It's hard to believe we are two months into 2017 and so much has happened already here in Slovenia. I guess that's what you get when you play in three basketball leagues as a pro overseas.
Playing in the Premier A Slovenian Basketball League, we are in 6th place with an overall record of 10-6. After suffering a devastating overtime loss on the road to the number one team in the league, Zlatorog Lasko, we bounced back to get a much needed win the following week at home in our gym against Sencur.
In the second league we compete in -- the Alpe Adria Cup (AAC) -- we play against four other European countries to form the league. We advanced to the quarterfinals of this league, where we play another team from the Slovenian league, Sixt Primorska, in a two-game playoff. The team that has the highest total scores combined from both games advances to the semi-finals. We won the first matchup at their place by 15. The next game is at our place and as long as we don't lose by 15 or more, we will advance.
And finally the FIBA Basketball Champions League (52 top teams from 31 countries), we finished with a 2-12 record, which put us 7th out of 8th place. We got a big win in Denmark to start off, fell to Banvit in Turkey and then eventually closed out the season against Nymburk in the Czech Republic. While we did not do as well as I would have wanted, it was a great experience to travel to so many different countries and play so many high-level teams. Just being one of the teams to be able to compete in this league is an accomplishment in itself since this league is one of the strongest competitions in all of Europe.
I learned a ton and this experience has made me a better player. So now we are only competing in two leagues for the rest of the year.
Life off of the court is going well too. Part of writing this blog is being able to share more about myself as a player and a person. For me, it helps to set and achieve goals and that is my focus in 2017. They say if you want to accomplish something you must first write it down and then have others around you hold you accountable. So by writing these here, I am putting myself out there to be held accountable by you to get these done.
I have already shared my biggest goal for 2017 in my other blog I write for Full Court Peace (read here), a (501c3 non-profit) that unites communities and cultures through basketball in the US and around the world. Since 2006, FCP has done great work through basketball in places like Belfast, Juarez, Havana and throughout Connecticut, where they are based. While trying to save for one student to attend a Full Court Peace outreach missions trip to Cuba is my main goal, here are three other big goals I have to make 2017 the biggest year of growth for me:
Building My Faith, Getting Closer With God
I have not touched upon this subject much in my prior writing, but I am a proud Non Denominational Christian. God is the head of my life and there is no doubt that I would not be where I am today without the blessings he has bestowed upon me. My faith is the biggest reason why I feel that I can handle any adversity that comes my way. When I moved from New Jersey to North Carolina before the start of high school, I started to attend church regularly. I will not lie and say that I was a big fan of having to wake up early every Sunday at 8 am to attend church for two hours. Yet, every service I would walk away feeling reinvigorated. It was as if the pastor knew what was going on in my life and the message was meant for me almost every time. Since then, my faith, knowledge of the bible and relationship with God have grown tremendously. I have had several spiritual mentors who have really helped me to better understand His teachings and their lessons have had a profound impact on my life.
I need to make a better effort daily in spending more time with God. I read the Bible just about every day, mainly using the "Bible" by YouVersion on my smart phone. I love the daily plans they have and reading the Bible is the first thing I do upon waking up. However, I felt that I did not spend enough time in prayer and talking with God. So now I try to incorporate more moments in my daily schedule to just simply talk with Him.
I start and end my day with prayers to Him while making sure to pray for at least one person besides myself. Instead of listening to music while walking to gym in the mornings (I live less then 5 minutes away from it) we have a conversation. Lastly, on off days, I'm planning to listening to a church sermon since I am unable to attend church while out here. It's only been a few weeks of these simple little things but the positive difference in my life is already noticeable!
Instilling A Daily Practice Of Meditation
Yogi Berra, one of the greatest (and funniest) baseball players of all-time, was once quoted saying, "Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical."
Yogi was also well known for his witty remarks, yet this quote perfectly explains how important the mind is in all of sports, not just baseball.
