Joanna’s Journey

Greenhouse Sports Greenhouse Sports

Finding my voice 

We travelled to Crest Academy to find out more about what the Greenhouse Sports basketball programme has done for Year 11 Joanna*… 


Walking into the sports hall at Crest Academy, a secondary school located in the heart of the Neasden suburbs, we find Joanna in the midst of her after school basketball practice warm up. She looks confident and at ease as she practices ball skills with her fellow programme participants, most of whom are male. Yet, as we find out later when we sit down to chat with Joanna, this was not always the case.

 “I couldn’t speak to people. I lacked confidence in my own voice. But basketball pushes me to work and communicate with other people.”

Joanna began training with Coach Ian at Crest Academy two years ago when she was in Year 9. Inspired by watching her older brothers, Joanna had always wanted to play but was too nervous to try. When a group of her school friends decided to try Coach Ian’s programme, Joanna finally plucked up the courage to come to practice as well.

From the outset, Ian noticed that Joanna was shy and struggled with her communication skills, particularly with new people, and her confidence and self-esteem were low. But Ian describes how, over the past two years, Joanna has grown into the most dedicated and hard-working of Ian’s participants. She has completed the most hours of any girl in the programme, despite the fact that all of the friends that she started with have gradually dropped out. Weekly she spends over 6 hours engaging with the programme, attending breakfast clubs, after-school sessions and one peripatetic session on top of her regular studies.

“We’re like a family. We look out for each other on and off the court.”

The programme is a positive learning environment that has enabled Joanna to build her confidence, push herself and learn to not be afraid of failure. Playing basketball has built up her self-esteem and her ability to speak to other people. Ian also remarks that she has developed a level of maturity beyond her years, a level of self-awareness and reflexivity that he states: “you just don’t see in young people this age”.

Her coach Ian has also had a part to play in Joanna’s increased confidence.

“Ian will find something good in what you’ve done before telling you how to work on it to make it better.”

Now, Joanna actively seeks constructive criticism whenever she encounters a challenge, whether it is concerning basketball or not.

All of her hard work and perseverance has not gone without recognition. Joanna won Player of the Year at the 2016 Greenhouse Sports Basketball Awards for her impressive commitment to basketball, something she regards as one her biggest achievements.

Continually impressed by her dedication to basketball, Coach Ian put forward the nomination for Joanna. He says:

“Joanna has a true athlete mentality, and is never fazed by often being the only girl.”

Unfortunately for Joanna, there are not enough girls on the basketball programme at Crest to form a girls team for competing. However, she gets involved as much as possible by mentoring new players to help them improve, as well as volunteering by officiating, score running and refereeing external matches.

Basketball plays a key role in Joanna’s future aspirations. She plans to apply to a nearby sixth form that has an all-girls basketball team for her to join. Yet she won’t be completely leaving her Greenhouse Sports days behind- she has agreed with Coach Ian to continue playing at the after-school club.

“Basketball pushes you to your limits. You are achieving something when you play.”

*Names have been changed to protect anonymity.