GB Maxis’ women marked the first day of their training weekend with a minutes’ silence in honour of the late Betty Codona OBE, who sadly passed away yesterday. A huge figure in British Basketball, a strong advocate of the women’s game and a supporter of GB Maxis women, Betty will be sorely missed by us all – but particularly by the six Sheffield Hatters players who are currently part of the our squads. Ann Jamieson (50+), Stef Gandy and Katie Crowley (40+), Lisa Riches, Sarah Cooney and Helen Naylor (35+) paid their own personal tributes to the lady they called ‘Queen Betty’ by fulfilling their WBBL and NL2 fixtures in her honour today, and both with resounding wins which they dedicated to the iconic first lady of British Basketball.
GB Maxibasketball Programme Director, Sadie Mason MBE, who first met Betty 44 years ago, shares her own reflections and memories of the great lady below: “I first met Betty in the late 1970s, along with her daughters Vanessa and Loraine – players at Firth Park School, Sheffield in the National Schools Cup finals competition – and basketballwise, have grown up alongside them as national league and national team players, and still very good friends. Betty was a very loving grandmother to Tyler, Quinn and Georgia who was part of our England U18 team in Romania 5 years ago, and is now back with the Hatters WBBL family. As well as an oustanding coach, I will remember Betty as a basketball mum to all, very fair but resolute in her thinking and treatment of those she came across. She worked tirelessly to promote equality and visibility for women’s basketball. Our sport has lost a true icon.”
Many clubs across the BBL, WBBL and NL also paid their respects to Betty yesterday with 24-seconds of applause at the start of their games, such was the high esteem in which she was held. This concise review of her achievements is shared by Basketball England , who described Betty as: “An unrivalled colossus of the women’s game in the UK, Codona dedicated 60 years of her life to passionately inspiring thousands of people to play the sport that she loved so much.
From her eary beginnings as a PE Teacher, which resulted in her founding the Sheffield Hatters in 1961, she not only went on to win countless titles and establish the most successful club in women’s basketball, but she also played an immeasurable role in growing the game.
The enthusiasm, dedication and skills of Codona came out in everything she did. From when she proudly stepped out as a player and competed in the first ever National Cup Championship in 1965, to when she subsequently delivered 40 separate pieces of silverware as head coach between 1989 and 2009, prior to moving on to work as the Chair of the club.
The list of honours that Hatters snapped up under her stewardship from the sidelines is staggering, with Codona having accumulated 14 league titles, 12 playoff titles and 11 cup titles. All of those fed into the 65 in total that Hatters have won since she founded the organisation, making them the most successful ever.
That social cohesion and community work was also a major factor in the awards that she was both given and in contention for. As well as richly deserving her OBE late last year, at 83-years-old, she was BBC Unsung Hero for Yorkshire and shortlisted for The Sunday Times Grassroots Sportswoman of the Year Award.“
She was extremely proud of her two daughters Vanessa Ellis and Loraine Gayle, who played to the highest level of basketball in England throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Vanessa has followed Betty’s footsteps into coaching, assistant coaching Great Britain and Team England to a Commonwealth Games silver medal in 2008. She was most proud of her grandchildren: Tyler a Hatters coach; Georgia a star player for the Sheffield Hatters WBBL and GB representative; Quinn a prospect playing for Capo d’Orlando in Italy.
Betty’s family described her as: “An inspiration for all, she was determined, relentless, intelligent and most of all passionate. Betty’s ethos will live on through every female who has represented the Hatters. Everyone here within the Hatters are deeply saddened but we stand united to carry on Betty’s values and beliefs as we respect the past and we will forge the future.”
Betty Codona OBE, we salute you: a proper legend – gone but never fogotten. RIEP