Dear Rookies Playing Overseas

Hey Rookie, let me holla at ya for a bit.

Playing overseas you’re going to experience a lot of uncertainties. A lot of emotional roller coasters. What is clear however is your basketball goals. You are here to be a game-changer.

Rookie Season: Hapoel Rishon Le Zion, 2011–2012 (Brittany Spears, Nofar Shalom, Alexis Gray-Lawson, Keren Nehama, Rebecca Ross)

Always remember to be confident. You have to believe in yourself. Even when it feels like no one else is. But don’t get stuck in the past. You are in a new phase of your career. People here don’t care about your impressive NCAA career. You have to prove that you belong. Every practice. Every game. Every possession.

You’ll have to open your mind. If you get stuck in your ways and thinking you won’t make it over here. Understand that European basketball is completely different than American basketball, especially the coaching. They want you to execute, how they want you to get that bucket is different. Some coaches love ball movement, they love sticking to a system. They like the least amount of dribbles. Many European teams focus on team drills. Figure out how you fit in without getting lost. Figure out how you can maximize your talents within the system.

They have their ways here just like we have our ways in America. And both sides think that their ways are the best ways. But you’re here now so like when one of their players goes to play in America, you too have to adapt, adopt, adapt. Be patient with yourself cause others likely won’t.

Talent alone won’t guarantee a long career overseas. Remember that you are a brand as well as a player. How you’re viewed by the coaches, management, owners, agents, and fans is vital to your longevity. They all talk. They are watching how you move on and off the court. As an American, you will stick out. Be prepared to be under the microscope. Be ready for the criticism. How you handle all these things will be taken into consideration when it’s time for your future contracts. Your reputation is the foundation for building your brand.

Make your home your home. Personalize it. You might think well I’m only here for eight months and I didn’t buy any of the furnishings that came with this place. But besides the court, you will likely be spending most of your time in the apartment that your team provided for you so make it your own. Take care of it as if it was yours. The team will take notice if you OD with the water and electricity use. Remember, they talk.

Professional basketball is a sport. And we play a game. But it’s a business. A big one. Not everyone you encounter will be on your team, even those on your team. Understand that these roster spots aren’t easy to come by. So be careful who you express your challenges or opinions to because not everyone will see it that way. Some may use it against you on and off the court. Some of your European teammates have been in the system since they were kids and their connections and relationships will run deeper than yours. We are the outsiders. Some may see you as a threat. Some may see you as someone who is taking a spot and taking money that they think they deserve. Now not everyone is against you but not everyone is for you either.

Rookie Jori with teammates in Tel-Aviv, 2011

Now a few quick tips to help you enjoy your time away from home

Learn About Yourself: You will have a lot of alone time. Which can be a blessing or a curse for many. It’s a great time to explore things that you didn’t have time to explore before. Dedicate some time to reading, research new hobbies, get into cooking, do something that’s good for you outside of sports. Trust me this will pay off big time as you transition from the game.

See the World: If you’re lucky enough to get some time off try to travel. It’s much cheaper and easier to visit other countries from this side. There are a lot of budget airlines and the train systems in Europe are great. Google Maps is your friend. See if you can link with other players in other countries to help cut down costs. Maybe stay a little longer after the season to travel with your teammate as I did after last season.

Meet People Outside of Basketball. I’m taking that advice myself as well. It will be hard for sure. But if you’re in a big city you can find English speaking individuals to change up the topic of conversation from BASKETBALL. Stay in the moment and try to enjoy where you are now. Don’t get caught up looking so far ahead and miss the opportunities right in front of your eyes.

Hit me up!

I’m always down to travel and connect with our community abroad.

*** Always want to hear your thoughts and experiences too. Feel free to leave a comment below or to hit me up on IG or Twitter. It’s all about sharing and building a community. ***

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A private ecosystem of global elite athletes who are open-minded thought leaders and curious souls. These are our Unguarded Confessions presented by Wevolv.