Friday, February 1, 2013

Winter Update

Winter in Den Helder

Let me start this post by saying how much I miss the weather in sunny Cal-i-forn-i-a! With temperatures reaching well below freezing, I have had to make quite the adjustment over the last few months, mostly to my wardrobe which now makes me look 100% European! I thought I couldn't get more Euro when I left for Holland....One of the challenges that has come from the cold is the fact that our gym is also freezing (around 50-55 degreez on the average day). Our club is still working on securing a permit to install heaters in the gym but until then let me present to you the Industrial Space Heater 9000…

We now have 4 of these in our gym. Enough to give you that placebo effect and also warm the gym up in 4 corners of the court

During practice and especially water breaks everyone seems to camp out in one of these corners as if it were the 4th of July up at Whidbey Island (campfires) except the only smoke that are seen is from our jerseys and skin due to the temperature difference. After a good warm-up we all stretch as a team and when I’m lying on my back, I see a small cloud of steam floating away from my jersey and skin. I feel like I just made 3 shots in a row on NBAJam. FIRE!!!

I will say that these cold temperatures have played to our advantage a few times as teams who play us in the Kingsdome er.... Ice Dome simply can’t adjust to the temperature in the early going. This translates into them shooting 20% from the floor for the 1st half.

In the end, actually experiencing a winter has been a nice change of pace as I now appreciate the sun whenever it comes out. This is very much the sentiment for anyone who has lived in a cold place.

“Athlete-Students” in Europe

The standard path towards receiving a high quality education and pursuing an athletic career is very different in Europe from the U.S. I will say that someone like me with similar athletic ambitions will usually be required to take a more unorthodox path (by U.S. standards) towards graduating college or having a high quality educational background. The reason for this difference lays in the fact that, in Europe (and other continents), if you play a sport at a high level it is most likely the professional level. While there are some colleges or universities that have athletic programs, many of them simply participate within the professional circuit. An example of these teams in our league would be Groningen, Rotterdam, and Amsterdam. Many of my teammates have entered the professional circuit as early as 16 years old.

What complicates this transition or decision to pursue a professional sports career is the fact the clubs or teams do not arrange practice times or their schedule around your academics. This is very different from the student-athlete culture in the U.S. where a number of restrictive measures or norms come into play. I’ve listed a few below…

1.      NCAA restricts teams (in theory!) from practicing a certain number of hours per week
a.       Europe: professional teams can practice as many hours as they want or is needed. (Unless explicitly stated in a player’s contract)
2.      Typically every school semester each team in the athletic program will coordinate with one another to ensure that the student-athletes will be able to take the classes they want and need.
a.       Europe: It is up to you to find a way to schedule in classes and exams around your sports schedule.

Thus the academic process for many of teammates and others in similar situations takes a few extra years as you are more of an athlete-student than student-athlete. As an example, my housemate and teammate Max played professional basketball during his “high school” years and would study for tests in Spain and then commute home to Holland to take a bundle of tests in a couple days! Another teammate of mine, Ewoud, gets his tests sent to the local school here in Den Helder where a teacher proctors them for him. This last example with Ewoud is more analogous with my academic experience at Santa Clara when I would have to take a test while away from campus for basketball travel.  

Below is one of manyexamples of how top talent develops in Europe from such a young age.

Ricky Rubio played in his first ACB (1st Division Spanish league) when he was just 14 years old!! He continued his studies even while going through all the LeBron James level of hype in Spain and throughout the ACB! Rubio now plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves in the NBA!

Small Differences: Gasoline

For everyone in the U.S. complaining about gas prices let me share a number with you… $9 …is what I pay per gallon to fill up my car! Why the higher price? Taxes, subsidies, and international relationships with OPEC. In the U.S. the average tax rate on gasoline is between 15-20% where in Europe this number can reach higher than 50%. Thus instead of paying a cozy $3/gallon in the U.S., I end up having to pay upwards of $8-9 per gallon. Yuck!

[SIDE NOTE: I will say that the mass transportation system throughout Europe is much more developed than in the U.S. (excluding larger cities of course like SF, NY, and Boston) which is one way to avoid paying the higher price at the pump and it’s usually easier to travel too!]

Training Camp in Amsterdam

As a team, we are heading to Amsterdam next week for practices and team building activities. We will be staying in a hotel all next week, eating home-cooked meals, and hopefully get to enjoy a little bit of Amsterdam as well.

Until next time! HOWDOEEEEEEEE!!!

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