Interview: Bristol Thunder captain Jake Cooper
Switching allegiances in sport can often fuel controversy and are often the toughest decisions to make for an athlete.
Luis Figo going from Barcelona to Real Madrid, Sol Campbell joining Arsenal from Tottenham Hotspur and Babe Ruth’s switch from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees all spring to mind.
This is something Jake Cooper had to think about in 2015 when he was considering moving from Bristol City Korfball Club to Bristol Thunder.
In the end, Jake went ahead with the move and two years later, he finds himself as the club captain as Thunder head into the England Korfball League Play-offs for the fourth consecutive season.
Looking back at the decision, Jake said he feels the right choice was made, even if it was a tough one.
“To be honest, as a City player, we hated Thunder when they first came about in 2011,” Jake said.
“I think at the time, we thought at the time that we’d worked hard to get into a good position to challenge for the play-offs and then this other side had come in.
“But soon I could see what Thunder were trying to do in terms of taking korfball seriously and in a professional manner and I decided I wanted to be part of that.
“I thought about a lot the summer before I actually joined and then again the following year and it was then that I decided that I wanted to see what I was capable of, so I made the move.
“I’m glad I did, but I still have a lot of friends at City and the great thing about korfball is there’s a lot of camaraderie, so I’m sure when the play-offs come, there will be a few guys from City cheering Thunder on.
“As a player I am getting to play with some really strong players regularly and I feel I have progressed a lot.”
Thunder have a 100% win record
Heading into the play-offs, Thunder’s first team have a 100 per cent win record in the Western Regional League and have finished second behind Birmingham City in the EKL North and West Promo League.
Jake, who was made club captain before the start of this season, said it has been a brilliant campaign so far for Thunder, from the first team right down to the fourths.
In the last three seasons, Thunder have come second, third and fifth in the play-offs, but Jake, who is 6ft 6in tall, says confidence is high at the club they can achieve their ambition of promotion this time.
However, he added they are trying not to get too far ahead of themselves.
“I think it is so tempting to imagine that situation,” he said.
“But I am trying to stay grounded, as are the team.
“However, everyone does know that if we do go up, then they will have contributed in a piece of history as the first South West team to play in the top league.
“Overall, korfball is very strong in places like London and Kent, so if we break into that, it would be massive.”
Race against time
For Jake, there is a element of a race against time to be fit for the play-offs as he is recovering from an ankle injury.
“Funnily enough, I picked it up during a game against Bristol City a few weeks ago,” Jake said.
“Hopefully I will back in training either next week or the week after and then I’ll hopefully be ready for the play-offs.
“I was concerned about missing the play-offs when it happened, but I’d actually rather it happen a few weeks away from the play-offs then just before hand as I’ve had time to recover.”
Watch Bristol Thunder in action at the LFF Korfball Grand Finals on May 6-7 at the K2 in Crawley.
Tickets for the LFF Korfball Grand Finals are available here.