Southwark Legends Whirlwind Trip to Dunkirk
The Southwark Legends U14 Boys had a tremendous 2018/19 season, and rewarded their players with a trip to Dunkirk, France for a weekend of basketball, beach time, great food and experiences.
The group featured Coach Wendy, supporter Fritz and players Jermaine, Xavier, Gelsomary, Elvis, Pharell, Jack, Kwame, Kushal, Joel, Jordan and Favour. The group had amazing energy and made the most of their time in Northern France with a positive and upbeat approach to every activity.
The group arrived at Dunkirk Station late on Friday night, where they were met by BTM Rep Tom who took them to a local pizza parlour “Subito Pizza,” which has some of the best pizza in Northern France. The boys stuffed themselves with pizza, chicken, kebabs and drinks, which all went down swiftly after a long journey from Peckham, South-East London. Once finished the group hopped in taxis for the 20-minute journey to Loon-Plage, which would be their base for the weekend. They were assigned their rooms and headed straight to bed, exhausted after a long day of travel.
The boys were up bright and early for breakfast at the hotel, which featured eggs, croissants, yoghurt, fruit and much more. Once finished, they jumped in the minibus that had been picked up by Tom that morning and were driven to Fort Des Dunes, which features a 19th century fort that still bears the scars of the battle of 1940 and the German occupation. Jordan set the tone early on as the provider of most of the entertainment throughout each bus journey! The boys were given an audio tour of the site which they thoroughly enjoyed, and Coach Wendy and Fritz quizzed them at the end to find out what they’d learned. Favour showed off his piano skills in the welcome room of the fort, while Xavier managed to get locked in one of the old jail cells by some of his teammates.
After a bit of history and education the group hiked through the surrounding dunes to the beautiful beach front, where they headed straight to the water’s edge. Xavier, Kwame, Elvis, Joel and Jack got warmed up for the afternoon game with some foot-fires on the shore, and then the boys played an old-fashioned game of American Football in which Kushal considered himself a bit of a prodigy. After a nice few hours enjoying the French sunshine the group headed back to the hotel to get themselves ready for Game 1 of the tour.
The destination for their first game was Gravelines where they would play against the local U14 team, who were bolstered by a couple of U16 players which offered a great test for the boys from Peckham. After a strong warm-up they took the floor and got off to a great start, as Gelsomary brought great energy defensively and Joel scored relentlessly at the basket. Jermaine brought a tremendous level of intensity to the game when he checked in, rebounding ferociously and putting off the Gravelines players as they attacked the basket, while Pharrell helped spark a big run for the Legends boys when he stepped in the game. Ultimately the Legends were too much for the French boys, running away with a 68-52 win.
The team headed back to the hotel to shower, before jumping back on the bus to Coulogne to watch a Men’s game which had an incredibly loud and vibrant atmosphere. The boys made friends with some of the locals and showed off some dunks on the side hoops of the gym, and after the game ended were taken to McDonalds for a late meal to finish off an exciting full day in Northern France.
After a long day and a late bedtime the boys were given some time to sleep in on Sunday, but arose just in time to enjoy another delicious breakfast at the hotel. After breakfast BTM Rep Tom sat down with the team for an hour-long “basketball workshop,” where various aspects of basketball development, player pathways and character building were discussed. Jermaine, Jordan, Pharrell and Gelsomary were particularly engaged and asked lots of great questions.
The boys then put on their Legends kits and were driven to Ardres to take on Ardres Basket, a team that hosts one of Europe’s best U13 tournaments which this year will feature teams such as the Madrid Regional Team and the Ivory Coast National Team. On first appearance the game looked to be a bit of a physical mismatch in favour of the boys from London – however the Ardres team immediately showed their incredible skill and tenacity, racing out to an early lead through great team play and aggressive on-ball defense.
Kwame and Jack were a force around the basket for the Legends, while Kushal showed off his great handle and scoring ability. However despite the Legends best efforts they couldn’t quite claw their way back into the game, and they lost 75-65. It was a tremendous learning experience for the boys, who were all very surprised at how tough the Ardres team were.
After the game they were driven back to the hotel to relax and recuperate, before heading to “Poivre Rouge” for the final dinner of the tour. They enjoyed burgers, soft drinks and ice cream, with Favour being particularly delighted with his choice of burger and ice cream, before heading back to the hotel to pack their bags and get some sleep.
It was a very early start on Monday morning for the boys, who were driven to Dunkirk Station for their early trip back to London. It had been a whirlwind weekend of basketball and activities and they were absolutely exhausted, all falling asleep at the station as they waited for their bus. It was an absolute pleasure to host the Southwark Legends players, Coach Wendy and Fritz on their Dunkirk tour, a group that were so positive, entertaining and energetic for the entire time, and we can’t wait to host them again in the future.
Coach Wendy said of their experience, “The trip was professional, affordable and fun! The Dunkirk basketball tour organised by BTM Basketball was the perfect combination to please both the parents and the players. Southwark Legends will definitely plan another tour with BTM in the near future!”