NEW Bendigo Basketball competitions co-ordinator Sam Cartwright has his sights set on restoring participation numbers in the city's domestic competitions to pre-COVID levels.
Cartwright, who spent nine years at Basketball Victoria Country in a variety roles, including events and community programs and competitions co-ordinator, is a new acquisition to the team at Bendigo Stadium.
He has replaced former competitions co-ordinator Rebecca Smith, who has left to pursue a new work opportunity.
Cartwright brings with him extensive experience in administering state and representative-based competitions, including the CBL, and is excited about his new role.
"For me, this was an opportunity to move to a local recreational and sporting field and I couldn't be happier to be here," he said.
"Going forward there are going to be some challenges with the reactivation of basketball (following COVID-interrupted seasons).
"Like all grassroots sports, it's going to be challenging.
"We've got our few hundred teams playing now in the (Basketball Bendigo) summer season that have jumped on this mini-season that we were able to put together for the juniors just before the end of the year and for the seniors at the turn of the year.
"I'm coming in at the run to finals and we are going away from our traditional semi-finals, preliminary finals and grand finals and going to a one-week finals series, while also including classification games.
"That will finish off that season, but what we are really looking forward to is a potential return to normal."
And what exactly might a 'normal' season entail?
According to Cartwright, a full, not reduced, schedule of games and a return to the massive participation levels witnessed during the last winter season played.
"We are confident we can deal with any hiccups along the way - the venue and the staff all know what they are doing," he said in a huge endorsement of the organisation.
"We know what COVID-normal is, but we want to get to regular normal, and in some respects it doesn't seem too far away.
"Last winter season we were just under 500 teams (across all age groups), while this summer season we were just under 400, so there was a bit of a drop-off.
"Summer is normally the peak season. The aim is to get back to 500 teams in winter.
"We understand there will be some battles at club level with the juniors and getting them re-engaged, but we're confident with basketball being a great sport of choice, we can get those teams back on court."
Cartwright was quick to assure parents and players with any fears that the association was operating in a COVIDsafe environment.
"While protocols have relaxed everywhere as we have gone along, we still take it very seriously - safety is paramount," he said.
"While we do want everyone to enjoy their time here, we want to make sure they are safe and able to come back the next day.
"Day by day, we are confident in where we are and our ability to handle this.
Registrations for the winter season are currently open and close on April 1.
The season tips-off on April 19.
For registrations, click here.
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