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Professional Basketball during a Pandemic

Everything about the transition from Bad Homburg to Nördlingen was incredibly fast so it should come to no surprise when I say my first practice and my first game were roughly 24 hours apart. The support I received after my first game was overwhelming. We sadly didn’t come away with a victory but my heart was smiling when I picked up my phone and saw it was filled with notifications from my friends and family that tuned into the game. In that moment, it was as if all the built up stress was released. I could final exhale as I had felt like I made the right decision. I was ready to tackle whatever came next.

Adjusting

My first 10 days in Nördlingen we played three games. My wish was to play games and I got my wish. I quickly found how difficult it could be to switch teams in the middle of the season. Everyone was already acclimated to the practices, the style of basketball and one another. They were in their flow. As for me, I felt like Wile E. Coyote and everything around me was the Road Runner. No matter how hard I tried I always felt two steps behind. There was so much to adjust to and it felt like a constant chase. But much like Wile E. Coyote I had no intentions of giving up and I was excited about this chase.


I could see the difference between leagues here in Germany and I loved the new demand of the first division. I used to practice 3 times a week with a game on the weekend and now that was doubled. I was being challenged in a new, yet familiar way, which was comparable to what I experienced at Green Bay. I quickly recalled the importance of nutrition and sleep. Mostly, I rediscovering the power of naps.


I tried my best to adjust as quickly as possible to the things around me and luckily for me, I like experiencing new things. I enjoy meeting new people or wandering around a city to see what it has to offer. One of my first days I went out to explore the city. I began twisting and turning through the streets and taking random turns whenever I saw something in the distance that intrigued me. It was great until I realized I didn’t know my address so I was left seeing how good my sense of direction was. For the record it’s not very good. The city of Nördlingen is surrounded by a wall (literally.. see photo below) so I knew sooner or later I would stumble upon my apartment… it was was more later than sooner but let me tell you I saw every corner of my new city :-)


Nördlingen, Germany

Nördlingen is about 3 hours from Bad Homburg and is in a new State of Germany called Bavaria. The small village isn’t the easiest place for a non-German speaking American. Language alone was a huge barrier for me. I always feel bad because I know how it must radiate ignorance living in someone's country and not being able to speak their language. However, it does make it rather easy for me to discover my favorite places to shop. If they let me attempt some broken German while mixing in my English and they respond with a smile, it’s the place for me. I always try and buy my veggies from this little market down the street because the worker is the sweetest old lady. I go there quite frequently. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so many veggies in my life.


Covid, Covid, Covid

Truth be told, I probably go to the little market so often because my human interactions are well below normal. Germany has taken the pandemic and their spikes very, very serious. I appreciate the severity of the measures that they have taken to assure their people are safe BUT that doesn’t make it any easier for everyday living. They started a light lockdown in November, which meant that no restaurants or cafes could be open but still leaving shopping centers open. Then in December they entered a lockdown where only the essential stores could remain open and schools would also be closed. We have been in that phase ever since and it’s expected to go to March 7th unless extended AGAIN.


There are additional rules such as, you must wear a FFP2 filtered mask in all essential stores. They are no longer accepting cloth masks and if you are walking through the city center(which is outdoors) you also needed to wear a mask. I have never been one to just “go for a walk”. My mom would always ask me to go for a walk and I always thought she was crazy. Like where are we going or why are we walking? I obviously got my exercises in different forms so I never understood the need but now I try to go for a walk daily. It keeps me sane. Sometimes I listen to an audio book or other times I call my parents. So I guess it’s kind of like I'm finally going for a walk with my mom, I mean except the fact it's usually 5:30AM and she’s typically still curled up with her morning coffee but I'm still counting it.


I quickly discovered the worst rule was curfew. Yes, curfew... like the thing I used to have when I was 16. Now I'm 25 and I have a curfew of 9:00PM. And let me tell you this curfew is much more enforced than the one I had at 16. One night I was driving home from practice at (no joke) 9:15PM and I got pulled over by the German Police. So out came my best helpless American look while showing a document proving I was coming from work. I had no further issues but still that showed me I didn’t want to push my limits if I didn’t have a valid excuse.


Pandemic Challenges

Like I already mentioned, my first 10 days were a complete whirlwind but on day 12 everything slowed down and I mean wayyyyyy down. On December 22nd my team was put into quarantine. One of my teammates had tested positive for Covid. So I began my 10 day quarantine with my new teammate and roommate. It isn't exactly how we imagined ringing in the New Year or spending our holidays but we made the most of it. Plus let's face it, that was the most predictable ending to the unpredictable year of 2020. If you ever want to accelerate getting to know someone, give quarantine a try. After 10 days of at home workouts, meals together, fighting through complete boredom, and talking about everything under the sun it was like I have known her my whole life.


We survived quarantine and we were now FREEEE. It was the most liberating feeling when I was able to go grocery shopping. I was smiling at everyone I passed, under my mask of course, but I think they could feel the happiness I was radiating. As for basketball we jumped in right where we left off. Slowly trying to get back into shape and figure out how to put this foreign orange ball in the hoop. Okay.. bit dramatic but I really felt like that in the beginning. It took us a while to get the wind back in our sails. As any athlete knows, you lose it QUICK and you regain in SLOW and gosh it’s painful trying to regain it :D But we did it.

As the season continued, we struggled to find our rhythm and it seemed like we had continuous obstacles still being thrown our direction, like injuries and other games being canceled(due to them having covid) but we have always continued forward. There was never a moment when we threw in the towel and really I think it would have been justified at times if we did. As we continued fighting forward, I started to feel more comfortable with everything. My teammates and my Coach were a huge reason for this. I was allowed time to adjust and they guided me as I did just that.


Lately, we started to find some success and making the playoffs started to circulate back in the conversation. We had just won 2 games in a row and then it happened again. A positive COVID test. We take quick tests before every game and quick tests have been known to deliver false positives. So we kept our hope that my teammate would receive a negative PCR test. She did. She was negative. Thank goodness. What a rollercoaster. Our game was canceled but we could resume and exit quarantine. That was until 3 days later when we took another quick test for our upcoming game. Three positives. We spent the weekend in quarantine and again another game canceled. We waited and hoped they were also false positives. They were. All three of them. After receiving the negative PCR tests, we were again free of quarantine.


This is just bad luck at this point. We all have now taken PCR test for the upcoming game just to assure that we are able to play on Wednesday. Crazy times.


Give Yourself Some Grace

I enjoy writing blogs. Because it allows me to be real about my thoughts and experiences with the people that are following my journey, but please don’t confuse me being real with me being unappreciative because that couldn’t be more wrong. I wake up every morning feeling grateful for the life I am living. I know that I am a part of the percentage of people that haven’t been significantly affected by this pandemic. I still have my job, my friends and family are healthy, and I have my health. However, an important message that I think this pandemic brings to light is that you are not the judge of someone else's challenges or struggles. Even if someone has the “necessities” or they have it better than their neighbor doesn’t mean that they don’t fight a battle of their own.


Some days I don’t feel motivated, I’m home sick and I feel stressed for no (exact) reason. For me, those days are few and far between and for that, I consider myself fortunate. But my point is in the mix of this pandemic, it should be judgement free if someone around you is struggling. So if you are reading this and you have found yourself feeling down with no explanation, don’t beat yourself up about it. Some days are harder than others. Everyone is experiencing exhaustion from the pandemic at different times and instead of judging one another we should be supporting one another. We are in the middle of a Global Pandemic and really it feels illegal to hug someone these days. As I tell myself all the time, give yourself some grace, you're doing great. :)


-Laken


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