Basketball abroad: a personal experience
Sport creates bonds no matter if you play baseball or professional football. Traveling is also another way to learn new things and meet new, cool people. When you combine these two experiences, the rewards are huge.
Whether you are traveling with your family, for a semester of study abroad, or even after graduation, I encourage you to take the time to practice the sport you love when traveling. You might be surprised by the people you meet along the way.
My first overseas basketball experience was on a high school trip to China, where I and a few other Americans joined forces to play against the local high school boys’ team. We played for over an hour before we finally clinched a victory. In the end, all the Chinese high school students encouraged us to achieve victory.
It was my first taste of playing sport on an international scale. Despite the language barrier, I was able to jump in and have fun playing the game I loved. I faced a different style of play and new techniques and brought home a tactic or two to use in my own game. And it was just from one game.
Then I moved to Taiwan for two years. Two months after graduating from college, I moved across the world to teach English. Fresh out of my last college basketball season, I couldn’t wait to get back on the court. But first, I had to overcome massive culture shock and settle into my new job. I was overwhelmed by the transition to a new country, playing sports has taken a back seat to my priorities.
It wasn’t until I moved to a new city that I started researching different basketball groups. I showed up in open gyms and entered the pitch with my language skills and desire to play. Most of the time people were surprised to see an index finger on the court. But they quickly welcomed me into the game once they realized I loved it as much as they did.
During my two years in Taiwan, I built a whole network of teammates who have become great friends. We would have dumplings for dinner together at a night market, then go out to the court to play basketball for hours. My language skills improved quickly as I started talking to the locals on a daily basis. And I discovered a side of Taiwan that I would never have found on my own.
It was an incredible experience and one of my most cherished memories. And it all started because I dared to go to court.
What you earn
Playing sports abroad has so many advantages. Whether you’re in the countryside for a few weeks, months, or even years, there is something to be gained by looking for a game nearby.
First of all, you can play the sport you like. After sitting on buses, planes, and trains, a workout is always good. This is a great opportunity to get rid of jet lag and sweat.
It’s also a great opportunity to make new friends. You don’t have to speak the same language to play sports together. And playing a soccer game or hitting an ice rink is a great way to meet the locals and connect with people from different cultures.
You will also get lessons in the local language. At the very least, you will learn the basic words you need for the sport. Ball. Mistake. Past. Filter. Good game. But it’s also a great opportunity to extend your language skills and talk with your new friends. If you are studying abroad, this is a great way to take your language learning to the next level outside of the classroom. If you just have an interest in the language, you can learn a few basic phrases.
Chances are, if you show up multiple times, you’ll bond with other athletes. And it opens up a whole new world of opportunities to explore where you travel. The possibilities are endless, and only there if you try.
How to enter the game
If this is something that interests you, it may take a bit of research to find a place to play. You can check out sites like Meetup, Facebook, or local sites ahead of time to see if the groups are playing together regularly.
Or you can wait until you’re in your new town and use Google Maps or walk around the neighborhood to find a local court or land. Often in the evening when not everyone is at school or at work, the games start and you can join in.
Do not be shy. It can often be intimidating to get to a game where you don’t speak the language and don’t know the system. But most of the time people will be really curious and ask you to join them. It may also be helpful to have another local bring you to court to facilitate the transition as well.
You don’t have to be a professional to play abroad. Just about anywhere in the world you will have the opportunity to play your sport. Try it out and see what happens. It can leave you with incredible memories.