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November 16, 2020

Leicester Riders Ready To Bounce Back

Leicester Riders is a club justifiably proud of its numerous championship and cup wins at the highest level of British basketball.

But it’s the club’s community work that inspires the most pride amongst the Riders’ faithful.

Since 2015 The Leicester Riders Foundation has provided more than 15,000 people a year with the opportunity to play basketball.

It has brought communities together through accessible sessions and its pledge to provide ‘basketball for all’.

However, the Riders are not alone in having to deal with the monumental challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We used to have 2,500 people playing on a weekly basis all over the county,” said Managing Director Russell Levenston.

“The Foundation took us almost 11 years to build and it’s all of a sudden — overnight — just stopped. It’s a worry thinking how long it’s going to take to rebuild.

“At the moment we’re waiting for the support the government has pledged but we don’t know when that will come or how much it will be. It’s the only thing keeping us alive right now.”

Prior to England’s second national lockdown the Leicester Riders Foundation was allowed to tentatively bring back some of its Under 18 programmes subject to government restrictions.

The Foundation has recently been backed by GiveToLocal as a part of our new Focus Clubs initiative that sees grassroots clubs work with the organisation to secure sustainable funding.

And Russell is keen to get the Foundation’s programmes back on track as soon as possible to offset the effect of the pandemic on young peoples’ mental health in their region.

“I think the mental health and wellbeing of those now missing out on sport is one of my biggest concerns,” added Russell.

“Losing something like our Foundation’s programmes and not having access to sport or socialising with teammates can have a massive impact on mental health — everyone wants to be a part of something.

“I think if you weigh up the impact of the actual illness on young people versus the mental health effects, it might be that the mental health fallout could actually be worse in the end.”

For now, the only basketball happening at the Morningside Arena is at the elite level. The Riders’ BBL and WBBL teams are still in action during lockdown in behind closed doors clashes.

However, Russell has struggled to find the time to enjoy these games with the amount of preparation going into the club’s tentative post-lockdown plan.

“I’m just looking forward to the moment that I get to relax and enjoy some basketball,” said Russell.

Leicester Riders and the GiveToLocal-backed Newcastle Eagles sit joint top of a fascinating Group 3 in the qualifying stages of the BBL Cup.

The Riders avenged a six-point homecourt defeat against Newcastle by securing their own six-point win at the Eagles Community Arena.

And Rob Paternostro’s men followed that up with a big victory against London Lions at the Morningside Arena.

“Even with the exciting BBL Cup clashes against Newcastle we’ve had these past weeks, I’ve still been focused on working on COVID policy,” added Russell.

“At the moment it’s about making sure we’re doing everything properly and keeping people as safe as possible. We want to be as reactive as possible to whatever comes next and start rebuilding as soon as we can.”

Watch our new podcast with Newcastle Eagles Managing Director Paul Blake for more BBL content — watch carefully and you could win a £250 Kitlocker voucher!

You can also find out more about GiveToLocal’s Focus Club initiative here

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