Category: Community

SEN Camp and Special Olympics

February half term saw the Reading Rockets run their first ever SEN Basketball camp.

The club’s programme for  children with special educational needs has grown and grown over the past 12 months with coaching in 7 local special needs schools and 2 weekly Satellite clubs.

The programme is run by experienced coaches who all have a vast amount of coaching experience in this area and for some have also completed academic courses in Autism awareness, inclusive coaching and SEN teaching.

The club is now working closely with Special Olympics GB to increase the opportunity local youngsters have to access the special Olympics pathway and compete locally, nationally and also internationally. Steph Johnson who is head of Rockets SEN Programme was delighted that the club was able to offer their first SEN basketball camp.

“ This has been something that has been in our planning for the last 12 months and we were actually able to deliver it earlier than planned due to the huge amount of young people we were delivering basketball too throughout the school term. Another motivation behind it was I became aware of how little there is on offer during school holidays for children with additional needs as many clubs break for the holidays. I felt we could fill a much needed gap and I’m looking forward to an SEN Camp being a regular fixture in the club’s holiday programmes in the future. Our thanks go to Berkshire Community Foundation who  provided vital funding which made running our camp a reality, we are extremely grateful for their support”.

For more information on the club’s SEN Programme please contact

Rockets Historic National Cup Finals weekend

Next weekend on Sat 19 and Sun 20th Jan Reading Rockets will travel to Essex University where both their U 18 teams will be challenging for the titles whilst the Rockets Ladies will also be representing the club in the Senior Cup final less than 24 hours later on the same court.

This is the first representation of 3 teams in the National Cup Finals by Rockets in its 21 year history and is a true reflection of the developments of Rockets Academy programme, especially the Girls one as half the Senior Ladies team is comprised of U 18 Academy girls. The Academy programme is overseen by G.B. U 18 Junior Men Head Coach and Commonwealth Assistant Head Coach Alan Keane who’s in his third season at Rockets.

Ladies Head Coach David Sanchez, is thrilled to have the U 18 Girls Head Coach Blai  Benlloch Villagrasa as his assistant and together the Spaniards have made major contributions to the female game in their 3 years with Rockets. With the Junior Men programme also having grown in stature since Keane’s arrival, the future looks very rosy for Rockets. Coach Keane has also got the Senior Men into the National Trophy semi-final stage.

Rockets Ladies reach the National Cup Final

Their coach David Sanchez comments:

From a coach’s perspective it is fantastic to reach a final. This one is my second year as the head coach of the ladies team and we were thirsty to get into a final with these girls. From my point of view, this year was going to be hard, as we have many young girls but they bring lots of energy. The semifinal game was really hard: Anglia Ruskin was fighting until the end and it was a great game to demonstrate the level we can reach this year.  We look forward to preparing for and playing the final.  Both teams have a lot of talent and in my opinion the winner of the game will be the one who maintains their concentration and makes less mistakes.  We feel ready for the challenge and excited to have this chance to bring the trophy to the club.

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Andrea Gomez, one of Rockets’ players says:

The feeling of getting into the finals after defeating an amazing team such as Anglia Ruskin was amazing. We have been working really hard to get to play as we want to and with FAMILY spirit and even though we still have a lot to improve, that game was a reflection of that hard work and TEAM spirit that we have. We all are so excited to be in the final and losing is not in our minds. We want to enjoy and have a game that we all can happily remember.

We have a great team in front of us that plays really well.   I’m sure it’s going to be a really hard game for both sides and the winner will be the one who wants it more. I’m sure each one of us will give the 120% to get that W and enjoy TOGETHER.

It’s always a challenge to play a final, but we feel ready for it.

Rockets Under 18 Girls in the National Cup Final

Looking forward to the game, their coach, Blai Benlloch comments:

“I am really excited and proud of my team for reaching the cup final as I think they deserve to be there after showing a high level of determination and competitiveness in the first part of this season. We can’t wait to play and enjoy the final as it promises to be a very special day!”

Saffie Jarju, one of the team, says:

“Playing in the finals is a huge achievement for us and an exciting experience in our basketball careers. It will give us a chance to play to our full potential and be strong together as a team.”

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Rockets Junior Men in the Under 18 National Cup Final

Ben Fisher is the coach of Rockets Under 18 boys and comments

cid:image001.jpg@01D4A784.2CD84680 “To reach a national final is always such a special achievement and we are all really proud of our guys in being able to achieve this feat. Haringey will be a tough opponent but if we can continue to commit to everything we do and be relentless with everything over the forty minutes then we have a great chance of success through our performance. It promises to be a great weekend for our club and we can’t wait to compete.”

