With season in full swing and having played multiple games both at home and on the road, I thought I would share with everyone some of the differences in the games between here and the U.S.
First, for you basketball junkies that may be interested in the rules, there are some changes between college and international FIBA rules. We have a 24 second shot clock and only 8 seconds in the backcourt to get the ball across half court. The three-point line is close to 2 feet further back than in college; which has probably been the biggest adjustment for me with regards to playing. The coach is the only one who is able to call a timeout and the timeout can only take place at a dead ball or after a made basket and must be called ahead of time. Travels are a call I still don’t completely understand. Moves that are legal in college are a travel here and some moves that are legal here are a travel in college- a slightly confusing adjustment but maybe I will figure it out soon and cut down on some turnovers! There are some other differences including the referee’s signals, and substitution procedures as well but these are the main changes I’ve noticed.
The biggest difference between here and college is beyond the actual rules and is the atmosphere of the games. Our team is very fortunate to have a larger gym similar to a typical college arena, however the away gyms we have played in have been smaller and more comparable in size to a high school gym. More noticeable than the size and quality of the gyms are the loud, and passionate fans.
Imagine the student section of a college game where everyone is standing up and cheering for the entire game. Then take that image, add team scarves, a couple of flags, noisemakers, at least two or three drums and you now have a very loud and proud cheer section in Poland. The fans are more similar those of the Seattle Sounders or other soccer teams than any basketball teams. One huge difference is the noisemakers. The NCAA bans artificial noisemakers, whereas here they are not only allowed but encouraged and are used the whole game.
Flags are very common as well. Some fans have their own individual flags, others have larger ones that they wave around on a stick, and the most extreme flags are brought out once or twice a game. These are huge flags that cover entire sections of the crowd and even sometimes a whole side of the gym. Everyone joins together to pass the flag along and spread it out as they hold it above their head for a short period of time. This is pretty cool to see; except for the time when the fans displayed the flag backwards and didn’t realize it until it was time to take it down- A for effort though!
Another thing I’ve noticed is the fans don’t really mind whether the home team is on offense or defense or it’s a timeout; they make just about the same amount of noise regardless. In fact, the most unified clapping of the game comes while the HOME team is shooting free throws. They still beat their drums and blow their horns to try to distract the away team while shooting but when they home team shoots they all rally together orchestrate a very unified and loud slow clap. This was very confusing to me at first; I didn’t understand why they would try to distract their own team while shooting. When I asked one of my teammates why they do this she said it is to show encouragement and cheer you on as you shoot. A prime example of their passion and goal to cheer the ENTIRE time they are in the gym.
All joking aside, the games have been a lot of fun and the environment is an amazing and unique thing to experience. The fans are supportive and very passionate. They even aren’t afraid to find you on Facebook and ask, “how you would assess the match” through messages. Hopefully they will continue to come support us, and keep the slow claps, chants, and drum beats going!