Sheffield basketball coaching legend short-listed for national award

Basketball coach Betty Codona with the junior team
Basketball coach Betty Codona with the junior team
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Sheffield basketball coaching legend Betty Codona could soon be adding another trophy to her already bursting cabinet after being short-listed for a national award.

Betty, who is in her 70s, has been announced as one of five finalists for a sporting heroes award.

Basketball coach Betty Codona with the junior team

Basketball coach Betty Codona with the junior team

Judges were blown away by Betty’s efforts in women’s basketball after daughter Lorraine Gayle nominated her mum for the title.

Betty, from Ecclesfield, founded the very first women’s basketball team in the country in 1962 – the Sheffield Hatters – and also played in the first women’s England basketball team in the late 60s.

She first started playing the sport when she spotted men shooting hoops at college and wanted to give it a try herself.

“Girls played netball and men played basketball, that’s how it was,” said Betty. “But me and some of the other girls decided to play and really enjoyed it.

Basketball coach Betty Codona with the junior team.

Basketball coach Betty Codona with the junior team.

“When I left college and became a PE teacher at Hatfield House Lane School in Sheffield I originally taught the traditional netball and hockey, but after a few years I wanted to add in some other sports so I started teaching the girls basketball.

“They loved it so much that when they left school they asked me to set up a team and the Sheffield Hatters were born.”

It was only when Betty started looking for other female teams for the Hatters to take on that she realised they were the first female basketball team in the country.

Betty said: “There wasn’t a single women’s team for us to play so we ended up joining the men’s league – we put up a good fight but it certainly toughened us up.”

Basketball coach Betty Codona with the junior team

Basketball coach Betty Codona with the junior team

Other female basketball teams started to crop up in the late 60s and a women’s national league came to fruition in the 70s.

During her 46 years as coach, Betty led the Hatters to many victories, though she says it was tough in the beginning.

“It took a long time for us to rise to the top of our game but in 1989 we won our first national cup at London Docklands Sports Centre and things took off from their,” she said.

Betty was the first coach to rack up 50 national team trophies, with the Hatters experiencing their most successful decade during the 90s when they won an incredible 27 out of a possible 30 national trophies.

In 2008 when she took a step back from coaching, Betty was named as the longest serving basketball coach in the country, clocking up 500 national league games during her time on court.

Highlights of her colourful career include both playing in and coaching England basketball teams, receiving an OBE for her services to sport and having a new annual national basketball tournament named after her – the Betty Codona Classic – in recognition of her achievements and commitment.

But Betty has still not taken time out and hung up her whistle for good, as she still helps out at the Hatters’ training sessions at All Saints Sports Centre on Norfolk Park Road, Sheffield.

Today, thanks to Betty, the Hatters boast three women’s teams, four junior teams, and a mini team, with players of all abilities ranging from seven-years-old to women in their 50s.

To vote for Betty to win’s Most Deserving Sports Hero award, visit Voting closes on Friday, July 11.