Bradford College sports lecturer Sam Messam is revelling in a dual role as manager of the England under-18 basketball team as they prepare for the European Championships.
The England youngsters head to Turkey for the summer tournament and former professional Messam is at the heart of their preparations.
Expressing how he felt when he discovered he had secured one of the top jobs in English basketball, Messam said: “As team manager, it’s a great opportunity to learn. I’ve been working towards it for the last three years.
“The whole idea of being part of a team, travelling out to the European Championships in Turkey and working towards that is exciting. I’m really looking forward to it!”
The England team will also compete in the prestigious Mannheim Tournament in Germany during the build-up to the Euros.
“The event is by invitation only – only top teams are invited to attend – and this will be the first time in the history of the games that we take part,” said Messam, who is also assistant coach of the Bradford Dragons first team.
“We will get to play against the USA, France and Croatia. These are some of the top teams in our age group.”
Commenting on the likelihood of bringing home the title, Messam added: “We’re a division A squad, so we’ve got a good chance. The coach is working hard with the team so we will see how we get on.”
“We’ve got a squad of 24 at the moment and at some point we will have to get the team down to 12, so it’s a very competitive environment.”
The squad will also head out to Belgium to take part in training camps before they compete in the European Championships.
Messam said: “I’ve just completed my United Kingdom Centre for Coaching Excellence Level Four and over the last two years I’ve learnt to be much more of a listener.
“I really try to engage with the athletes to understand what it is that they want. I like to build relationships with them to get the best out of them that I can.
“We spend a lot of time looking at different aspects of the game and getting them to work really hard on the technical, tactical, physical and mental elements in an attempt to make them better.
“But I’m not pushing for the sake of pushing. We agree targets for them to achieve.”
Paying tribute to Messam, Bradford College sports academies’ co-ordinator manager Paul Porter said: “The on-court success of the team is the result of a lot of hard work and preparation off it.
“Sam Messam’s relentless quest to improve the team’s performance, including seeking out the help of international sprint coach Ilona Melounova, has paid off handsomely.
“That, coupled with the generous new sponsorship from local sports supplement suppliers Cre-8 Nutrition, has put the team in pole position regionally and ready to make an impact at national level.
“Sporting success doesn’t come overnight but Bradford College’s sporting strategy is now paying off over an increasing range of sports.”
Messam added: “Becoming the England under-18s basketball team manager is a great opportunity for me to become a better coach for the Academy, so the students from the college get to benefit from my knowledge and experience.”