The team’s captain is David Obediah and he says:

“We are all really looking forward to playing in the cup final and for most of us it is the first opportunity to do so. We have been working really hard this season to be the best version of ourselves and in turn be a difficult team to beat. We will go out and give everything against Haringey as we try to put in a performance worthy of a national final and ultimately a win.”

Rockets as both U18 Junior Men and Girls win through to the National Cup Finals

What an achievement by Rockets as both U 18 Junior Men and Girls win through to the National Cup Finals in the New Year.

Reading Rockets Junior Men 88-78 Sussex  Storm

Rockets Under 18 Men came from as many as 13 points down to beat Sussex Storm in the National Cup semi-final on Sunday afternoon as the team reached their first cup final in over ten years.

Rockets, playing at their home court of the John Madejski Academy, started the game on the front foot racing into a 9-1 lead but were pegged back by their opponents as Sussex made an impressive 17-2 run to lead 18-11 midway through the quarter. And it was the visitors to Reading that would finish the period on top as they led 24-32 after only ten minutes.

Rockets responded well as a 7-0 run to open the second quarter reduced the arrears to just one at 31-32. The home team really improved their defence and kept the Storm to nine points in the second stanza as they headed into the locker room with a two point advantage leading 43-41 at the break.

A nip and tuck opening to the third quarter saw the game finally poised at 46-45 before Sussex blew the game open with a 18-5 run to lead 63-50 with two and a half minutes remaining in the period. Rockets did trim the deficit to eight at the end of thirty minutes as Storm took a 26-16 quarter to lead 59-67.

But the Rockets weren’t done and had an excellent start to the final quarter as a 19-2 run propelled them into a nine point lead, 78-69; an advantage they wouldn’t surrender. The visitors reduced the deficit to seven but another 10-2 run for the home team ensured delight for the Berkshire outfit at they won a pulsating encounter 88-78 to secure their place in the National Cup final when they will take on Haringey Hawks in Essex.

Head Coach Ben Fisher was very proud of the players and was particularly praiseworthy of point guard David Chive. He said,

“I am so proud of the group and the way they never gave up. We have a real resilience in this team and that showed later in the game even when we were 13 down. The guys deserve this win so much and I am so pleased we get a chance to compete in a national final.”

“I must also give credit to David Chive who was fantastic throughout the whole game and led the team with a huge 33 point haul but today was really about the whole group and their character to win a hard fought contest ” said Head Coach Ben Fisher.

U 18 Girls

City of London Academy 62 – 69 Reading Rockets

In a very big day for Rockets U 18 Girls they narrowly beat CoLA to take them to their first ever National Cup Final !!

CoLA are a very skilful and tough team at both ends of the court and are always prepared and ready to do battle. On Saturday the Rockets U 18’s managed to overcome them in a titanic battle by 69-62.

Coach Blai Benlloch  reflected ‘ the game was tied for nearly all of the first 35 minutes but with just 4 minutes to go ColA took a 6 pint advantage and our girls needed to dig deeper and ignite the Rocket in them. In the final minutes Rockets hit a brace of key trebles  and played some of the best defence we have played all game to hold the opposition to very few tough moments for them. Our thanks go to Coach Jackson and his always impressive team and Rockets is honoured to take our place in the final in January.’

Now to a historic day for Reading Rockets on Sat 19th January 2019…what a start to the New Year for Rockets elite performance programme.


JMA Rockets enjoy Erasmus trip to Spain

The John Madejski Basketball Academy with Reading Rockets took 22 players to Spain, visiting three of their beautiful cities in Madrid, Valencia, and Barcelona.

The group departed from JMA at 2.30am in order to fly from London Luton airport at 6.30am – nice and early, or in most cases no sleep! A relatively smooth flight arrived in Madrid at around 9am local time and the group then started what seemed like an episode of Top Gear in their three 9-seater vehicles driven by Messrs Johnson (Clarkson), Benlloch (Hammond) and Fisher (May). The group was also accompanied by JMA and Rockets Division 1 Men’s Head Coach Alan Keane, as well as JMA’s Rebecca Anderson.

First stop for the party of 27 was to their accommodation at Aristos, the home club of former Rockets Coach Raul Lozano, where they would stay for four nights. After a short rest, the team travelled to Fuenlabrada to watch their ACB practice and have a Q&A session with GB Captain Dan Clark and Assistant Coach of Fuenlabrada Anna Montañana who also coached one of the JMA Rockets players Paula Romero Tarrega when she was younger.

