Monday, July 8, 2013

Dispatch from Down Under: What is it really like overseas? CNU's Schweers tells all

Former Christopher Newport University legend Chelsie Schweers is blogging for LadySwish during her season in Australia. Schweers, who happens to be the leading scorer in Virginia women's basketball history, signed with the Toowoomba Mountaineers in April. We asked her to provide some perspective on her overall overseas experience for this post.
By the way, follow Chelsie at Twitter @chelsieschweers

Playing basketball in Australia has been an easier adjustment for me than when I played in Greece last year. There is so much about Australia that is like home that I sometimes forget I am temporarily living in another country. Of course, the biggest plus is the language since we speak the same language! At times in Greece I felt alienated because of the difficulty communicating with my coach and most of the people I encountered. The language barrier made the transition to living and playing in a foreign country somewhat difficult, and it sometimes made me miss being away from home. However, I made a good friend with a Greek teammate and she helped to explain the Greek culture and showed me around the city of Athens and the ancient ruins in Greece.

Taking my game to the professional level has been an adjustment because of the differences in the game vs playing college basketball at CNU. Overall, the game is played at a much faster pace. There is an 8-second clock in the backcourt and a 24-second shot clock. With the shot clock being so short, the offense usually has only a couple passes before the shot is going up, making the transition game very fast. The 3-point line is about a foot and a half farther back than in the NCAA. With the 3-point line being so far out, it forces the defense to cover a lot more space and often leaves the middle open to penetration. Overseas, the offense is a lot more pick and roll based, and less one-on-one. It is a game focused more on fundamentals than athletic ability. The physical aspect of the game is the most aggressive I have ever experienced. Players get away with a lot more pushing off the ball. Cutting through the paint offensively is a battle in its own; no one goes through the paint without being knocked back a step or two. There is a lot more contact on shots and rebounds, and reaching in on the person dribbling the ball. You can't rely on the referees to bail you out of contact. You have to be physically strong and assertive.

While in Australia, basketball is my job. I usually get up in the morning and go to Anytime Fitness to lift weights and get my mind off of anything that's bugging me at the time. When I am working out, I can focus on the job at hand, which is building and maintaining my strength. I generally lift weights for about an hour and a half four days a week. It is important for me to be strong not only for trying to run through the paint, but maintaining and buildinging my strength and agility is critical in the prevention of injuries on the court. After lifting weights, I head to the gym to get shots up and spend time with my teammates.

I am frequently asked what it's like being by myself overseas, whether I get lonely, and how my family handles me being so far from home. At Hickory High School, I felt like I knew almost everyone. While I didn't really know anyone at CNU, we were all there generally for the same thing -- an education. We were all pretty much adapting to the college experience, living in dorms, living away from home, making new friends, etc. so there was a shared camaraderie. I was also only 45 minutes away from home and could easily drop in at home anytme. So, last year when I signed to play in Greece, there wasn't much time to think about it because I signed one day and four days later, I was on a plane headed to Greece, Once on the ground, it was a huge adjustment getting acclimated to a country and a culture that I knew so little about. I had some great experiences in Greece, but I also stayed in close contact with family and friends back home. It took me a rather long time to adapt to being away from home and those I love. I spent a lot of hours on the phone and at times wandering if playing basketball overseas was right for me. It was a new experience for my mom but she was always strong for me and was there whenever I needed her. My mom knew how much playing professional basketball meant to me and while she preferred me to be closer to home, she has always supported and encouraged me to pursue my dreams. I know she is there whenever I need her and that is a good feeling. Knowing she is a phone call or Skype away, has gotten me through some rough patches.

I also have a great relationship with my dad. When I need to be told what I don't necessarily want to hear, I call him. He puts me back in check and makes me realize how fortunate I am to be here and that missing home is only temporary. So both my mom and dad keep me balanced and on track. My brother, Justin, is also there whenever I need to talk. We can go a couple days without talking, but we are always able to pick up right where we left off. Whenever I need to relax and get a few laughs, he is the person I call. He gets me and he has seen me happy, sad, and somewhere in between and always knows what to say to make me smile. In addition to my immediate family, I have cousins, aunts and uncles who are a huge part of my support system. Each and every one of them plays such a huge role in my success. I am just so thankful to have them in my life. They say the more you do something, the easier it becomes, and that has been the case this time for me in Australia. Although I occasionally get a little lonely, there is always someone that can help me put things in perspective, and I will once again start thinking about how incredibly fortunate I am to be able to play professional basketball overseas.

Basketball is what I have known since I was 7 years old. It used to be a game I played just for fun, then I got into AAU and it became more serious and competitive, which continued through high school and college. Now I get paid to play basketball and that is a whole new level of responsibility. If I don't perform, I can lose my position on the team to someone else looking for that same opportunity. Overseas teams do not sign you to sit the bench -- they expect you to deliver on the court and on the scoreboard. If you can't deliver, your contract can be terminated and you return home. I am very competitive and that keeps me motivated to work on my game each and every day. Waiting for a contract and waiting on a team to give me an opportunity was frustrating. I remember the feeling I had waiting on my first job overseas, the willingness to do anything to get my first chance and hoping there is a team that believes I can deliver for them and will give me that opportunity. Just as in any other professional sport, there are significantly more players waiting for the opportunit than there are players signed. I am thankful every day and feel very blessed to have been given the opportunity to play for the Panathinaikos in Greece and the Toowoomba Mountaineers in Australia. I love the game, but at this level it is also important to recognize this is a business and you are expected to deliver 100 percent when you sign your name on the contract. Everyone has high expectations, including the owner of the team, the coach, your teammates, your fans, and even your agent. I think about what I need to do to meet their expectations every day.

I hope everyone had a Happy 4th of July!

Until next time,

No comments:

Post a Comment