute and a half, combining it with such good interior team defence that our worthy opponents could not find a way to add to their tally.

The reaction from those on the bench plus the home support was worthy of the occasion. We had won this ‘cup final’ to create another one, away to the country’s number 2 seeded team, Milton Keynes in the land of the plastic cows… If we can capitalise on lessons learned from today’s encounter, we could cause them problems.

Many thanks to Louise and Andy for their never-failing assistance, to James for his insightful observations, to Alina and family for helping to set up the court, to all parents and supporters as well as to a group of young ladies who never give up.

Best wishes