As we move into the holiday season, I'm writing after a long trip to Isreal, preparing for our next game on December 10 and updating you all with my latest blog post thanks to my MacBook and Blackberry Android Phone.
Our three leagues' seasons are in full swing here, as we travel throughout Europe, with periodic stops at our "home base" in Domžale, Slovenia. Being in three leagues is even busier than I thought it would be. Our team plays multiple games per week, sometimes each game in a different country! Currently, here's where we stand in each league:
1. Premier A Slovenian Basketball League (the top-level professional men's basketball league in Slovenia): We're in 6th place with a 5-3 record. Having always being one of the best teams in the league in my basketball career from high school and college, it was a humbling experience to be on the other side of that. I definitely appreciate every victory we get more then ever now! We play 30 regular season games and then have the playoffs which start in May. Our team should contend for the championship this year so we are preparing for a very long season.
2. Alpe Adria Cup (AAC) (a Four-Country European League): We are in first place in our three team group, with a 2-1 record. In the AAC, there are only two other teams in our group (from Austria and Croatia) and the top team advances to the next round. So, we're looking good, for now.
3. FIBA Basketball Champions League (BCL) (a "Pan-European" League of 52 top teams from 31 countries): We are 1-6 and in a three-way tie for last out of the 8 teams in our group. In the BCL, we play the other 7 teams two times each, with one home game and one away. As I mentioned in last month's post, our group opponents are from Greece, Turkey, France, Israel, Czech Republic, Denmark and Germany. The five teams with the best records after all 14 games advance out of the group into the next round. So, even though we are at the bottom of the standings, it's still early, and we have 9 games left to turn it around, which is plenty of time.
Multiple Games Per Week: A Novelty in European Basketball
Playing multiple games a week is a nice change of pace compared to my last season in Germany, where we played a more typical European schedule of once per week. However, it is more taxing on the body, having to travel as much as we do and play game after game. For instance, this season we've traveled to both France and Israel during the week to play for the BCL. We logged over 20 hours of travel time for each trip. It took 12 hours by bus to get to France and then we had to drive back immediately after the game. To get to Israel, we logged a 14 hour trip that included two flights and then a two hour bus ride.
Some weeks we cannot take any days off because our games are so frequent, and we need to prepare adequately for each team we face. So, there is much less time to recuperate. By no means am I complaining about any of this though! This is what we get paid for, and it has been an amazing experience to get to travel all around Europe to play other teams. Since my rookie season in Holland I have been to 13 different countries and I will visit six more new ones by the end of this season. All of this is truly a blessing from God!
Valuable Lessons from My Coach Paying Off
Another reason I love playing multiple games in a week is that it reinforces a very valuable lesson my high school coach, Eric Davis, taught me. I'm forever grateful that I got to play for Coach Davis. He is a tremendous coach and leader. To this day, we keep in contact, and I try to visit his family and him every summer. He has become a mentor and father-like figure to me.
One of the many lessons I learned during my four years with him, one that has always stuck with me, is keeping a level mindset no matter what type of performance I just had. Regardless of whether you've just had your best game or your worst game, do not let your emotions get too high or too low. He used to say to enjoy the wins or sulk about the losses only until midnight of that same day. After that, let go of whatever emotions you have about that day's performance, so you can be ready for a new day tomorrow. Our basketball season is like a roller coaster ride.
It is such a long season that it's only natural that there will be stretches where the team and individual players will play well, and other times where they will not. Regardless, your attitude and work habits have to be consistent. Playing multiples times forces me to apply this lesson on a constant basis. There have already been a few instances this year where I've had to let a bad game go and bounce back in the next one.
I was listening to a motivational video recently that conveyed a similar message but talked about it in terms of life in general. The message was that the most successful people get excited when things do not go their way, because they know they are due for a breakthrough. On the other hand, they do not get too comfortable when things are going extremely well for them, because they know that some kind of new challenge is coming their way. I feel like this is one of the most important lessons everyone can utilize in their own lives and I am forever grateful for Coach Davis teaching me this as a high-schooler.
I appreciate it Coach!
Brandyn's Bonus Point: Sightseeing in Europe
People always ask me if I get to go sightseeing in these different countries I visit when we play internationally. Unfortunately, though, we rarely get a chance to really "go" anywhere other than perhaps visiting the immediate area around our hotel. Our road trips are similar to business trips that corporate employees take. Except, we're athletes!
Our schedule is pretty much set, with events and games booked closely together. Between having all of our meals as a team, film sessions, and practices to get used to the opponent's gym, the extra time we do have is normally spent taking naps, honestly! Then, we usually leave right after the game to head back home.
On rare occasions we might stay the night, but we have a curfew time by which everyone has to be back in their rooms, and we normally depart very early the next morning. So while it is great that I am getting to see these different countries, I am not getting the experience a visiting tourist might have. I do however at least try to pick up on the basics of the language such as how to say "hello", "thank you" and "bye". I also enjoy meeting the different people in each city and country we visit, and plan to revisit these countries again, down the road!
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