Over the course of the 2016/17 season, we’ll be bringing you a series of interviews with volunteers from around the club, shining a light on the various roles required to keep Ipswich Basketball running smoothly. This time, it’s the turn of David Leach, IBC Chairman and a long-time presence around bringing IBA to Copleston, as he explains…
IpswichBasketball.net: How did you first get involved with Ipswich Basketball Club?
David Leach: I’ve always been a massive basketball fan, and before I was head of sixth form here at Copleston, I ran the sports centre, which meant that Nick and I had worked together to bring the club here as part of the Academy from Holywells.
After I moved into senior management at the school, the club asked me to get involved as a Vice Chair, so I did that for a year, thoroughly enjoyed it, and then when Nick Newman stepped down this last summer, I was very flattered to be nominated as Chairman.
IB: How far back does your interest in basketball go?
DL: My interest in basketball goes right back to my teenage years – I grew up with the Chicago Bulls and Jordan, played a little bit – never very well, but I enjoyed it – for Framlingham, but my passion was always that I loved being around the game and watching it. When Nick approached me, seven or eight years ago now, about the prospect of setting up the academy at the school, I was very excited to bring Nick into the school and develop the programme alongside him.
What we’ve achieved with the Academy in that period of time is phenomenal, really. Going from six or seven players running around on a concrete floor from the 1970s, to where we are now, with 28 kids regularly in the programme, boys’ and girls’ teams, regular international call-ups for our players, sending players to top colleges in the US…
We’re the second or third most successful Academy system in the country. When you think of sleepy old Ipswich, that’s pretty impressive, I think.
“Within the management committee of the club, we have people who are utterly dedicated to and passionate about basketball and IBC, and without them we wouldn’t have a club” – David Leach
IB: What’s it like being Nick Drane’s boss?
DL: To be honest, it’s awesome. Nick is a very close friend, has been for a long time, and I think our working relationship has strengthened that further. His infectious passion is what drives him, and us, and what sets him apart from anybody else. I may not be as overtly passionate, I’m a bit more reserved, but that ‘steadier hand’ is a really good foil to Nick’s passion, and it allows us to work really well together.
When we’re recruiting, he’s talking about basketball and I’m talking about education, so we bounce very well off of each other. It’s a good balancing act.
You’ll hear Nick use the immortal lines, “Dave will probably kill me for saying this, but I’m going to say it anyway…”, which has come out in many conversations, but I never have to tell him off. His passion is irrepressible and I love working with him – and now I think we’ve taken that to another level as club head coach and chairman.
IB: As the chairman, and previously vice-chairman, you’ll have been a part of the club’s rapidly developing off-court structure, both commercially and in terms of volunteers…
DL: Very much so, as well as being the vice-chair I’ve been involved with the [separate] Men’s Committee previously, and I think we’ve got a model in place now which I think is a very professional, business-like structure. We’ve got a lot of sponsors now, we’re constantly on the lookout for new investment into the programme to help drive it forward. Things like the triathlon, which Simon Drane helped to establish last year, are amazing examples of where we succeed in fundraising to help progress the club.
Within the management committee of the club, people like Nick, Lorraine Baker, Liz Winter, Kathryn James, we’re talking about people here who are utterly dedicated to and passionate about basketball and IBC, and without them we wouldn’t have a club, it’s as simple as that.
IB: For the first time in a few years, the club doesn’t have a senior women’s team this season. Is that a setback?
DL: Ideally we’d like to get back to having a women’s team, with the same model and set-up for the girls’ side as we have on the boys’ side, with a management committee for the women’s team, so that’s one of our next challenges moving forward.
I think with Adam Robinson, another talented young coach coming in to the under-18 Girls set-up, we’re growing our coaching staff again, which can only be a good thing.
IB: You’re obviously involved with both the club and Copleston High School. This has sometimes been a difficult question, but has the time come for IBC to find a larger venue to play at?
DL: It is a difficult question, yes. With my Copleston hat on, I love the fact that the club are here. The Academy’s here, so having the two on the same site is phenomenal. But, if we’re going to Division I with the men, as we’re planning to do this year, and going to continue the development of the club, we’ve made no secret of the fact that we need more space.
If we can get that space here at Copleston, that’s the ideal scenario for everyone involved – the club’s relationship with the school would be so hard to replicate anywhere else. Nick and I are used to being told we can’t do things, so we’ll keep trying to get something on this premises that will enable us to keep growing.
IB: So, seven or eight years on from bringing the club here, what was it like watching the guys play USA Select last week?
DL: Just incredible. What a great night that was – the place rammed to the rafters, loads of young kids in there watching and enjoying seeing genuine local products go up against a seriously talented group of individuals like USA Select were. And the fact that it came down to two points, in a game we certainly had a chance to win, with Academy players like Caleb Fuller, Joshua Apple, Rory Winter and Luke Mascall-Wright all in the mix and contributing, it all just added up to a truly programme-affirming experience.
IB: What’s the plan for the next few years?
DL: I think the long-term plan has got to be making the club sustainable. We need to go on finding ways of bringing funding in so we can keep fees as low as possible, and it does come back to the question of needing more space. You only have to look at the IBC Summer Camp – we had 113 kids playing for a week in a one-court facility. Imagine, given the chance, what we could do in a bigger space! Obviously we all know that money doesn’t grow on trees, but when you see how good this club is, and how many young people it affects, I hope that one day someone will see that and really back us.