Passion of Mike Tuck can help Sheffield Sharks grow appeal

Mike Tuck. Picture: Andy Chubb.
Mike Tuck. Picture: Andy Chubb.
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BEING a professional sportsman can be a physically and mentally exerting job.

There are the endless hours of training, travelling for matches and constant pressure from coaches, fans and media.

Now try adding a full-time role into that and you soon get an impression of the busy workload Mike Tuck has to deal with.

The long-serving captain of Sheffield Sharks, Yorkshire’s most successful basketball team, took on the task of managing the club’s marketing in the summer.

It has been a period of transition for Tuck, juggling the Sharks’ busy calendar on the court with the day-to-day running of the club’s media output off court.

But the 34-year-old says he is enjoying the challenge of trying to ramp up the exposure of the club as well as spread the message of the sport.

“There’s probably no better person in the city to be doing this role than me because of my passion for basketball,” Tuck told The Yorkshire Post.

“I want everything to grow. I’ve always said the UK is about 90 per cent football and 10 per cent is all the other sports. Basketball is just fighting for a slither of that 10 per cent.

“It is always an uphill battle, but I do believe the Sharks and the sport as a whole is growing.

“Basketball is the second-most played team sport among UK youngsters, but I don’t think enough people know about basketball in this country.

Mike Tuck. Picture: Andy Chubb.

Mike Tuck. Picture: Andy Chubb.

“Even within Sheffield people sometimes don’t even realise we’re here.

“But we’ve been around over 20 years and are one of the most successful teams in the UK.”

A large portion of Tuck’s off-court work will be devoted to promoting the club’s impending move to the state-of-the-art Olympic Legacy Park.

The facility opened earlier this year on the site of the old Don Valley Stadium which was demolished in 2013.

It is always an uphill battle, but I do believe the Sharks and the sport as a whole is growing.

It contains various pitches as well as a school and will be the Sharks’ first permanent home.

Moving into the facility will spell the end of a nomadic existence since the club was formed in 1991.

They started out at Sheffield Arena in the mid-1990s before a two-year spell at Ponds Forge.

It was in 2004 that they began playing out of their current home, the English Institute of Sport (EIS) in Attercliffe.

However, Tuck acknowledges that the new facility will be somewhere that the club can finally call home and also hopes that it can follow in the area’s proud heritage of producing sporting superstars.

Tuck said: “Moving into our own venue is probably going to be the biggest thing in the club’s history.

“We should be in there, hopefully, by the start of next season.

“It’s going to be a beautiful venue with the rugby pitches and schools there too, sort of like a sporting hub.

“The EIS has been great to us, but it’s a busy place.

“It will be nice to go somewhere you know where the Sharks live – it will be the new Sharks’ tank.

“You look at what Don Valley did back in the day, producing the likes of Jess Ennis and then the EIS with all the boxers coming out of here.

“So, hopefully, the new Olympic Legacy Park can inspire the next generation of stars.”

To add to a manic schedule, forward Tuck is aiming for a Commonwealth Games appearance next year.

He is eligible to represent England and is through to the final team trial in February as he plots a call-up to the Games, which take place on the Gold Coast in Australia.

“There are now 18 of us who will be whittled down to the final 12,” said Tuck. “To get to the Commonwealth Games would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and would be an absolute honour.”

Closer to home, the Sharks are hoping to better last season’s finish of fifth in the British Basketball League (BBL).

The club fell at the first hurdle in the play-offs last time around but Tuck can see signs of progression this term.

“We want to win silverware,” he added.

“I’m the old man now and I’ve been here nine years so next season will be the big tenth.

“The older I get the more I realise that my time on court is limited.

“I make the most of it now.”