It has left rather a bitter taste in her mouth but she is still passionate about the Women’s Game in this country.

Recently I was delighted to put some questions to one of the best UK born guards to have played the game of basketball in this country.

Lisa can you tell us a little about yourself, where do you hail from, where you attended school, university etc?

I was born in Bury, Lancashire, went to Siddal Moor High School in Heywood where I grew up. Then attended Sheffield Hallam University doing a BSc (hons) Sports Development and Coaching followed by a PGCE in teaching.  Now I live in Sheffield and I am a Physical Education teacher at Wales High School in Rotherham.

What was life like in junior school?

At school I was always playing sport, from netball, rounders, swimming, gymnastics and I even played on the boys football team as we didn’t have a girls team.

What was the first contact you had playing sport?

Probably with my dad and brother, we were always playing football together on the local field and on holiday.  I remember we used to have a football team for our street and we used to challenge other streets.  Buttermere Athletics Vs Prospect Street FC.

What was the first contact with professional sport?

When I was 14, I was selected for the England Under 15s Development squad at Lilleshall, and from there I went through all the ages with the England team competing at Four Countries and European Championships.

Were you a fulltime player or did you have a day job?

I am a teacher and have always worked while playing and training.  However, I was a full time player for one season 2008/09, when I went to Tenerife to play in the Spanish League.  But it was hard work playing abroad away from my friends and family and I also had a mortgage to pay and the club I played for wasn’t very good at making payments on time.

I also missed my Hatters team mates so made the decision to come back.

With this decision I also had to continue to work so I could support myself as women don’t really get paid in the English league.

Tell me about your time starting out with the Hatters.

I started at Hatters when I was 17, I asked Betty if I could join the team as I wanted to develop and become a better player.  From the start Betty has been amazing with me and I instantly felt part of the family.

Obviously as a young player I started on the bench, but as the years went by I managed to secure myself starting point guard.

Your head coach was Betty Codona back then, what was she like?

Betty is a fantastic coach, and person.  She has taught me so many things and I have so much respect for this lady.  She has always been a big fan of mine as a player and I have always felt that she trusted me to lead the team as a point guard, which is really important to me as it gives me more confidence in my game. I regard Betty as one of my friends and she will always be a special person to me.

Were you surprised by the success of the Hatters?

Not at all, the girls work extremely hard on and off the court.  We train as a team three times a week and then all players do their own individual training aswell.  They are a great bunch of girls and as a team we all get on so well and I think having good team cohesion makes a massive difference.

We also have some of the best players in the country in Steph Gandy, Lauren Thomas-Johnson and the Naylor sisters so I would have been surprised if we hadn’t been successful especially this year.  But also in the many successful years before Hatters have had some outstanding players who I have been lucky to play with.

How have you guys managed to keep this going so long?

All the players are very committed and not only do we have to train and play, but we also have to fundraise when we can and raise awareness.

Hatters also have a fantastic and very dedicated group of volunteers who work extremely hard day in day out.  Without these people Hatters would not have been able to continue running the way they have.

You played with Vanessa, but then she became head coach.  What was that like?

Playing with Vanessa was a great experience, she is a fantastic leader.  When I first started playing she was my role model, and even now I think I am a very similar player to what she was.  She had great vision and always worked hard, and I feel I also have these attributes as well.

Having Vanessa as a coach was also a great experience, she is one of the best coaches I have ever played for and again like Betty I felt as though she always trusted me to lead the team as her point guard.

You were selected to represent Great Britain.  When was that and how did it make you feel?

I first played for Great Britain in 2007.  It was a feeling that you cannot describe except to say proud and overwhelming.  It always got me the moment the national anthem was played.  I felt so privilege to be able to represent my country.

You were regularly in the team under head coach Mark Clark, but that seemed to change under new coach Tom Maher, what are your thoughts?

I think all I can say about this is that I am not the type of point guard that Tom was looking for.  I think this last season was the best I have ever performed and I feel cheated by Tom as he never saw me play in a game. I think the least I deserved was to be invited to camp, but this was not to be.

I think most people expected you to make the team for London 2012.  Firstly was that something you thought about?

My life goal was to play in the London 2012 Olympics, I worked extremely hard and trained every single day.  In 2011 I was not selected for GB training camp and the reason given was because I am not quick enough.  As you can imagine I was absolutely devastated as I knew then that my dream was over.

I think what make it hard to swallow is that there are players that have made the team who are not as good as me in my position.  I feel GB struggle in the point guard position and I know I could have brought something to the team that they do not have.

I’m not a big headed person but I know deep down that this is true.

How did you find out you wouldn’t be in the team?

I didn’t know I wouldn’t be part of the team until I saw the squad list posted on the GB website.  I think after all the years of my life I had dedicated to England and Great Britain that the least I deserved was a phone call, or even an email.

Were you surprised that no Hatters’ player was included in the team when the Hatters are the most successful team in the country?

I was speechless! I think I already knew that Stephanie Gandy wasn’t going to be on the team because Tom had already basically said that Natalie Stafford would be the naturalised player.

And I cannot believe that Helen and Sarah Naylor didn’t even get an opportunity to play.

But my biggest shock was Lauren Thomas Johnson, seeing as GB had been using her as the face of GB Basketball for the last 2 years.

What was it like seeing the GB team going to the Games and knowing that you were not a part of it?

Heart breaking!  I’ve had many sad moments but what I have to remember is everything happens for a reason!

What do you think of the profile of women’s sport in this country at the moment?

I think it has improved over the last couple of years but I think this is only because of the Olympics.  I think everyone thinks that the standard is poor in the English league, but I disagree!

How do we get more young girls interested in sport?

We just need to get more schools teaching basketball to more girls and give them more opportunities to play.  Hopefully seeing GB women play in the Olympics for the first time will inspire them.

Why did you decide to hang up your playing boots and retire?

It just feels like the right time.  I have had 12 successful years playing for the Sheffield Hatters and a fantastic international career.  I have just got married and a new job at a fantastic school so now is the time to enjoy being with my friends and family.

Obviously not getting selected for the Olympics helped in that decision but I’ve had a great season with the Hatters and feel I am finishing on a high!

How long did it take you to decide?

I think as soon as I was dropped from the GB team last year I knew this would be my last season, but it took me the whole season to convince myself I was doing the right thing.

What did your team mates think?

They are gutted to see me go but they understand and accept my decision.  I have some close friends on the team and just because I am not longer playing doesn’t mean I won’t see them anymore.

You are married to Helen, how did you meet and what is she like?

We met through mutual friends.  We have been together 5 and a half years and got married in February 2012.  She is an amazing person with a fantastic character, and she always brings out the best in me.  She has been so supportive throughout my basketball career and I know I am very lucky to have found her.


So what does the future hold for Lisa Hutchinson-Mann in the short term and in the long term?

Short term I am just enjoying having lots of free time, however I will still be keeping active, also lots of travelling and spending time with my friends and family. And in the long term we want to start a family soon, and I will continue to build and enjoy my teaching career.

Basketball has been my life for so many years that it will be strange for it to no longer be there so I’m sure I will continue to support the Hatters and you may even see me playing in the odd competition here and there!

 

Update…

At the start of the 2014/15 season, Lisa returned to the floor with her beloved Sheffield Hatters. At the time of this update they have already won the first trophy of the season – The WBBL Trophy.

Hatters Win WBBL Trophy 2015

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