BTM Girls in Madrid 2018!
We met bright and early at Stansted Airport on Monday September 27th for the BTM Girls tour to Madrid 2018! The group consisted of 8 Herts-based girls named Daisy, Cassie, Katelyn, Hannah, Louise, Maisie, Davina and Anna, tour parents Julie and Terry with daughter Kayleigh, guest Coach Cristina Stanciuca of Kent Crusaders & GB Basketball and BTM rep Tom Ward. The 9th team member Maria, who is from Cadiz in the South of Spain, would meet us in Madrid for the tour experience. The group would take on intense basketball skill development, competitive games, leisure time by the pool, a cultural trip, great food and accommodation and there would be plenty of memories to be made.
After everyone arrived, we swiftly checked-in and headed to the departure gate where some of the girls picked up a quick snack before hopping aboard the plane. After a swift 2 hours and 30 minutes the wheels touched down at Madrid-Barajas airport, where we were greeted by the friendly Diego, one of our bus drivers for the tour. Diego drove us to Tres Cantos, our tour base, which is roughly 20 minutes outside of the city centre and the perfect spot to host the team.
We headed straight over to Restaurant Estaciones, a stone’s throw from the hotel, for the first meal of the tour. Coach Cristina immediately expressed her intense interest in watermelon, and after her meal during which she took on too much vinegar with her bread, she was rewarded with her first slices of “sandía.” Her love for watermelon would become a prevalent theme of the tour as she consistently sought it at every meal!
After lunch we headed to the Polideportivo Foresta swimming pool, a brisk 15 minutes walk from the hotel for some rest and relaxation after the day’s travel. The swimming pools in Tres Cantos are a key component of the local community, which is of no surprise during the beautiful Spanish Summer with its beaming sunshine and warm temperatures. The girls were excited at the chance to mess around in the pool, and tour parent Terry took the opportunity to get his goggles on and swim some laps.
After some time in the sun we packed up and strolled back to the hotel, with a quick turnaround to get ready and head over to the restaurant Los Castilleros for dinner, which is no more than 3 minutes walk from the hotel. At Los Castilleros the girls were initially presented with some kind of potato, carrot and mayonnaise dish that confused some of them. We learned pretty swiftly that Kayleigh is very much a one-course dinner kind of person and prefers one round of food, rather than the endless plates of food that seemed to continue to arrive at the table. Hannah and Daisy were part of the “gluten free gang,” and graciously took on some interesting dishes throughout the tour.
We wrapped up Day 1 with a speech from Coach Cristina, who asked the girls what their tour objectives were and how they wanted to approach the basketball elements. Most of the girls agreed that while they had admittedly taken some time off in the Summer, their intention was to push themselves on the court and use it as a key opportunity to learn and develop.
It was a 7.30 am wake-up on Day 2, with an 8 am meeting at breakfast. The hotel breakfast consisted of a variety of treats including eggs, bacon, spanish tortilla, croissants, teas, juices, coffee etc. Most of the girls were pretty smart about their breakfast choices, opting for the fruits and protein rather than the cakes in preparation for the intense basketball to follow.
We met the equally friendly driver Adri outside the hotel, who whisked us over to the “La Luz” basketball arena to begin the on-court element of the tour. The girls began with a training session from Cristina, who put them through their paces with some conditioning, dribbling and fast-break. It was a good chance for the girls to shake of the Summer’s basketball cobwebs and get back into practice mode. Cristina always pushes players to be accountable and demand excellence of themselves, and set the tone very early on of her expectations for the girls.
After the session with Cristina, the girls were introduced to Coach Davor Matkovic, a Croatian coach who is very highly-respected within the Madrid basketball community. His theme was footwork and shooting, as he worked on the girls’ ability to coordinate their feet with their dribbling and scoring. Some of the material was very new for the girls, but they were highly engaged and focused and took on the advice he gave. The sessions were translated from Spanish to English by Iñigo Perez, a Madrid-born player who for the past two years has suited up for JMA and Reading Rockets in the EABL and NBL 1 respectively.
Maisie and Davina showed exceptional focus in the sessions, listening intently and trying to implement the skills where possible. The fundamentals are introduced at a very early age in Spain and many UK players are slightly behind when it comes to the individual basics that need to be addressed to support their general on-court IQ and awareness.
After 3 hours of basketball it was time to eat and relax, and we headed back to Polideportivo Foresta swimming pool for lunch and fun in the sun. The girls were introduced to the classic egg on rice dish, surrounded by a moat of tomato sauce, which after some initial nose-turning ended up being a favourite. The girls acknowledged how helpful and swift the Spanish waiters are, with the next dish being presented as soon as the last bite of the previous dish was finished. Throughout the tour Maria was an absolute star when it came to leadership and support, which included her translation in restaurants when it was needed.
