This blog post is directed at those of you born and raised in European countries that leave home for the first time that either go to college or go play as a professional in another country. This is a warning!
You will suddenly understand what life is like for Americans who come overseas to play ball!
If you are going somewhere else to play for the first time, you will have a deeper appreciation for the foreign players that have played on your teams. The sacrifice, dedication, and also the darker sides such as being on your own, possibly not speaking the language, money being possibly late, and other things will suddenly become very real to you.
Have you ever had an American player on your team have to get off the plane to play or practice right away? Yup, it could happen to you. Have you ever had an American player on your team just seem lost because he/she cannot get around or even go to the store at first because they cannot speak or read your language? Yup, it could happen to you. Have you ever had an American player on your team complain about not getting their money on time? Yup, it could happen to you. Have you ever had an American player on your team seem depressed around the holidays because they are practicing while others back home are celebrating? Yup, it could happen to you. Have you ever had an American player on your team have trouble adjusting? Yup…you know what I mean.
Until now, your life has been pretty regulated because you had the comforts of home your whole life. Chances are that even if you changed teams within your home country, the biggest inconvenience was packing up and moving to your new team. You probably knew everyone that would be important to your season.
Now, that will change.
There are advantages and disadvantages to leaving your country to play somewhere else. Let’s talk about a few.
- Sometimes players (especially younger ones) tend to be unappreciated by the teams in their countries and often are not paid like other professionals. When you go to another country to play, you will be immediately held to a different standard (which can also be a disadvantage…read below). Being outside your comfort zone could be very beneficial to your confidence.
- You might get paid more. Especially if you are a younger player and a team brings you in, they are probably investing in your future talent, so to obtain that talent, they probably have to pay more than what you were getting in your home country.
- You will experience a different form of training and system which will help round out your game. Different coaches pick up on different aspects of a player’s talent. Depending on what that coach sees in you, he/she will probably develop you in a different way than you are used to. As long as you are open to that, it should help your game in the long run.
- Broadening your horizon is never a bad thing. It could be that by going to another country, you learn to appreciate your own country more…both on and off the court. Standards will probably differ, and you will learn to handle yourself in ways that you wouldn’t ordinarily do back home.
- As mentioned in number one above, pressure will be immediate. You will have to step up because as a foreign player, you will be expected to bring the team to a higher level. You will not just be looked at as “one of the guys”. Because you will be taking a foreign place in the roster, you will be expected to do more. You have no more excuses that “The foreign player shoots all the time.” Once you leave the comforts of home, you have to produce. Period! Some players flourish under pressure and some collapse. Be careful what you wish for.
- Your ability to adapt to your new surroundings both on and off the court will be put to the test. For some, this is the hardest thing to cope with. Not having your normal routine at first or even the same foods that you have been used to your whole life can be troublesome. You will be on your own and will need to rely on others more than you have your entire life. Especially at the beginning, this may be tough.
As you will notice, I have listed more advantages than disadvantages. From my viewpoint, that is the way it is. I am sure there are many more advantages and disadvantages but as with most things in life, you have to experience situations yourself before you can say whether it was positive or negative.
Spread your wings and fly if you have an opportunity to play elsewhere. You may realize that your home country is where you would rather play, and there is nothing wrong with that. If you never leave, you will always ask yourself the famous, “what if” question. Experience it for yourself. You will learn more about yourself than if you stay in your comfort zone…and trust me, you can always go home!