It is spring and for me, that means it is not only time to finish my bachelor’s degree, but also to begin my yearly travels to compete for the German women’s wheelchair basketball national team.
Only one week after I had finished the season as a national champion in the US intercollegiate division, I spent my spring break with the national team at the University of Texas-Arlington for an 11-day training camp.
This was the first time the team was nearly complete and training again since the London 2012 Paralympics.
The week was filled with hard work along with a few fun events such as shopping and watching a Dallas Mavericks NBA game.
This training camp was also the first as preparation for the 2013 European Championships, which will be held in Frankfurt at the end of June.
As we are the host and current top team worldwide, we train hard to try to continue being at our best.
Last year was the first time in 28 years that we were able to get to this level. However, getting there and being able to stay there are two completely different challenges, so we have to start over and train just like before.
After the camp in Texas, all of us returned to our homes to train with our club or collegiate teams and prepare on our own, while working, or in my case taking exams and going to class.
Most of the year was spent that way, which is why most of the success we have really depends on how hard we are willing to train and how much time we are able to spend in gyms.
Luckily, most of us are in situations where we are provided with many opportunities and are able to train and play at high levels all year.
Sometimes, the travels with the national team provide a challenge to these situations, though. As many of us work, study or go to school, we always have to find the understanding of professors or supervisors that allow us to take days off.
I am personally very fortunate to have chosen to study in the United States, as the university is very accommodating and allows me to be with the national team almost every time to continue developing together.
Thus, last Thursday, only four weeks before finishing my undergraduate studies, I got on a plane to Germany to compete at the women’s national championships and a training camp with the national team.
At the German championships, I was competing for Hamburg. We had four full games within two days and were not only able to capture the first place but I was also named tournament MVP.
Next on the busy travel schedule was a training camp with the national team in Berlin.
However, first we got to enjoy the benefits of winning a Paralympic gold medal. Our sponsor, Audi, allowed us to spend a whole day driving and racing some of their best cars, which was a very fun team event.
We trained for three days, pushing and competing against each other. The time was well spent, and thus as I am now sitting on a plane flying back to the US, I am exhausted but excited for the rest of the summer that I will continue having fun with the team while training and playing my favourite sport.
However, before I am able to see them again, I will have to spend two weeks to catch up on exams, papers and other school work to make sure I actually graduate this May.
It would simply be too easy if I could just train and do what I love most.
I will continue to write blogs leading up to and during the European Championships (28 June-7 July), as well as the U25 European Championships (15-18 August), so keep checking back.
After witnessing the game for the third place and the finals on the 2013 Central Americas Games we understood we still have a long way to go here in Costa Rica. Much needs to be learned here and lots more needs to be practiced. Still, we were happy to see how much our own Kenneth Gonzalez’ game had improved and felt extremely proud to have him on our team (At least until he heads over to Spain later this year). He was top scorer for Costa Rica on three out of four games, including the game for the bronze medal in which he scored 24 pts.
And while everyone else was focused on playing and winning, I decided I wanted something more. I wanted to get to know other people, to build relationships and to open the door to new experiences. I started talking to people from Panama, Guatemala and El Salvador and wasn’t surprised to see that they too are anxious to have wheelchair basketball grow in their countries. Some talked about their desire to create their own National Wheelchair Basketball League, others about their struggles in attracting women athletes to their teams, and others impressed me with how well organized they are right now.
I felt amazed to hear that many players would be willing to travel to Costa Rica for a few months and play with our team in hopes of staying active and competing. For a lot of the people I talked to, competing is a necessity that’s not being filled in their own countries since they don’t have a regularly organized tournament. It really left me thinking about the importance of having wheelchair basketball clubs (not just national teams) and national tournaments. This is the best way to promote healthy competition and keep players working to improve. It’s all about challenging each other! And that doesn’t happen when everyone plays together in friendly matches. Even more so considering that national teams don’t compete frequently in Central America.
Anyway, once the competition was over we decided to invite a few players from El Salvador to join us on a friendly match the day after. It was very nice to have them play with us! And afterwards we all enjoyed some good food, got to know each other and took some awesome pictures…. Shirts were exchanged and friendships were made. Just how it should always be. Special thanks to our newly made friends from El Salvador for accepting our invitation. We really had a great time!
Luego de presenciar el partido por el tercer lugar y las finales de los Juegos Paracentroamericanos 2013 entendimos que aún nos falta mucho camino por recorrer acá en Costa Rica. Hay mucho por aprender y mucho más por practicar. Aun así, nos alegró ver lo mucho que nuestro jugador Kenneth González mejoró en su estilo de juego y nos sentimos extremadamente orgullosos de tenerlo en nuestro equipo (Por lo menos hasta que parta a España a finales de este año). Él fue el máximo encestador por Costa Rica en tres de los cuatro juegos disputados, incluyendo el de la medalla de bronce en el que anotó 24 pts.
