FIMBA GB Stories – Sarah Cooper

Our latest FIMBA GB Story focusses on +35 player and team manager, Sarah Cooper, who talks openly about how FIMBA GB helped with her mental health struggles.

Sarah, known as “Coops”, has been playing basketball at local and national league level for over 22 years. The eldest of 5 (4 sisters and 1 brother), Sarah was always supported by family members in her sporting endeavours, her biggest fan being her younger brother, Michael. Due to Michael’s diagnosis of ASD and ADHD, he only went to watch a handful of games as it was not really his thing to come and watch, but when he did it was always special. Knowing her brother was there Sarah used to play up a little bit, banter with the opposition, make it a physical game when the performance required it, which he loved.

Sadly in 2018 Sarah lost her brother aged 29 to suicide. 

I’d spoken to him 1am of the morning on his birthday to arrange to meet him and go into town for his birthday shopping with my young son (who is a spitting image of my brother), which he agreed, so I was happy knowing I would see him…but by 09:00 I was called by my mother to be told he had died. I thought she was lying to me, so I went to his flat, a 10 minute drive from me when reality hit. Police cars and Ambulance outside I froze. I had literally arranged to meet him at his flat in an hours’ time, but he had killed himself. I was lost, broken, full of questions, full of anger, should I have done something different? I could have stopped him…so many thoughts I still have to this day. 

Sarah Cooper

This was and still is the toughest thing Sarah has had to go through. Playing sports was always her go-to for regulating her own mental health. Getting on the basketball court always gave her the adrenaline buzz she needed, which sets her up for the rest of the week, get her frustrations out, socialise with others and really be around people who care to check in with her and chat when needed. It also keeps her connected to her brother and his love of watching her play and supporting her in the background. Basketball was and is so much more than a game to Sarah. 

After his death, Sarah needed something new and in 2021 she saw a social media post about Masters level basketball where she could have the chance to represent GB!

I thought; well, I have always been told I should play higher level basketball, so I absolutely need to apply and since my brother passed at such a young age I cannot go through life with regrets. My brother would have been absolutely thrilled and proud if I could make the team!

Sarah Cooper

Since Michael’s passing, Sarah has tried lots of new things but this opportunity was actually a dream for her as a youngster too. 

I sent an email to FIMBA GB and really liked the responses I got back about being a family on and off court, something I value deeply seeing as my brother was my biggest motivation and now his death was my biggest driver to not let opportunities pass me by, I knew this was what I needed to do and this was the organisation I needed to try out for. 

Sarah Cooper

That was in 2021, just after Covid when the world was crazy and mental health was really in focus for everyone. Sarah is a qualified learning disabilities nurse and was working in a secure mental health hospital, had two kids of my own and had custody of 2 grandchildren from her then wife and was starting to mentally struggle. Sarah knew she needed this opportunity and needed a new, different focus. 

Sarah went to a training camp with the FIMBA GB +35 Women’s team, met some incredible players, people and now friends, and has never looked back. There have been some downs (injuries), but there have also been some incredible moments – playing in a GB kit; representing in international tournaments; scoring a buzzer beater winning basket in the GB Masters tournament last year and of course medalling in the European championships in 2022. Sarah has now been selected to represent the team in the forthcoming Masters World Cup in Croatia and the European Championships in Italy. 

More than anything I wanted to tell my brother of all my achievements to date, including becoming a regular player, team manager a member of the FIMBA GB committee and just enjoying basketball with family, but I guess he has the best seat in the house. My motto is and always will be, I will stop playing when I’m dead and now FIMBA allows me to continue to play until that time. My mental health is so much better than it was, with a new focus as a team manager and a player it keeps me busy. For me now the game really never stops.

Sarah Cooper

Thank you for sharing your story, Coops. It is truly inspiring to see how basketball supports your mental health after such a horrendous experience. Your smile, attitude on court and effort off court as team manager and committee member is a true pleasure to be around. We are incredibly proud to have you as part of the FIMBA GB Family and look forward to supporting your journey and making Michael proud for many years to come.