Tuesday saw the group take a tour of the centre of Madrid with a familiar guide in former JMA Rockets player Iñigo Perez Baena. Later that day both boys and girls teams would play Tres Cantos, the home of both Iñi and Fidel Gomez who also had two years in Reading. Both teams played the club senior teams and were defeated with lots of learning occurring just 48 hours into the trip.

Wednesday morning was a time to reflect on the first two days, catch up on some rest, and for the players to meet with their coaches individually to discuss what they would be looking to gain from such an impressive trip. Both girls and boys teams then played Estudiantes that evening with the girls recording their first win coming from behind to take victory whilst the boys fell against a very impressive Under 18 outfit.

The following day and it was a trip to the NBA offices in Madrid to meet Alex Sarama. A most interesting presentation from a man that started coaching in Surrey and made the transition all the way to work in the biggest basketball association in the world. Later that day, the group visited the University in Madrid to meet the current GB Women’s Head Coach and Sports Psychology lecturer Chema Buceta. A fascinating insight was given to the players on all things surrounding the mental part of being an elite performer from self-talk, to confidence, to mindset and the like. An action packed day ended with a trip to the Wizink Centre to watch Real Madrid take on Buducnost in the Euroleague with the home team running out convincing winners 89-55.
Friday saw the end of the group’s time in Madrid and the three vehicles headed towards Blai Benlloch’s home town of Valencia. On arrival, the group was privileged to have a discussion with ex-WNBA player and Spanish star Marina Ferragut who is one of the most capped players in Spanish history.

The weekend started with a strength and conditioning session for the players followed by a very interactive physio session with Alvaro Gil. The players learnt how to tape themselves and each other in a really beneficial two hours. Later that day it was then time to visit another ex-JMA Rocket in former academy head coach Pedro Garcia Rosado. Now the head coach of women’s division two outfit Picken Claret in Spain, his team secured an 11-point victory.

Both teams were back on court practising on Sunday, getting ready for their upcoming games in the second week of the trip before watching Valencia v Fuenlabrada (the team they had previously seen train) in the ACB. Valencia Head Coach Jaume Ponsarnau visited Reading for three months about two years ago and it was his team that secured victory on the day 86-67 in another great spectacle for the tourists.

The start of the second week of the trip commenced with another S&C session and practices for both teams before an absolutely wonderful afternoon spent at Blai’s “summer house” where his mum and dad put on the most glorious spread of food including the traditional paella which was magnificent! Some fun then with Blai’s dog, Rudy and Gasol, as well as a trip in the swimming pool for some of our braver students ended what was a much-needed relaxed and fun time together.

Tuesday saw another action packed day with a trip to Valencia city centre in the morning followed by watching the Valencia Basket Women’s team train at their brand new and incredible training facilities at L’Alqueria del Basket. The girls’ team returned to the venue later in the day to claim a great victory over their Under 18 girls team whilst the boys suffered an agonising two point loss as Ben Fisher took the helm with Alan Keane returning to England on Division One Men’s duty.

The next day, the group was back at the Valencia headquarters for a talk with the Valencia Community Manager on all things social media. A very informative talk looked into the detail of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and how to use all the social media platforms effectively. After some familiar study time for the group it was game time for the boys as they fell to a very impressive Valencia Under 18 team.

Thursday came along and after a visit to the Valencia ACB team practice and some memorable time with Jaume, the three vans once again hit the road to Barcelona. A much more peaceful drive ended with a drop off at the hotel before heading to the Camp Nou complex to watch another Euroleague game, Barcelona v Maccabi Tel Aviv where the players and staff would be court-side for pictures with the players before the game. In what was an incredible atmosphere, Barcelona came out convincing winners taking a 74-58 win.

Friday, and it was back to Camp Nou for a tour of one of the most impressive football grounds in the world and the museum that accompanies the most impressive of architecture. After a great time there, both teams prepared for their final games against Joventud Badalona. In a shortened game, the girls secured another victory and the boys won their first game of the trip with an impressive 75-70 win on the club’s ACB court.

The penultimate day of the tour was a time to really enjoy the city of Barcelona and meet up with one of Rockets’ finest products – Matthew Marsh. The group travelled to L’Hospitalet to watch Marshy’s Under 18 team record a double digit victory with the 6’11 centre having two big dunks in the game much to the excitement of the supporting boys! Marshy then joined everyone for dinner at Barcelona’s NBA Cafe as the final evening of the trip came to a close.   The group returned to England the following morning and arrived back to JMA around 3pm after an incredible two weeks of highs, lows, learning, and enjoyment.

Thank you so much to Erasmus, the White Horse Foundation, the John Madejski Academy, and Reading Rockets for making the trip so enjoyable and memorable!