Now that I have been overseas for three years I understand the importance of training the mind as much as the body. At this level the physical differences between players is negligible. For the most part (of course varying for each position) everyone is fast, can jump high, and is very skilled. The mental edge is key. Being able to stay focused and present in the moment is much easier than done. Being away from home in a foreign country, the pressures of having to perform as an American (more on that subject another time), the ups and downs a season has, and having to adjust to certain coaches and systems every year, make it hard for some players to perform at their best.
The Yogi Berra quote came from the first sports performance book I ever read back in my senior year at Harvard, "Mind Gym" by Gary Mack and David Casstevens. Since then I have read countless other sports performance and "mindfulness" books. In every book the core principle is having a daily meditation practice. Being the world class procrastinator I am, I have waited three years until finally making the commitment. It's never too late to get started! After I get done with my bible reading and prayer I put my head phones on to do a 10 minute guided meditation session using the app "Headspace". It is nice to take a few minutes to really just be present in the moment. With all the craziness we deal with daily, combined with the worries of the future, being able to just be present has become sort of a lost art. So far, any improvements from this meditation practice has been subtle, but I believe that this is something that will pay dividends in the long run as long as I continue to stay with it. Somewhat like a daily workout routine that shows tangible results in months, rather than in days
Reaching A B2 Proficiency Level In German
Learning new languages is a new goal I started last season. Last season in Germany, my team offered free once-a-week German language lessons for anybody who was interested. I took a few of the classes, and even though we did not continue them for the whole season, it was enough to spark my interest. I looked at ways in which I could possibly learn German in my own time.
One thing I love about playing overseas is the amount of downtime players get. Even with all the games and practices, and my personal workout schedule, this is by far the most unscheduled time I've ever had. I want to make the most of this time and I also feel that this is a great time to learn a new language while playing abroad. A B2 proficiency level in a language generally means that you have reached fluency in that language and therefore can speak with the natives on a broad range of topics, get around in the country with no problem, etc.
I have been on and off with the learning process since last year. I've dabbled with a few different apps and websites trying to find which ones best suit me. Also, I've invested some money into the process with paid subscriptions and seminars on how to best learn new languages. One thing that keeps me serious about something is if I put money into it because then I feel like I then have an obligation to get my money's worth. My two apps I use for my German lessons are "Memrise" and "Innovative 101". Memrise is a great app that teaches you vocabulary and grammar rules using mnemonics. Mnemonics helps you to better remember things you learn by creating an association that will make the recall process much easier.
For example, "die Sache" in German means "the thing" in English. When I came across the word for the first time the app had a picture of The Thing, the popular superhero from the Fantastic Four, along with the word. Now whenever I hear "die Sache" I automatically think about the picture of the superhero and remember its meaning. Innovative 101 is a language podcast library in which I have purchased a two year subscription for the German Podcast. These podcasts have really helped with my listening comprehension which is one of the toughest aspects of learning a language. I have no doubt that I can reach B2 proficiency by utilizing these two tools on a daily basis.
These goals are not only part of my daily approach, but also serves as a direction to move forward and build myself up, while also doing the same for others in my life in 2017 and beyond.
I always love to hear from you guys, so don't hesitate to reach me here with any questions, for more information and also share on social media.
Brandyn's Bonus Point: Downtime in Slovenia
While playing in three competitive leagues is definitely a lot to handle it still amazes me just how much free time I still have on the daily basis.
This is something I do not take for granted because I know for a fact not many people have this luxury. A typical day for us here is to have some form of team practice or optional individual practice from 10am-12pm. Our official team practice is from 6 PM-830pm. So basically, every day I have a 5-hour period to do whatever I wish.
Since we are playing so many games we have a good number of mornings off and sometimes a complete day off. For the most part this downtime is a consistent part of every professional player's schedule with it varying of course. Players for teams in other countries or even here, who only play one game a week or who do not like to practice means, have almost twice as much free time as I do here! So, you know me. I want do things to make my time meaningful here. You see the three ways I'm making use of this "extra time" through the goals I listed above. Then, when my girlfriend Christina comes to visit we like to explore the historical and most well-known sites in the city I live in. Just enjoying every moment I'm getting to live my dream!
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