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I Heart Hoops!

I Heart Hoops!

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Swansway Chester Jeep sponsors Cheshire Phoenix Basketball Team. We sat down with Mark Timperley, Marketing Director for an exclusive interview.

Swansway Jeep, our dealership on Bumpers Lane in Chester, sponsors Cheshire Phoenix basketball team

Here we talk to Mark Timperley, Marketing Director for the team!

Mark, you’re the Marketing Director for Cheshire Phoenix and it’s a voluntary role..so, I’m guessing you must really love basketball?

You’re right! I’ve been involved with the sport for over 30 years now after being introduced to it at High School by a new PE teacher who joined the school. John Grant was from Scotland and he was into athletics and basketball, not something I’d ever heard of or been interested in. At a push, I could have told you that the Harlem Globetrotters played basketball but that was the extent of it, I’d never even see or held a basketball.

I was born and brought up in Oldham where it was football and rugby league in the winter and athletics and cricket in the summer, basketball was definitely not on my radar until Mr Grant arrived.

The school gave Mr Grant permission to start up a basketball team and he held trials for the team and it was a life-changer for me, I liken it to the X Factor auditions. The first time I had that basketball in my hands was just a magical experience and I’ve been hooked ever since!

You’re role’s unpaid, so, what’s your day job?

Well, I spend my life in different pubs every day and yes that IS my job! I’m a self-employed auditor in the licensed trade, so, I’m in a different pub, in a different town, most days of the week. I do love my ‘proper’ job, but, my heart belongs to the hoops.

How did you initially get involved with Cheshire Phoenix?

Cheshire Phoenix evolved out of the Chester Jets team and I started following them back in 1999. I’d been working all over the place for a couple of years, after I finished college and I lost track of the game a bit. When I settled in Chester, I followed the Jets results, and decided to go and see a game when they played Manchester Giants in the November of 1999.

The Giants were the first BBL team I followed as a youngster. As soon as I stepped into the Northgate arena, that old feeling started flowing through my veins again, and I was bitten once again!

I started going on a regular basis, got chatting to a few of the people there and decided that I’d like to help out on match days, so then became a volunteer with the ‘court crew’. Helping to get the sports hall ready on match days, putting out the stands, advertising boards etc, and then putting it all away afterwards. My involvement has grown ever since, to doing what I do now!

People who’ve never seen basketball have been known to refer to it as men’s netball or a bit of a girly sport for blokes to play; what do you say to that?

Come down and watch, even if you never come again, you will see how incredibly physical and demanding the sport is. I describe it as the most physical ‘non-contact’ sport there is; players fitness levels have to be amazing and good luck with telling a 6 foot 7 inch bloke with rippling muscles that he’s a bit girly!

What’s kept you ‘in love’ with the sport for so long?

There’s so many things to love about it; the close proximity to the play when you’re spectating; the skill involved; the sheer speed, which is just awesome close-up and the incredible team spirit.

It’s fast and furious and so much fun; I know I’m biased but I think everyone should go and watch just one game; it’ll definitely open your eyes to how skilful and exciting basketball is.

How successful is Cheshire Phoenix?

We’ve had a bit of a tough time of it this season; pretty much the whole organisation is new, from new members on the board, myself included, to a brand new coach at the start of the season, along with completely new playing staff too! No returnees from last season at all.

This made it incredibly tough for all concerned. The most successful teams in the league, all have traits of continuity to them. We’re starting from scratch again. Unfortunately, the new coach didn’t work out and we parted company at Christmas time. Being part of the team that had to make that decision wasn’t easy at all, but we thought it had to be done for the good of the team.

If you measure success in terms of happy spectators then Cheshire Phoenix is top of the league’!

Basketball is a family orientated sport; you watch it indoors, so it’s not weather dependent, always a bonus in the UK! It’s also very safe, with no crowd violence or X-rated chanting and at Cheshire Phoenix we take it to the next level with the team meeting their young fans and sign autographs, after EVERY game.

I think it’s vital that the fans feel it’s their team; there’s a much closer relationship between fans and players than in traditional sports such as football, rugby or cricket, which means the kids have real, live role models.

At one time our fans used to travel on the away coach with the players, and when we’d won, it was a real party bus on the way home!

What’s in the future for the club?

We’ve gained a bit of stability since, bringing in a player who played for us a couple of seasons ago, and this along with promoting one of the assistant coaches to Head Coach has helped start to turn things around. We’re starting to put a few results together in our fight for a play-off spot at the end of the regulation season.

If we ever get close to the heady heights of the successful Jets teams of the early 2000’s, during that time we took all four domestic trophies in one season, our ‘Jetwash’ year, then we’ll be doing well. The infrastructure is slowly taking shape, and I’ve a good feeling about how things could pan out over the next few years – so watch this space!

Can you ever see a time when you won’t be involved with the hoops?

No, not really! Alongside my involvement with the Nix, I’m also active in the local amateur side of the game, where I’m the player/coach of a team based in Wrexham who play in the North Wales senior league.

My playing days are much closer to their end, particularly when I sustained a serious injury a couple of years ago, that now restricts the flexibility in one of my fingers. So when an opportunity came up to coach the team, I jumped at it. It’s something I always saw myself doing at some point in my life, and I look at is as giving something back too. I love it when you see youngsters, who are as passionate about the game as you are, listening to advice you give them, and seeing them develop and grow throughout the season, it gives me a buzz like nothing else. Better than I ever got playing!

Mark, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us! We can't wait to see you again soon!

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