A student who says basketball is “my refuge and my happy place” has been named the University of Chester’s Sport Coach of the Year.
Ninar El Kak, 26, who played in Syria growing up and Lebanon more recently, came to Chester to study for a Master’s in Marketing Management. Passionate about basketball, she met with Gordon Reay, the University’s Director of Sport, to talk about how she could get involved with the game during her studies. Seeing her potential, Gordon recommended that Ninar coach the University’s basketball team to share her knowledge and her love of the sport with others. This led to the team achieving second place in the BUCS (British Universities and Colleges Sport) league – the best ever placing for the women’s team.
Ninar started training with the team twice a week and designed drills and set plays that were simple to memorise and helpful to organise the team defensively. She also helped players new to the game learn the rules of basketball, emphasised the role of team building and lifted their morale by encouraging them to both play their best and enjoy the game.
Ninar said: “I was active as a child and I loved all kinds of sports, especially basketball. When I was nine-years-old I started playing basketball in Syria then I played in Lebanon.
“This was my first coaching experience and I wanted to leave a mark in the lives of the women. I was thrilled with their improvement they have made throughout the year and I am so proud. In the last team practice for the academic year, I sat with the girls and discussed how things were, and if they were happy with the results and the feedback was amazing!
“I am so grateful and honoured to be able to transfer this love and knowledge to other people, as well as to be awarded Coach of the Year! I’m beyond blessed.
“It’s been an incredible experience studying at the University of Chester in a city brimming with nature, fascinating history and such a welcoming atmosphere.”
Gordon said: “Every year we like to acknowledge students who have made a positive impact on the sporting life of the University and I am so proud that Ninar has been named the University’s Coach of the Year. She beat some tough competition to get the title.
“Ninar was unanimously selected as ‘Coach of the Year’ by the panel for her outstanding work with the women’s basketball team. The team have never had such a successful season, coming second in the BUCS league, and having so many players who wanted to play. Not only did Ninar look after the team, but also developed players who have not played before and ensured they felt part of the club. These development players will be the players of the future and Ninar has left a legacy for all her hard work. Overall Ninar is an exceptional coach and player and her personality shone through all year. She is a deserving winner of this prestigious award.”