The Caledonia Gladiators men’s team were put through their paces with their toughest coaching session yet, as a ten-year-old superfan was given the chance to take charge of his favourite team.
Max Philliban was invited to help coach the team at their multi-million pound stadium at Playsport in East Kilbride after wowing the club by dressing up as their head coach, Gareth Murray, at a game – including wearing his trademark thick beard. He donned the club’s strip and coach’s clipboard, and even went as far to wear a mock-up wig with Gareth’s distinctive facial hair and fabric sleeve tattoos in tribute to the artwork on Gareth’s arms from his playing days at the club.
At the session, Max was given one-on-training from coach Murray before running the players through drills and giving them pointers from his own experience.
He was also treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of the facilities and delivered a motivational team talk in the changing facilities before he was given the chance to hold the team’s iconic sword – the only fan to have even had the privilege.
Talking about his experience, Max said: “I thought I’d be sitting in the sidelines watching the session today so to actually be on the court with the players and Gareth was amazing.
“I’ve been thinking about what to say to the players for weeks and planning what parts of my own training I could bring to the team so to talk to the coach about that and get pointers will help a lot with my own playing.
“I love basketball and my dream is to one day play for Caledonia Gladiators – hopefully today has taken me one step closer to that dream.”
The schoolboy, from Falkirk, has been going to Caledonia Gladiators games with mum Linsey Philliban, 41, and best friend Jake Richie (aged 8) for the last three seasons after falling in love with the sport and the pair have season tickets.
The Kinnaird Primary school pupil plays at under 12 level for basketball club Falkirk Fury – where Gladiators club stars including Jonny Bunyan and Fraser Malcolm began their career.
Head coach Gareth, 39, who was recently nominated for Coach of the Year at the annual Scottish Sports Awards, said: “I think Max was coming for my job today. He was great at coaching the team and giving them pointers throughout. The team commented on how he really put them through their paces.
“Our fans are incredibly important to us so to have Max along and see his face light up on the court was fantastic.”
Commenting on the training session, Pennsylvania born Clifton Moore Jr said: “Coach Max took over today and that was by far the hardest training session yet – he’s a beast.”
Max previously chose to dress as Gareth after the club encouraged fans to dress up for their pre-Halloween British Basketball League match against Leicester Riders on 29 October, which they won 84-83, at the club’s new 1,600-seater stadium at Playsport in East Kilbride.
Max’s parents watched the training session from courtside as Max proudly roamed the court with a clipboard shouting pointers to the players.
Lynsey said: “To not only get a behind-the-scenes look into your favourite team and play on the court with them, but to go that step further and coach them – that’s a dream come true.
“Max wants to get a photo with the players after every game and they are great at taking the time to accommodate him. He’s been talking about this for weeks so to watch him have this incredible experience has really been something else.”