Portsmouth Force wins southern region Community Club of the Year from Basketball England

A Portsmouth basketball club has received a community award from a national body in recognition of the work they have done over the past year.
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Portsmouth Force has been awarded the Community Club of the Year for the southern region by Basketball England, triumphing over a number of clubs in a region that includes the south-east and south-west. The club has grown exponentially since being taken over by chairman, Rob Milner, who wanted to ensure his children had somewhere to play. It now has nearly 400 players and 14 teams across varying age groups. In 2022 they entered Portsmouth's first senior men's team into the National Basketball League for over a decade.

Despite their growth over recent years, the award still came as a surprise to Rob. He said: "We are all a little bit shocked to be honest because we didn't feel like we were one of the bigger players, but clearly we are. The winner last year was Milton Keynes which has quite a big set up so you almost don't believe that you are up at the level of the big boys but we are.

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"The community aspect of the award is really what is nice to focus on because there are so many moving parts and so many people, its not a club that is run as a business, for any one person's pocket or any businesses profits. It is just about accumulating volunteers, who can coach all these teams. Last year we had 14 teams across all of the age groups, while five years ago we only had two or three. Next year we could have up to 16/17 teams playing basketball in Portsmouth."

Portsmouth Force were awarded the Community Club of the Year award for the southern region by Basketball England. Members of their youth team gathered for a picture at half time of their home game against Canterbury Academy Crusaders on Saturday, March 16.Portsmouth Force were awarded the Community Club of the Year award for the southern region by Basketball England. Members of their youth team gathered for a picture at half time of their home game against Canterbury Academy Crusaders on Saturday, March 16.
Portsmouth Force were awarded the Community Club of the Year award for the southern region by Basketball England. Members of their youth team gathered for a picture at half time of their home game against Canterbury Academy Crusaders on Saturday, March 16.

Rob added: "We have the senior team which is the end product, but also a local league men's and woman's team. We have basketball for under 10s which is the first time we have had that. From the age of three to seven they can play what we call fun and fundamentals basketball, where they can turn up and have fun. Once they get to seven or eight they can start playing competitively. The dream is it wont be too long until we have a player who started messing about with us on a Sunday morning at fun and fundamentals, and goes through the age groups and ends up playing at The Ravelin representing Portsmouth Force. A real homegrown player"

There were too many people that Rob wanted to thank to begin to mention in this article, with the club's running reliant on an army of volunteers who are passionate about the sport and what the club is trying to achieve. Rob said: "That's the whole point of what the club is. I have never been involved in something that has had quite so many willing participants. It makes it challenging sometimes when everyone is pitching ideas, because it is run as a community, it is not a dictatorship."

The award recognition has been gratefully received by Rob and the club, but it does not represent the pinnacle of what they are trying to achieve. He said: "We want to continue our growth into the community. We have started work with a charity to try and arrange basketball session for less privileged children. We are also working with City of Portsmouth College to expand the basketball offering in Portsmouth. We want to make sure there is something for those that just want to play basketball for fun, those that want to take it fairly seriously, and those that want to play it at an elite level that are looking for scholarships to the States or semi-professional contracts etc."

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It has been quite the turn around for a club that feared for its future during the pandemic but has come out the other side healthier than ever. Rob said: "It's crazy how you create something as a necessity and now it is an an award winning club." Portsmouth Force are always looking for volunteers, be it coaches, table officials or referees. More information can be found on their Facebook page.

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