Playing Professionally in Europe

Posted by on Feb 2, 2017 in Uncategorized | No Comments

pro-player-1For many basketball players both young and old, the idea of being paid to play basketball as a profession is a lifelong dream that takes an incredible amount of hard work, sacrifice, ability and luck to fulfil. For those that truly love the game, the ability to play day in and day out as a job is an ideal lifestyle and thousands of players pursue this goal on a yearly basis across the world.

BTM Director’s Ben Russell and Tom Ward have played professionally at the European level and have experience in navigating the basketball waters in Spain, Italy and the UK. Both players emphasise that the key element in having a successful career, not only from their own personal experience but from meeting others on the same journey, is that embracing the lifestyle and showing gratitude for the opportunity has a profound positive effect on success and satisfaction.

So what does playing professionally mean? It sounds like a silly question but many players often underestimate what it takes not only to become a professional player but to excel and progress in one’s career. Many players who begin professional careers are often finished very quickly because of a naive outlook on what is expected of them from the organization, coaching staff and team.

Working hard and being “professional” in attitude is obviously essential no matter what country, league or team you are playing for; all organizations are going to expect their players to conduct themselves in a professional manner and spend additional hours getting better at their job both in the weight room and on the court. If basketball is not a top priority in the player’s life this will always be an obstacle, as basketball takes on a completely different persona when it is putting food on the table.

pro-player-2Professional basketball is a business that is designed to make money, and a player’s “job rating” will be dependent on their ability to enhance the business. This means performing at the level to which a team and coaching staff expect, both in practice and on game-day. This makes for a very high-pressured job where three to four poor games over a month-long span can be very costly and can in many leagues lead to the player being replaced with an alternative import. The job is in very high demand and players often find themselves out the door as soon as they walked through it! On the positive side, with determination, composure and fortitude a player can have an incredibly successful basketball career in Europe which can lead to some incredible life and basketball experiences.

How do you navigate different basketball cultures? Most teams are made up of a core of domestic players, many of whom are “local” products which create the team’s persona and character and it is very important to respect and complement this set-up as opposed to shaking its foundations. Many countries and cultures are significantly different from a basketball perspective than your own, and while they may not always be the most agreeable or make the most sense, it’s necessary to flow with the river of culture than to swim against it. Teams and their fans love players that embrace their culture and it goes a long way in developing a good reputation as a professional, as well as enhancing overall contentment for the job. There are always going to be times when questionable decisions are made by the ownership, coaching staff and teammates, but accepting this and “controlling the controllables” will serve the individual well.

pro-player-3What are the major challenges? Being away from home and your core support system can be very challenging, but in the long-run develops toughness and resilience that has a profound positive effect on being able to cope with future obstacles. While playing overseas there are many circumstances in which a player must navigate a language barrier daily, not only on the court and amongst teammates but in shops, cafes, restaurants and nightclubs. The idea of not being able to communicate verbally may seem daunting, but players soon pick up the local lingo and can understand and speak the basics to get by.

From a basketball stand-point there is often a huge amount of pressure on the “imports” to produce immediate results statistically and in the “W” column for the team, and players must be ready to shoulder this responsibility from the outset. Most professional teams expect players to practice twice per day, as well as scheduling in strength training and shooting practices – the physical “grind” must be embraced and loved!

pro-player-4What are the benefits? For any player that truly loves the game of basketball, playing professionally is the ultimate dream and offers the opportunity to live an incredible life. The game can take an individual around the world and back, experiencing a vast array of countries and their unique cultures while competing against local players and other imports on the same amazing journey. The professional experience also offers the chance to build a worldwide network of contacts, providing a positive and respectful mark is left at each global pit stop, and can serve the individual well for future basketball opportunity once the playing jersey has been retired. Many players on their professional journey have learned new languages, taken on citizenship, and even met the love of their life and started a family in a different country!

For those with basketball dreams and goals, keep at it – there’s a wide world of basketball out there on the horizon to be discovered.