Often, elite athletes banish all talk from within their inner circle about results.

Instead, the mantra that’s repeated ad nauseam is that it’s all about the process.

However, Chantelle Handy is a refreshing diversion from the norm.

The head coach of Caledonia Gladiators’ women’s side is in little doubt as to the outcome she and her entire squad are striving for this season.

“I absolutely think about winning the league,” says Handy. 

“You’re not a competitor if you don’t think about that. It’s important for us all to have the mindset that we want to be on top. We want to be competitive - and we want to win.”

Victory in the Women’s British Basketball League (WBBL) is a lofty aim but it’s by no means unattainable for the side who finished second in last season’s WBBL standings.

With 14 league games played this season, Gladiators are top of the WBBL, two points clear of London Lions, who have two games in hand.

Gladiators’ run of form this season has been remarkable – 13 league victories, interrupted by just a single defeat in early December, is a testament to the side’s consistency. But with the WBBL now at the business end of the season, Handy’s players are likely going to have to produce the best form of their lives if they’re to fulfil the Englishwoman’s ambitions for her side.

And that begins this evening, with what is one of Gladiators’ most important games of the season.

They host second-placed London Lions, who have won the past three WBBL titles, and Handy is fully aware of the importance of this evening’s 40 minutes which is, effectively, a double-pointer.

Despite sitting below Gladiators in the WBBL table, London Lions are many people’s favourite to win this evening’s match-up but 36-year-old Handy has been in this game far too long to discount the prospect of her side upsetting the odds.

“It’s a big one this evening. London have been doing great things in Europe and putting British basketball on the map so it’s a great opportunity for my players to go up against that kind of talent,” she says.

“But it’s about focusing on us and making sure we’re playing our own game.

“I’m a big believer that, on any given day, anything can happen. Yes, London are a top quality team but if we go out there and play our own style then I’m confident we can stick with them. A basketball game is a basketball game – you don't know what'll happen.”

Handy has played a pivotal role in pushing Gladiators to the position they’re now in where they’re talked about as realistic contenders to win the league.

Having joined the East Kilbride-based side in the summer of 2022 as a player-coach, she relinquished her playing duties at the end of last year before being appointed head coach last month.

The Herald: Handy (centre) with fellow coach, Miguel Angel Ortega, and the club’s head of high performance Donnie MacDonaldHandy (centre) with fellow coach, Miguel Angel Ortega, and the club’s head of high performance Donnie MacDonald (Image: Caledonia Gladiators)

Her experience is vast; she’s an Olympian and has played in the USA as well as for several teams in Europe, which has ensured Handy has seen it all in the sport, something that may just come in useful in the coming weeks.

With six games remaining until the play-offs, which will determine the league winners, nerves are beginning to creep into every squad but Handy is confident her side will be unaffected, as much as is possible, by the end-of-season anxieties that can so often see a team’s title challenge derailed.

“Right now, our confidence is high. And I try to impress upon the players that, no matter who we’re playing, we must go into every game with the same mindset,” she says.

“Everyone’s playing for play-off positions so teams are out for blood and every single game from now till the end of the season will be so tough.

“We might be top of the league but we can’t relax. We’re a team that plays with a high-intensity so if we let that mindset slip, we let our whole identity slip.”

It’s beyond question that the mark Gladiators have made on the women’s game in the year-and-a-half since they turned professional has already been remarkable but a league win would put the side into another stratosphere entirely.

Handy refuses to get over-excited about the repercussions of a league title just yet but, with the WBBL trophy within touching distance, she’s cognisant of quite what an impact a league title would have on the women’s game in this country.

“It would be massive for us to win the WBBL,” she says.

“Already this season we’ve become the first Scottish team to set foot into Europe so that was a huge milestone and it’d be huge for Scotland if we can win the league as well.

“It’d be a big step – this is only our second year as a pro team so we’re trying to slowly progress and develop our players and that’s going to take time.

“We have long-term goals but for now, it’s about taking it one game at a time and seeing what we can do over the next few weeks.”