Basketball prodigy Grace Strickland wants to see Team England take to the court without fear at this summer’s Commonwealth Games.
The 16-year-old from Hatfield juggles full-time education with playing for the London Lions, taking up the sport aged 12 after watching her brother play.
She’s since gone on to represent England at age-grade level and with the Commonwealth Games just weeks away, the budding guard hopes England can make home advantage count in Birmingham.
“I’m excited to see the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, and I definitely think that in two years, that could be a goal that I aim for,” said Strickland, who has been selected to be part of the Team England
Futures programme with Commonwealth Games England and SportsAid.
“But I also think that just the team going out there, doing the best that they can and not going out scared is the main thing.
“For a team to go out confident so that they know that they couldn’t have done any more.
“If they lose or if they win, they know that they have done their best and there is nothing more they could do.
“With it being 3v3, it’s a way quicker game, it’s really quick actually, and it’s very high intensity, so I think they just need to be smart. So it’s more smartness and tactical than quickness or anything else.”
The 16-year-old has high hopes for her future, having already represented her country.
She added: “I’m really hopeful for this year, and this summer, I’m hoping to go to the Euros with my age group for GB and hopefully just each year making the squad.
“This year, I have been to camps, and hopefully, I’ll make the squad to go to the Euros this summer.
“It just makes me think that I need to work hard, and it motivates me to keep pushing.
“That’s because, at this level, you can’t just pick and choose when you want to do stuff.
“You have to do the stuff that you don’t like doing, so it just motivates me when it’s hard at times to do stuff that I don’t really want to do.
The Team England Futures programme will see over 1,000 talented young athletes and aspiring support staff given the opportunity to attend the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, watch live sporting action and take a first-hand look behind-the-scenes.
Strickland said: “Team England Futures and SportsAid has really shown me that people really believe in me, and it’s really motivated me and helped me.
“Their programmes and their zoom calls around the mental side and the side off the court like eating, hydration and food educated me.
“It taught me and helped me deal with time management and other things that have helped me improve as a player.
Strickland only started playing at the age of 12, meaning much of her progression as a player has come during the Covid-19 pandemic, but she’s conquered every challenge it’s thrown at her.
She said: “It kept me motivated and focused by reminding myself that the season is going to come back.
“Covid isn’t going to last, the season is going to come back, and it’s like whoever works the hardest now is going to see it when we start playing in the league.
“I know there are some people who won’t be working as hard or doing stuff, but there might be some people who are working really hard.
“There was a time where people could work out every day, and people are going to improve, so it’s just about knowing that when I come back, I need to be the best that I can be.”
Commonwealth Games England has appointed SportsAid to lead on the development, management and operational delivery of Team England Futures at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. You can find out more about the programme by visiting https://www.sportsaid.org.uk/partnerships/team-england-futures/.