Sweden & a Little Perspective on the Price We Pay as Pro-Athletes Abroad…

I am officially in Sweden playing for the team called Telge, in Södertalje, Sweden. It’s pretty much a complete 180 from my situation in Lebanon. I have a cute little apartment with actual space to move around and a kitchen! Oh the little luxuries… The team’s gym has 6 courts, we have our own locker room, a sauna, and the weight room all in one place. We also get free gear, are Adidas sponsored, and receive massages/treatment the day after games. I real-life felt like I was an orphan they adopted from a 3rd world country (though not literally) when I first got here. Beirut outside of my specific situation was good, but I was just SOO happy to be in this situation here in Sweden. They would apologize about stuff that was completely irrelevant to me. Such as, apologizing that my apartment wasn’t the absolute best. That they didn’t have my practice gear ready or have a water bottle for me. I looked at them like “You can seriously save your apologizes, I’m just happy to be here. “ haha

Anyone who has played overseas understands that it is nothing of the discipline, organization, or professionalism college was. In Poland I slept on an uncomfortable couch made into a bed the entire 4 months (my back killing me) and good medical treatment was hard to come by. Sometimes you don’t even have a trainer to treat injuries or tape your ankles before games. In Lebanon, we had no practice gear, no treatment, and no real access to a decent gym. It was in no way a professional, organized situation. If we wanted shots we could go to this sub-par gym with slippery, rubber floor, loose rims, and broken nets. We maybe, practiced 3x a week which consisted mostly of less than mediocre scrimmaging. If I was just playing recreationally this would be fine but at a professional level, when it’s your job, it’s not a good situation to rise in. Luckily, I’m no longer there.

I’ve played 2 games since being here. We’ve won both. First game, I got MVP with 23 points/13rbs the first game. Second game, I was 18 pts and 10 rbs. Our team has a lot of potential and so many fantastic shooters, but hasn’t had a real post player all season. So it’s a learning curve on building that chemistry and changing mindsets to utilize me. We will be fine though. Everyone is friendly and positive, which is a nice environment to be around and play the game I love in again. I’m blessed to be in the situation I am now, surrounded by good people and like I’ve said before it takes bad experiences to appreciate the good ones all that much more.

ON A SIDE NOTE..  

I know so many people who wish they could play pro ball overseas. They see it as this amazing “dream” and like it’s a life of luxury. Yes, we get paid to see and experience the world. We get to do a lot of things other people could never dream of doing. We get to be fully immersed in the culture and get paid to play the sport so many people love. We get to delay the inevitable curse of growing up and “adulting”. But I want you to understand that that experience and lifestyle comes at a cost. We pay for it through our relationships with friends and family. We pay for it through a lot of time spent alone in a new country, where we are literally all we got. We pay for it through family time spent mostly FaceTiming our nieces/nephews so they don’t forget us while they grow up without us around. We pay for it on lonely nights abroad, becoming game-masters of Netflix wishing we had good, loving people to come home to every night. Wishing we had people physically present who truly, honestly cared about us and actually know us on that level. We pay for it through long-distance relationships that struggle to survive the 6-8 months in an entirely different time-zone. Through blood, sweat, tears, and occasionally physical injury, we pay. One way or another we pay for the decisions we make on the lifestyle we choose to live. It’s important to me to let you know, we pay. We take the good with the bad.

Sometimes the sacrifice is playing in a country with a terrible league where most players don’t share same level of basketball IQ as what we’re used to. Many players have to make the hard decision to either make more money playing in a bad league with bad basketball or play in a good league for less money. The lucky ones are able to make it in to a country with both, but those are the players who have been able to create a reputation for themselves while remaining healthy. We sacrifice our quality of life and sometimes our happiness in order to make a good amount of money in a short time. Or we accept the Goodwill version of the game we love and grind through all while knowing what quality basketball looks life and feels like. The game we fell in love with and chose as our career, watered down. Like nails on a chalkboard, because we know what “flow”, chemistry, discipline, and great clockwork basketball “IQ” looks like.

For women, we already make less than what men make and are put in worse situations than most male players. Men seem to have it better in the quality of what they receive, the way they are treated, and money they get for playing abroad. Though, I know plenty of guys who have seen some pretty terrible situations too, but women get the short end of the stick on this one 99% of the time.

We face a lifestyle that isn’t exactly the “norm”. It’s not the popular route for women because we’re supposed to find a partner, get married, get a good job, and start a family. Most of the women in this line of work don’t follow that or aren’t able to do it well and are forced to retire. Many men have wives and kids they leave back in the states while they play. Some are lucky enough to take them along, but it’s still a difficult life to live for everyone involved. My friends talk about how hard it is to not be with their kids while they’re gone. The sacrifice to play professional basketball abroad isn’t a light one, by any means.

Most people don’t realize what we sacrifice in order to follow our dreams. We risk our health, our relationships, our finances, our families, often times our sanity in order to keep clawing after and doing what we love. We sometimes float around during the summer months not knowing where our next job will be or when. People ask us over and over what’s next and us not having a good answer for them. Players get called up one night and told they have 2 days to pack up and be on the next plane out of town. It’s not a lifestyle for everyone. In a way, it’s a gypsy lifestyle. I write all of this, not to say our lifestyle is harder than others but to give you perspective. To show you that in every decision, a sacrifice is made. Not everything is as it seems. Not everyone is as they seem. Just something to chew on, from someone standing in a different pair of shoes.

For now, I’m just thankful I have been placed in a good situation, with decent basketball, and good people. I made a hard decision, to be in a place where I could be happy and where the quality of life is 100x better than the situation I was in before in Lebanon. Asking for my release wasn’t an easy thing for me to do. From the month spent in Puerto Rico due to the hurricanes, to my situation in Lebanon, I was tired of just simply “surviving”. I wanted to actually do more than exist and be able to begin enjoying it all again. Find my vibrant self, back again. So here I am… Ready to start exploring, start enjoying, and start living again… Simply enjoying where I’m at .. right .. now…

#StillBlessed 😉

“If you can’t sacrifice for your dream… then it’s not your dream.”

“In order to become the 1%, you must do what the other 99% wont.”

“Everyone wants success, until they see what it takes to get it.”

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