Youth basketball is an important activity at Illkirch-Graffenstaden
Youth basketball and the slogan "we are basketball" goes well with the basketball club Illkirch-Graffenstaden.
The club first developed its men’s programme and today the SIG men are one of the best teams in France.
The club also decided to work on a programme for women’s basketball which saw them rise quickly from the lower leagues to NF2 in 1998.
In 1998 the SIG, as they were known in those day (Strasbourg IG), developed a youth basketball programme that saw them enter national competitions for minimes and cadettes.
In 2004 the cadetttes qualified for the national final four. A feat that was repeated by the minimes in 2005 and 2006.
On each occasion the teams finished fourth. However the club continued to attract the best young players in the area. In 2008 the minimes were back in the final four but this time left with the trophy.
For Stephane Weber, who is now the sports director of the club, it was the moment he had been waiting for 10 years.
With all this success the SIG were unable to keep players after minimes. So in 2007-2008 they opened their own basketball academy for girls between the age of 15-18.
The first two seasons were difficult for the club and they struggled during the first phase of the cadettes competition.
So they had to play the second part in the lower division. But today things are picking up.
The president of Illkirch-Graffenstaden explains in French how the basketball academy work today.
Luc Pfister said that the club invested a lot in youth basketball programmes and they put everything in place so that from the age of 12, the players had the chance to develop progressively. The club then went one step further with the minimes category.
However the big step was the creation of a basket academy for girls in the cadet category. Although they were not allowed to use the term "centre de formation".
Yet they had done everything required by the FFBB to be recognised officially as a training centre of basketball players.
This academy was not cheap because the trainer had to be paid and had to have the correct qualification. This function is performed by Claudie Hucault, who has at her disposal a physiotherapist, a strength and conditioning coach and a dietician.
That was not all because they had to find a high school that would accept the players and arrange the school timetable so that they could train regularly.
For this season they were 11 girls of which 6 in their first year.
Pfister was excited at the moment of the interview because the cadettes had been undefeated in the group. The results at school had been also good.
He was also looking forward to the game scheduled with Bourges Basket that weekend because he was at the opinion that his team could win.
For him Bourges Basket is the best academy in France. So with the good results at the moment and the results in school he believes that they are running their academy correctly.
The club have an area for the players to do their homework because education is still important.
He added that it was not possible to predict how far the girls could go in the sport later even if they got to play professionally.
The reason for his excitement is that half the team are first-year cadettes and with the way they are winning matches it is encouraging for the future.
Two of the players in the academy are youth internationals.
In the picture above, Célia Mauler (16) who made her début in NF1 last season was a member of the French U16 training roster.
Céline Pfister (15) was a member of the France U15 team that won the U15 4-nation friendship tournament (tournoi de amitié) between Greece, Italy, Spain and France during the summer in Italy.