After more swimming and lounging in the sun, the bus picked up the group and we headed back to the hotel for some rest before Game 1 of the tour. On the way the bus dropped off Julie and Terry at the laundromat, who we were thankful to have getting the girls kit washed and dried each day of the tour. Julie also used her masseuse skills every evening to keep the girls going after 5-hour basketball days!
Tom and Cristina picked up some water and bananas for the team, and after a brief rest period in their rooms it was time to be picked up and taken back to La Luz for Game 1 versus CB Tres Cantos u21 women, a physical and skilled team that moved the ball very well. Despite facing an older more experienced squad, the girls effort and intensity was unquestionable and they stuck with the Tres Cantos team throughout the game. Louise was tenacious around the basket, rebounding well and finishing through contact, and Cassie led the team defensively both vocally and physically. Hannah had a great nose for offensive rebounds and Daisy executed to perfection the crossover move that they had practiced earlier in the day with Coach Matkovic. The final score was 46-66 in favour of the locals, but the girls kept their heads held high as they shook hands with their opponents post-game.
The day finished with dinner at the Restaurant Estaciones, where the girls ate plenty of great food and drank a lot of water, before heading back to the hotel for a debrief from Coach Cristina and Coach Terry. Cristina advised the girls on making sure their showers were cool to help ease their muscles, after which Cassie mentioned the next day feeling slightly guilty at the tiny bit of steam on her mirror from her shower not quite being on full icicle mode.
Day 3 had the same structure as Day 2, with a morning basketball practice with Coach Cristina and this time a skill development session with Alvaro Gijón, the technical director of CB Tres Cantos. Alvaro’s focus would be on offensive movement, from cutting to the basket to penetration reads and reactions. This would be Part 1 of his clinic, with Part 2 taking place on Friday, and both coaches Cristina and Terry were eager to analyze and take in some of the techniques that he presented.
Always full of energy and enthusiasm, Katelyn was thriving during the sessions and learning to create opportunities for her to find space for her jump-shot. Her nickname on the back of her jersey was “Pitbull,” which appeared to be based on the toughness and intensity she played with on the court, a contrast to her light-hearted and fun approach to life off of it.
After the skill sessions it was back to the swimming pool, where this time at lunch we were joined by one of the friendly local wasps who seemed intent on enjoying the roast chicken as much as the girls were. Cristina took the girls through a pool rehab routine, as the turnaround between practice and game would be quicker on this day and it was imperative that the girls were physically ready. We were surprisingly greeted with about 20 seconds of intense rainfall and the girls scattered for shelter under the trees, but it very quickly subsided and the sun prevailed again.
We were picked up by the ever-friendly bus driver Adri, who this time drove us straight to the courts to play CB Tres Cantos u18 women in the girls second game of the tour. The girls looked determined as they took the floor, and it was soon clear that they meant business with Maria running the offense from the point guard position and others including Daisy, Louise and Cassie stepping up to make some tough shots.
Anna’s leadership become stronger and stronger throughout the tour, and she played a incredibly important role in the girl’s on-court success in Game 2, making smart and composed decisions and finding gaps in the defense to slice to the basket. Maisie and Katelyn joined the scoring spree and Hannah rebounded as intensely as always. Davina, playing limited minutes with an injured hand, offered tremendous vocal support from the bench and helped her team’s confidence blossom. The final outcome never looked in question, as the Hertfordshire girls ran away with a 66-50 win, a testament to their concentration in implementing what they’d been taught on the tour so far.
A celebratory dinner at Los Castilleros featured another onslaught of multiple dishes to leave the girls stuffed, and to avoid the shame of leaving her entire cheesecake on the table Anna cut it in half and hid it in her playing jersey, much to the humour of the rest of the team.
Later that evening BTM rep Tom was sitting peacefully in his room singing along to music, when laughter erupted from outside the door where the majority of the team had caught wind of his great voice and had decided to listen.
The 4th day of the tour was our legendary Madrid Day, where the girls would enjoy time at the Real Madrid Bernabeu Stadium, the beautiful Retiro Park, shopping and some delicious food.
It started with a lie-in for the girls, as they weren’t expected at breakfast until 9.30 am, which they and the support staff took full advantage of! Diego picked the group up at 11 am and we headed first to the stadium for the first stop on the sightseeing tour. Terry introduced everyone to his UB40-esque accent that he used during some karaoke sessions, which was impressive to say the least.
We arrived at the stadium for a whirlwind tour of the world’s most historic football club’s grounds, including the stands, trophy room, locker rooms and on the pitch. Maria was especially keen to seek out midfielder Marco Asensio, and Katelyn was looking to meet Ronaldo (because he’s “peng”) despite him being 658 miles away in Turin, Italy.
After the Bernabeu visit the group strolled to 100 Montaditos, a Spanish food chain where (you guessed it), you can choose from 100 different mini-baguette options. Tom took the gluten-free gang a few minutes down the road to a restaurant called VIPS, and ran back and forth between the two to ensure all order was ensured.