Y mientras todos los demás estaban enfocados en jugar y ganar, yo decidí que yo quería algo más. Yo quería conocer otras personas, construir nuevas relaciones y abrirle las puertas a nuevas experiencias. Empecé a conversar con personas de Panamá, Guatemala y El Salvador y no me sorprendió ver que ellos también están ansiosos de hacer crecer el baloncesto sobre silla de ruedas en sus países. Algunos hablaron sobre su deseo de crear una Liga de Baloncesto Sobre Silla de Ruedas en su país, otros sobre sus dificultades en atraer mujeres a sus equipos y otros me impresionaron con lo bien organizados que están en este momento.
Me sentí asombrada al escuchar que tantos jugadores estarían dispuestos a viajar a Costa Rica por unos meses y así jugar en nuestro equipo con la esperanza de poder mantenerse activos y seguir compitiendo. Para muchas de las personas con las que hablé competir es una necesidad que no está siendo saciada en sus países ya que no cuentan con un torneo que se organice regularmente. Realmente me dejó pensando en la importancia de tener equipos o clubes de baloncesto sobre silla de ruedas (no slo selecciones) y torneos nacionales. Es la mejor manera de promover una sana competencia y mantener a los jugadores trabajando constantemente para mejorar. Se trata de retarnos! Y eso no sucede cuando todos juegan juntos en partidos amistosos. Esto es aún más importante si consideramos que en Centroamérica la selecciones nacionales no compiten tan frecuentemente.
En fin, una vez que terminó la competencia decidimos invitar a algunos jugadores de El Salvador para que nos acompañaran en un partido amistoso al día siguiente. Fue genial tenerlos jugando con nosotros! Y luego de jugar disfrutamos de una excelente cena, nos conocimos un poco más y tomamos algunas fotografías fantásticas… Se intercambiaron camisetas y se crearon bonitas amistades. Así como debería de ser siempre. Un agradecimiento especial a nuestros nuevos amigos de El Salvador por aceptar nuestra invitación. Realmente la pasamos muy bien!
We are currently between the last two games in the five game series here in the UK.
The way the games are spaced out replicates the spacing teams might get at tournaments. For me it is a lot of waiting around, so I came prepared with my knitting and book.
I have got used to this as it is there to benefit the players. Also I learn about the saying “Patience is a virtue”. Sometimes things do take time and will develop. Such as integrating new players and coaches.
I managed to snatch a few pictures this morning.
Even at this level of wheelchair basketball everyone is friendly and both sets of coaches get along.
It is always nice to catch up with colleagues from previous tournaments.
Friendly games really are friendly. I think they are also useful for the players, coaches, referees & table officials to prepare and iron out any issues and try new things.
I would like to wish both Great Britain and The Netherlands good luck as they continue their preparations to the European Championships.
I’ve not long got home from officiating the first game in a five game friendly series between Great Britain & The Netherlands. It was the first time I ever met the new women’s coaches Nigel Smith and Joe Jayaratne. It was also the first time I had seen the four debutantes Joy Haizelden, Sophie Carrigill, Jordanna Bartlett, and Charlotte Moore play in a GB shirt.
It was also the first time I’ve seen some of my fellow officials since the Paralympics and European U22 tournaments, which is always nice.
The final score was 46-54 to the The Netherlands. If you can’t make it to the West Midlands, UK to watch the games do follow the live stats here, as both teams start on their road to Rio.
Slowly getting back on track…
From Costa Rica’s Erika Artavia
After our extended vacations the team is slowly getting back on track. Projects that were left on hold for these past few months are in the making again, and recruiting is becoming a priority
It has been quite difficult to get everyone together for practice since the Central American Games are just around the corner and some of our guys were called to join the National Team. They are now training three times a week which leaves them very little time for team practices and meetings. The schedule of the games has not been officially announced yet, but we are looking forward to seeing our National Team play. Being the host should be great motivation for our players and we are hoping to get better results than those obtained last year in Nicaragua.
Personally, I’m excited to finally meet coaches and players from other teams. Plus, we were told that the IWBF will be sending an international referee, a classifier and an officer to oversee all wheelchair basketball games so I’ll also get to meet some of the people that I have heard so much about, and exchanged emails with in the past (Juan Magallanes for example).
We will keep you posted with news of the games and will try to add pictures in the next few weeks to complement the posts from the IWBF:)
Poco a poco regresando a nuestro camino…
Luego de unas extensas vacaciones el equipo poco a poco regresa a su camino. Poyectos que quedaron pendientes durante varios meses se han retomado y el reclutar nuevos jugadores ha vuelto a ser una prioridad.
