St. Mary’s Hall Portlaoise has been the venue for many a thrilling basketball match over the years, and the primary schools children who take part in our annual tournaments in May can be very proud to say they are now part of this great tradition!

May sees the culmination of the Laois Sports Partnership basketball programme for primary schools. Having grown from a series of one day blitzes, it is now one of our most keenly anticipated schools programmes each year.

Laois Sports Partnership has worked hard to promote participation in basketball by forging links between primary schools and local clubs. Over the last 6 years we have developed a programme where coaching sessions are delivered in schools by coaches from clubs in the county. Seamus Dooley from Portlaoise Panthers Basketball Club has been volunteering with the programme for the last number of years. His coaching skills and passion for the sport have been a contributing factor in the popularity of the programme and growth in numbers taking part year on year.

Coaching is offered to the schools over a 4 week period to pupils from 3rd – 6th class. Pupils in 3rd class can potentially receive the coaching for up to 4 years before they move on to secondary school.   Once the coaching has been delivered, all of the schools in the county are invited to take part in our tournaments run over 6 days in St. Mary’s Hall Portlaoise. The tournament days give schools an opportunity to play against each other and use their new skills, in a friendly, non-competitive environment. All schools from around the county are invited with over 1,000 children taking part over the two weeks.

Part of the appeal of our Basketball Programme is due to its inclusive nature. We deliver the coaching and tournaments in such a way that everyone gets to take part, not just the most proficient players who normally get picked for teams. Children get to represent their school and wear their school colours – in many cases for the first time. They get to experience the atmosphere of a large scale sporting event, mixing with pupils from other schools around the county. The emphasis is on friendly competition, so no scores are displayed. Everyone receives a certificate for representing their schools. Our aim is to encourage participation and hopefully see children get involved with their local club.  Following on from this success a Primary School Basketball League has now been established in Portlaoise.