By Lee Pinkerton
Thanks to the new partnership between the University of East London (UEL) and the London Lions basketball team, aspiring basketball players in London will no longer have to choose between pursuing their sporting dream or higher education.
The collaboration, which was formally launched in October at the Lions’ match at the Copper Box Arena in Stratford’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, will provide the team’s players with access to educational opportunities and UEL students with valuable work experience. The partnership evolved from conversations between Lions head coach Vince Macaulay and team captain Joe Ikhinmwin, who graduated from UEL last year.
Lions coach Vince Macaulay said: “It’s important for us as London’s professional basketball club to create a pathway that anyone can follow. It’s important that players have the opportunity to get an education, and are also able to play sport attached to a professional team. I believe that this partnership will enable us to do that.”
“I think it’s also important that UEL establishes itself as the top university that players want to go to. Most of our players are London-born, and we don’t want them to go to America or Spain, we want them to stay in London.”
The Lions will encourage their professional players, as well as the younger talent in their pipeline, to study at UEL, while UEL students will be able to take advantage of work placement opportunities with the Lions in the areas of physio, social responsibility, sponsorship, sales, graphic design, journalism, marketing and video.
UEL’s head of sport, Matt Tansley, said: “Only a handful of universities have partnerships of this type and we are the only one in London running a scheme like this, providing opportunities for students to not only play at the highest level, but also to get practical experience in a professional environment. Our elite athlete academic policy also enables us to tailor their study around their sporting commitments, which means that students don’t have to choose between the two.”
UEL is an accredited TASS (Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme) site for dual career athletes. The University is one of the top six sites in the UK that provides support for athletes to develop in both sport and a professional career. There are 153 elite scholar athletes studying at UEL this year.”
UEL’s vice-chancellor and president, Professor Amanda Broderick, said: “Sport is incredibly powerful when connecting with our community – locally, nationally and internationally. Sport is an integral component of the strategy of the University of East London going forward.
“The partnership between UEL and London Lions is extremely important to us. It provides an integrated player pathway through to the professional game, in addition to supporting professional athletes to really have a dual career, both succeeding on the court and in the classroom.
“This strategic partnership is really an example of the University moving forward into a careers- intensive institution for an evolving world.”
UEL’s chair of the board of governors Geoff Thompson said: “The scholar athlete is something that is well developed in the United States, but is still not fully appreciated in this country. I think this partnership shows that you can genuinely develop both your academic and sporting aspirations.”