Reunir a los jugadores para entrenar se ha convertido en una tarea dificil ya que los Juegos Paracentroamericanos están a la vuelta de la esquina y algunos de nuestros muchachos fueron convocados a la selección. Ellos están entrenando tres veces a la semana y esto les deja muy poco tiempo para las practicas y reuniones del equipo. El horario oficial de las competencias no ha sido anunciado aún pero estamos ansiosos de ver a nuestra Selección Nacional jugar. Ser anfitrión debería de ser una gran motivación para nuestros jugadores y esperamos conseguir mejores resultados que los obtenidos el año pasado en Nicaragua.
En lo personal, estoy emocionada de finalmente llegar a conocer entrenadores y jugadores de otros equipos. Además, la IWBF nos ha dicho que enviará un árbitro internacional, un clasificador y un delegado oficial para supervisar todos los juegos de baloncesto sobre silla de ruedas así que tendré la posibilidad de conocer algunas de las personas de las que tanto he escuchado, y con las que hasta he intercambiado emails en el pasado (Juan Magallanes por ejemplo).
Los mantendremos informados con noticias de los juegos e intentaremos agregar fotos en las próximas semanas para complementar las publicaciones que haga la IWBF
Link to Erika’s previous blog posts
Due to bad weather in the UK at the beginning of the year lots of games have had to be re-arranged. Fast forward to March 2013, when checking my emails when I saw an email from Alison Flower asking me to officiate at Stoke Spitfires. I’ve never officiated at Stoke before and was available to help out. Alison & Andy picked me up from the railway station with a full car of chairs, basketballs & people.
For me it’s been a long time since I was at school so the buildings used to educate the future generations have changed.
For a stranger to a new club everyone was very welcoming and friendly from the Outset. As for the new venue the hall was nice but very cold, my hot water bottle will have to come with me next time.
I was officiating with a parent who wants to get more involved at the club. She has a good knowledge of the game and picks things up really quickly. She also had me in fits of laughter, when the game wasn’t going on.
With regards to the actual game, it was a great example of grass roots Basketball, with Stoke dominating in the first half. Sheffield Steelers brought it back in the second half and played hard but just couldn’t get close enough with a final score of 49-37 to Stoke Spitfires.
My day out in Stoke was lovely and makes remember all the good things I love about Wheelchair Basketball. See you guys in Coventry next week.
Taking a Break from The Games in Mexico
Today we took a break from the U23 tournament today to visit the pyramids. I had the pleasure of the company of Anne Lachance, Sergio Giordano, Mario Boutin, Marcus Gama, Sonia Ribeiro, Juan Magallanes, Pablo Angeles, Armando Arriaga and my grandson James.
Bruno got us there safely and back while playing great music from his personal USB!!!
It was lots of fun with a chance to relax and for some of us to climb “to the top”. Me – I stayed safe on the ground – of course someone had to take the pictures.
We bought some souveniers and generally had a great day. Now it is back to work for the third day of games.
Till next time…
Maureen Orchard, IWBF President
Is it really nearly the end of February… Where is the time going?
It has started snowing again here today, quite light though I am glad to say, We had to cancel some games because of the weather and are running out of weekends to re-run them.
Last weekend my first division London Titan’s team and I travelled to Sheffield for an away game against the team that will be the deciding factor between us making the playoffs or not. SHEFFIELD STEELERS. This team is extremely well organised and well drilled. They have a mix of young and seasoned players and a coach with years of international experience. I find my players are always a bit awe struck when they play teams that consist of ex-GB players. This played a big part in our defeat on the day. We were beaten by 10 points. I am happy about this though as my team showed that there is so much room for improvement for the home re-match. I will be working more on their mental state, rather than their basketball abilities.
I am pleased to say that during the game, my junior player Jim Palmer hit 10 points and this is becoming the norm for him now His confidence levels are rising with every game he plays. Also one of my point guards, who has a habit of arguing with the referees (which I am addressing) and picking up technical fouls, actually played the game and did not pick up a technical lol, so well done to David. My other point guard Hadj Lahmar played his usual solid/consistent game and defensively upped it to a level I have never seen, I lost count of the amount of times he forced the opposing team to turn the ball over. He picked up more offensive and defensive rebounds than any of the forwards. All in all, my team was firing on most cylinders on the day, so I am really looking forward to the home game to see the lads step up and show me what they are really made of when its ALL on the line
Wednesday night this week was my once a month training session for the Eastern Blue Stars and Aspire Stars women’s teams. I had mainly all of my development players this week and we had a really fun evening. I love helping to develop their skills from scratch, it was all really basic ball handling and chair skills, but there is so much talent coming through. By the time I am finished with them all, they will have so much flare/skill/confidence that they will be amazing to watch. I love to see people showing off their talents and having fun when they play, so we are currently working on spin shots, hook shots, finger rolls, round the back passing…. anything away from the norm that makes you feel like a real baller
I am also looking forward to Saturday this week as I am covering a Junior session for the wonderful Ann Wild OBE at my club. I love the Juniors, I am planning fun..fun.. fun for them.
