A tribute to the ‘Queen B’ of basketball

02 September 2022

A tribute to the ‘Queen B’ of basketball

Born in 1938, Betty grew up in the Attercliffe area of Sheffield. She always loved sport and later fell in love with teaching, so it was no surprise that she ultimately followed a career as a PE teacher in Sheffield.

After a group of girls leaving her school expressed an interest in continuing to play basketball, Betty set up a night class and – just like that – Sheffield Hatters was born in 1961 (the name coming from the club’s location on Hatfield House Lane).

Sheffield Hatters was the first female basketball club in the UK and is still going strong, having celebrated its 60th anniversary last year. Betty achieved remarkable success both with the Hatters and individually.

During her time as a player, coach and Chair, the Hatters won over 60 titles and championships, making it the most successful club of all time. The Hatters are now coached by Betty’s daughter Vanessa Ellis who, alongside her sister Loraine Gayle, played at the highest level of basketball in England.

Following in her mother’s footsteps, Vanessa was also head coach at the Hatters and was assistant coach for Great Britain, as well as leading Team England to silver at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Betty was also the first female coach for the England under-18 team and served as chair of England Basketball, as well as having the Women’s British Basketball League Trophy Final named after her.

Betty did an incredible amount for community sport not just in Sheffield but across the whole of the country. At a time when she was often the only woman in the room, her resilient and determined character gave women a voice, and it was for this work that she was awarded an OBE in 1998.

Despite all her success on the court, it was a pure love of the game along with her mission to provide opportunities for girls and women to play sport, develop key skills and meet other girls and women from diverse backgrounds across Sheffield, that was her driving force.