RAF basketball team shoots for teamwork

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Benjamin Kim
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
Teamwork--it's a fundamental element in military operations and can make the difference between mission success and failure.

It's especially true for coalition forces who must overcome the different practices and cultural barriers that may exist to achieve their combined goal.

Hurlburt Field's no stranger to hosting partner nations for training. But for one session, its allies sought cohesion through practice not on the range or in a cockpit, but on a basketball court.

The U.K. Royal Air Force basketball teams practiced countless drills and played intense scrimmages with local players during their training camp June 11-22 at the Aderholt Fitness Center.

"We've actually been coming to Hurlburt Field for years," said RAF Squadron Leader Andy Gibbins, the team manager. "This is an opportunity for the RAF basketball team to get together for two weeks in a dedicated training camp."

Gibbins said the team usually gathers for one weekend a month back at home.

"What this allows us to do is strip back the fundamental skill set of basketball and go back to basics and do basic ball handling skills, dribbling, passing, shooting," Gibbins said. "[These are] things that we need to take time over that we never get the opportunity to do in the U.K."

The necessity of teamwork is evident in the simple difference in sports culture between the British and their friends from "across the pond."

"If you roll a ball to British guy, he's going to kick it a couple of times, he'll head it maybe, chest it down, then he'll kick it to his buddy," Gibbins said. "You roll a ball to an American kid, he's going to pick it up, bounce it between the legs, spin it on his finger, and then he's going to make a great bound pass."

U.K. RAF Flight Lieutenant Stephen Syme, the team captain, elaborated that basketball comes secondary to the people of the U.K.

"Most of us grew up playing soccer, and we learned to love basketball at a later age," Syme said. "Most of the guys here have been playing from the age they could walk, so it's a different level out here."

To remedy the difference in sports experience, the level of team play is developed.

"What we tend to have is quite a strong team ethos, not great individual skills like Americans, but as a team we bond well, work well together," Gibbins said. "So what we lack in individual skills, we make up for in a good team ethos, and that's what we look to build on here."

Gibbins said the Hurlburt Field area lends itself to not just relaxing, but doing things together as a team.

"Whether they're on the basketball court or on the beach, we are learning about the strengths and weaknesses of each individual," Gibbins said. "Hopefully, within that, leadership will emerge, and we can then use that leadership on the basketball court."

Moreover, Gibbins described the support that the RAF basketball team received from the 1st Special Operation Force Support Squadron was fantastic.

"The food hall is great, and our guys are eating nutritiously," Gibbins said of the Reef Dining Facility. "They've really looked after us and this has spilled over into the food hall, too."

He also said the weather didn't hurt either.

"I believe it's a warm 60 degrees back at home right now," Gibbins said.

As training wrapped up and the teams head back to highlighting the sport in their homeland, Gibbins said the totality of the Hurlburt experience brought the RAF basketball teams reasons to come back time and time again.

"We're working on the team ethos, team spirit, and then fundamental basketball skills," Gibbins said. "Here, at Hurlburt Field, that gives us the perfect opportunity to do those three things."