Diego picked us up and dropped us off at Retiro Park, one of central Madrid’s prettiest areas that features a large pond on which visitors can enjoy freestyle boating. The girls took to the water with their boat and oars and returned 45 minutes later fairly drenched, but having had a fun experience on the lake – Cassie had also managed to burn her knees at this point from the intense sun. We were briefly joined by Cristina’s friend Belen, who offered some tour guide assistance, and she and Cristina took the girls off for shopping/ice cream while Julie, Terry and Kayleigh spent some time together and Tom got a cup of tea.
The final stop on the central Madrid tour was for dinner, where the group ate a 4 course meal which was concluded with a very brief dessert, gulped down due to the bus waiting for us to leave. A sprint to the bus was followed by some intense music and seat-dancing on the journey home, and upon arrival the girls nipped into the “supermercado” before it closed.
Cristina, Julie, Terry and Tom waited for the girls in the hotel lobby, and they kindly arrived bearing thank you gifts which included half a watermelon and other watermelon-based treats for Cristina, massage oil for Julie, a crate of beer for Terry and some coconut oil (for the beard) and guacamole for Tom.
Our final full day of the tour was a replica of Day 2, starting with a basketball practice with Cristina and Terry, where we worked on guard moves at one end and forward moves at the other, as well as a defensive rotation section. Kayleigh stepped in for the injured Davina and offered good energy and enthusiasm, especially during the defensive segment.
The girls continued to look fresh and well-rested from their day off from basketball, and picked up the offensive movements during Part 2 of Alvaro’s clinic very swiftly, which included setting and using ball-screens. Maisie was once more locked in, making the most of all the skill development that had taken place throughout the tour, and Anna again was calm and composed during the competitive sections of the drills.
The group then walked to the pool for lunch and their final chance to bask in the Madrid sunshine, taking the opportunity to get competitive with a swimming relay race. Team 1 featured Louise (captain), Tom, Cassie, Terry and Maria and Team 2 featured Anna (captain), Daisy, Hannah, Kayleigh and Maisie, with Davina and Katelyn “refereeing.” There were a lot of confident statements being fired between the two teams, but ultimately there could only be one winner. The race started with Tom matched up with Hannah, which Tom got the better of by at least 10 seconds (despite many suggesting it was a close call), with Louise then swimming against Maisie. Next up was Maria versus Anna, and then Cassie versus Kayleigh, where a controversial changeover from Team 2 led to them suddenly being miles ahead. The final stretch was Terry for Team 1 going against Daisy for Team 2, and unfortunately due to the controversy it was almost impossible for Team 1 to catch up and Team 2 snatched victory.
After the drama in the pool the group were shuttled back to the hotel for a couple of hours rest before the third and final game of the tour, which was a re-match with the Tres Cantos u21 women’s team, who were eager for revenge after watching their u18’s get beaten by our girls on Wednesday. The girls all put their hair in plaits for the game, and a reluctant Tom also agreed to have his done in the spirit of basketball and teamwork.
In a real test of the girl’s character and toughness, the final game was a back and forth affair which had the BTM Girls leading in the first half, shocking the Tres Cantos girls with their team play and tough team defense. Louise was once again dominant on the boards, throwing herself at every basketball and hitting the deck multiple times to gather up rebounds and loose balls. In the second half the fatigue of the long week caught up with them, and despite their best efforts they couldn’t contain the Spanish girls transition offense, as the locals began to score at the rim and find their range from outside. Cristina continued to push the girls and lead them all the way until the final buzzer, which sounded with a score of 39-57 in Tres Cantos’ favour.
The end of tour team dinner at Restaurant Estaciones featured tears from many of the girls, as for some this would have been their final game together. Cristina, Tom and Terry gave speeches about the girls work ethic and amazing team efforts throughout the tour, and despite the loss in the game the girls were feeling optimistic about their future as a team. They were up late packing their bags for an early start on the journey home.
The girls said emotional goodbyes to Maria, and then a new driver Miguel picked the group up from Hotel Quo Fierro at 7.30 am, arriving at the airport at 8 am where the girls passed through security and waited at the departure gate with plenty of time to spare. The flight was a breeze, and the group was soon back to reality on British soil at London Stansted, where they were greeted by their parents and shuttled home for lunch and most likely a nap!
A huge thank you to Coach Cristina for her inspiration, passion and commitment to the girls throughout the tour. Thank you to Coach Terry for his fun and positive input into each and every experience, to Julie for keeping the girls in fresh clothing and their muscles loose and to Kayleigh for bringing positivity and taking Cristina’s banter on the chin 🙂 And finally, a massive thank you to each and every player for their work ethic, focus and positivity, it was a pleasure to be a part of the journey. Until next time!