On my other work front, I start my headteacher visits for 21st Century Legacy this week and I am really looking forward to this. The more schools we get on board, the more wonderful children we can reach and teach/show them the true potential that lies within and give them the chance of a great shiny bright future.
I am also starting my intensive NLP Masters course on Friday, which runs for 10days. I can’t wait, it is run by the most positive motivational woman I have ever met on this planet, Kath Temple, and I know I about to learn, grow and expand and come back with a new lease of life, plus some very handy skills to add to my ‘toolbox’.
Also an update on the GB Women’s coaching position. I put in my CV and did not make the shortlist, so I now know that my talents are needed elsewhere…. my quest for world domination on the basketball front will now be moving to the continent lol….watch this space.
Wishing you all a wonderful week.
Every time I go and officiate a wheelchair basketball game now I am brought back to my memories of London 2012. Through the build up to London I got the chance to meet lots of international players at tournaments and friendly games. One of them was Joni Pollock who has retired from playing internationally and will start coaching in his home town of Wigan,UK. I wanted to share with all our blog readers some questions I asked Joni.
What was it like to compete at a home Paralympic Games?
It was great to compete in a home games. I imagine any athlete from any sport would love that chance and I got it. For most of my career the excitement of a tournament or games started at travel day, but this being our home games we didn’t have that. We hoped to go to the opening ceremony to get that buzz but we didn’t and it back fired on us as a team. The venues, the officials and the games makers were amazing but most of all the British public, they were second-to-none and the best I have ever come across in my career anywhere in the world.
What effect do you think the Paralympic Games has had on the nation of Great Britain?
I believe post London games the bridge that has been between the Olympics and Paralympics is now more like a step than a bridge. Our great nation proved that were all athletes fighting for the spirit of GB. It’s been noticeable in so many areas around the nation and how more people are now sports lovers and that is great.
Who are you going to miss the most from your international basketball career?
I can’t really name an individual as there are so many I have become great friends with. Most of all I think Simon Munn we’ve been in the GB setup together longer than the rest and we have shared blood, sweat and tears over 2 decades in the sport. Others would be Dan Highcock Terry Bywater and most of all Abdi Jama. He is a friend for life and a super player. People from overseas stay in touch through the social media world right now but I am hoping to see them all again from the coach’s role in time.
What would you like to ask a referee or table official?
Table officials I would not ask anything, they do a great job. I would ask referees that changing a decision is allowed. I would love to see how many referees have DVD footage of games at home and study the game. We train hard and some of us study even harder to make the game easier but if the referees don’t all they then do is weaken the game.
Would you ever become a table official?
NO never! I get angry too easily and get involved watching sport on television. So to sit courtside and not get involved would be impossible. Plus I tried officiating once at Stoke Mandeville but forgot to write as I ended up watching the game, haha.
What was the best piece of basketball advice you were given in your playing career?
I spoke to all the greats from the game over my time for advice. One once told me to always take the challenge, never be the passenger. Which worded his way was “If it’s going to be, then its up to me” I always wanted the ball at crunch time thats how you make the name. Plus its not good putting the ball into the hands of fear and you see that in team mates at crunch time. The other thing was if I could train alone I would, so I could work on things without distraction. As I was also told whatever time you spend training that I promise you someone else in the world is doing the same to beat me! That drove me on.
What piece of basketball advice would you would give to a young player?
Study the game, live for the game. If you commit to it then it can take you anywhere on the planet I’ve done it for 20 years, but it is a commitment. Why just take part to me is boring.
Now you have retired from international Wheelchair Basketball what can your fans and supporters do to help the sport of Wheelchair Basketball, especially in Great Britain?
Find a local team and become a fan its so hard in this country playing in a league were there are few fans. Get down and follow your local team. its always free to watch and I am sure if we get more people watching and supporting then we will improve the atmosphere which will drive the players to be better.
Will Liverpool (Joni supports Liverpool) finish higher than Arsenal (I support Arsenal) in the Premier League?
Maybe and maybe not. But if they stopped spending money on all the cleaners in the trophy room and started buying more players I’m sure they will. On the other hand, we don’t have a manager that doesn’t buy players as though he is spending his own money, hahahahaha!
I’m sure everyone reading this will join me in wishing Joni all the best with his coaching career and his future. It can be hard to walk away from something you hold dear to your heart and has given you both joy and pain such as playing Basketball. So knowing the likes of Joni are willing to give back to their sport is inspiring a generation. Joni has an event taking place on Saturday 9th February in Wigan, UK. Click here for more details.