Express & Star

Sarah's basketball shoe exchange is a slam dunk success

Basketball shoes are expensive, topping £100 for the best brands – and many of those end up going to landfill like so many other items of expensive clothing.

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Sarah Booth with British basketball star Jordan Williams, who was showing his support for the initiative at Dudley College

Sarah Booth, a volunteer coach with the West Bromwich Albion Foundation, realised what a huge waste that was and decided to do something about it.

Sarah, who also works as a stats supervisor, overseeing officials during British Basketball League (BBL) games, for both the mens' and womens' game, has used her contacts to set up a basketball shoe exchange programme.

The aim is for trainers used by professionals at the elite end of the sport to filter down to those from deprived areas who love the sport but struggle to afford the gear required.

Sarah explained: "I work for both the BBL and WBBL, and the West Bromwich Albion Foundation, on a voluntary basis.

"The BBL is the country’s professional women’s and men’s basketball league.

West Bromwich Albion Foundation Basketball club has launched a new shoe exchange programme

"I am the stats supervisor, which means that I oversee the officials at each game keeping game statistics, as well as doing the role myself.

"I am also a National League head coach in the West Bromwich Albion Foundation Basketball club, for the U18 men.

"This puts me in a unique position in that I am heavily integrated in both the professional environment and junior basketball.

"Our club supports some of the more deprived areas of the West Midlands in Sandwell, Dudley, Wolverhampton, etc.

"The foundation provides as much support as possible to our kids to reduce costs for them, including providing practice kit, court costs and things likes that.

"However, the one big cost that is always there in basketball is shoes, which are not only needed to protect ankles in a dynamic sport, but have become very much a status symbol in the sport.

Players can access expense sports trainers and clothing no longer needed by the professionals

"These shoes can easily cost £100 each. We have had kids that have ripped their shoes in practice but do not have any alternative shoes."

Conversely, in the professional league, a lot of players are American based, which means the shoes they wear at a professional level last no more than three months.

And players often have many pairs for both practical and fashion purposes.

At the end of the season, however, when they return to the US, they have to pack eight months' worth of clothing, shoes and other items that have to be squeezed into one or two suitcases.

"So often a lot of their shoes are abandoned because they simply won’t fit," added Sarah.

"The other part of this is a lot of the American professional players come from a similar economic background as the players at West Bromwich Albion, as did their predecessors.

"Throughout the years within the sport it has become a tradition to pass down shoes to young players to help them.

"So many players in the BBL and WBBL have received shoes from those who played before themselves.

"Knowing this background, I decided to ask some of the players I knew if I could have any shoes they planned to leave.

"I have been doing this for a few years now, but this year I have received an unprecedented amount of stuff."

So far, Sarah has collected 44 pairs of shoes and three bags of clothing.

"Although this stuff could go straight to charity, it is predominantly from men who are 6ft or bigger, so their shoes are size UK 11 and above – and very much niche to basketball," added Sarah.

"Also, the young players at West Bromwich Albion really appreciate and look up to these players, so they are more than just shoes to them.

"However, given the large amount of shoes we are potentially taking away from charity donations, we decided this year to ask the kids, when taking a pair of shoes, to bring something to swap.

"This can either be another pair of shoes, or some clothing, or anything they have as a family they don’t need anymore.

"We will then take this to one of the Albion Foundation charities we support.

"The idea is that, not only are we teaching the kids to give and to receive, we are inadvertently trading unusable items for charity while keeping the useable ones.

"There are some very big names in the BBL that help us, including league MVP and league winner Geno Crandall, of the Leicester Riders, BBL Cup and play-off final winner Rahmon Fletcher, of Newcastle Eagles, and former Worcester Wolves star Jordan Williams, now of the London Lions, amongst others who have all donated shoes."