Sometimes the smallest things can provide the most excitement as well as comfort and a feeling of normalcy in unfamiliar surroundings. For myself, I had one of these moments a few days ago when I took advantage of a morning off from workouts and went on a little trip to find Starbucks. This successful voyage definitely brought a smile to my face. For a moment, I felt like I was back in Seattle making a trip down the street to Starbucks just as I so frequently did. On a side note, I made the trip hoping to find the seasonal specialties that everyone has been raving about the return of- the Pumpkin Spice Latte or Salted Caramel Mocha. Poland unfortunately had neither of these options however, the server who also happened to be a loyal fan of our team, convinced me to try the Polish specialty, an Apple Crumble Latte, and it was very good! This trip to Starbucks was enough to brighten my day and even my weekend. It may seem like a small and insignificant event to most but the sense of feeling at home and normalcy definitely made it more than just a cup of joe.
This weekend we had two scrimmages against a 16 and under local boys team. These games were a lot of fun and although we didn’t keep an official score, I am pretty sure we won each by a fairly large margin. This was our first opportunity to play together as a team and I think it went well. We are starting to learn more about each other’s strengths and weaknesses and learning how to play better with each other. I have also been able to learn more about my teammates off the court. Our coach has been stressing the fact that our team is very young since I have been here, and for good reason. Four of my teammates are in their senior year of high school and are just 18 years old. Seems crazy that high school students would have the opportunity to play professional basketball but because there are no university teams to play on, players here can become professionals at any point if they are given the opportunity.
With the exception of a few players, everyone is in their first year of playing professionally and at the age of 23, I am tied for being the second oldest on the team! Our team has a very similar feel to a college team because of the ages of everyone and because everyone has moved to Gdynia in order to play basketball. All of the players are from different regions of Poland and have left their families to come play here in Gdynia; just as American players leave their families to go to college.
While many aspects of are team are comparable to college, a few things have been very different and definitely distinguish that this is now professional basketball. We had a meeting with our general manager of our team (to me that just sounds a little intimidating and official) to discuss the rules of our team and the expectations for the year. After the meeting they handed us a thick packet of the rules; which I began to read through. One of the biggest things to jump out at me was the penalty for breaking rules. For example, showing up late to practice no longer means an additional workout at 5:00 A.M. the next morning; now it results in a monetary fine. A technical foul in a game? Fine! Not wearing the proper team gear? Fine! Everything is a fine! Needless to say, to me that is a little extra motivation to be on my best behavior!
In addition to the scrimmages, we also had our first community event this weekend. Gdynia hosts an annual 3 on 3 streetball tournament in which our team is heavily involved. It is a chance for our team to provide basketball players of all ages an opportunity to play and have fun. The tournament was set up in the parking lot outside of our gym and consisted of close to 70 teams playing on about 10 different courts- very similar to a smaller scale Hoopfest in Spokane. Part of our obligation in being on the team is that we do these sorts of community events to build the relationships between the players on the team and the local fan base who will hopefully come support us once season begins.