Vanja Cernivec: Former Chicago Bulls scout joins London Lions women as first female General Manager in WBBL

Vanja Cernivec: Former Chicago Bulls scout joins London Lions women as first female General Manager in WBBL

Cernivec takes up her post as the new general manager of the Lions women's team and the Global Director of the Lions academy.

She arrives having previously made history as the NBA's first female international scout with the Bulls.

The Lions women recently produced an unbeaten WBBL season in which they achieved a domestic clean sweep by clinching the WBBL Play-Offs, Cup, Trophy and Championship.

"When I accepted this role for the Lions, I was so happy to see the success they had last season and it also made me think what we need to do to improve the league in general," said Cernivec.

"It was mainly the vision and the ambition of 777 for the London Lions and women's basketball in the UK that influenced my decision. It will take a team effort and we will need to find a way to popularise the sport and at the same time be patient to allow slow and organic growth. I see the Lions playing a crucial role as front runners and the initiators in developing and implementing this long-term strategy.

"Hopefully in two or three years we will be competing in the EuroLeague. As an organisation we will need to be ready when we recruit high-profile players and put them in the right system to allow them to flourish. This means investing in coaches and other staff that are usually overlooked, which is something I'm going to focus on as well.

"I hope that with time we can attract the best players in the world to compete for the Lions and with that help inspire even more young athletes to pick up basketball.

"I think it will be crucial for our team to be able to identify and recruit foreign as well as the best UK talent. In this process we should also focus on helping other WBBL teams to raise their talent level and spark the growth of the WBBL as well.

"I looked at the list of the girls who are playing in the NCAA divisions, and I was surprised at the high number of British players competing in the US. We need to develop relationships with those players and create an environment for them to come back after they graduate.

"I'm not saying bring them back to the London Lions, I'm saying bring them back to the WBBL so that all teams can enjoy their success and growth."

The announcement comes after a study conducted by the Lions organisation showed that 44 per cent of females are not made aware of career opportunities in sport beyond playing, while a further 41 per cent said there are not enough role models in sport management to look up to.

Cernivec has welcomed the chance to help inspire the younger generation of players and continuing to inspire female participation.

"In my previous role with the NBA league office, I had many opportunities to work with young players at grassroots as well as elite level," she explained.

"Helping young boys and girls around the world to develop and provide them with a platform to change their lives through basketball was the part of the job I loved the most.

"I see the connection with my new role at the London Lions. I'm super excited about the role of becoming general manager, but to have the opportunity to help build stronger pillars for player and coaching development is something even more exciting.

"When I still played professionally, I was also clueless about the opportunities in the sports industry outside of playing and later coaching and potentially refereeing. It was only later in my life that I discovered different roles and opportunities within the sport/basketball industry.

"When we're not going to have this conversation about the lack of female representation in sport is when I'm going to be happy.

"I find it frustrating that in 2022 we are still talking about this. I'm very supportive and I want women to have more opportunities, but at the same time, I want to be hired for my knowledge and experience."

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