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Switching Teams Mid-Season

The last two months of my life have been crazy. I know how can I limit it to the last two months when we are nearing a year straight of this global pandemic?? Well, somehow I have managed to take the small structure I had and turn my life even more upside down. Let me explain.

This past summer I resigned with my same professional team in Bad Homburg, Germany. I knew the city and loved the people and it was another year of playing the game I love so I chased that dream. Preseason was great, we practiced and things were rather normal. Coffee shops were open, we could go out to dinner, and I even traveled to an island off the coast of Italy during one of my off weekends. It was great. However, the pandemic quickly changed everything (per usual at this point). The Covid cases started to rise in November and because of this Germany started adding new rules and restrictions in hopes to prevent a spike. I was playing for a club that was in the second division and with the new restrictions and protocol put in place it began causing additional challenges for the all teams in the second division. All teams would now need to be tested before each game.


So we faced the question of how will we get these tests and who will perform the tests? I was fortunate to be a part of a club that was on top of tackling these obstacles but the issue was, it wasn’t as easy for other clubs. Even if we were able to organize the test, we still had to hope that our opponent was able to do the same. Plus, not only did everyone need to perform the tests, we also had to hope and pray that every week both teams had no infected players. I think I speak for every athlete during this pandemic when I say it is mentally exhausting. I love my sport and I love my job but when you prepare all week for a game and then hear the night before that it is canceled, it is exhausting. You now have another week of preparation ahead of you with NO guarantee that you will even play the following weekend.


The pandemic was just adding additional challenges to being a being a professional athlete overseas. It's an incredible experience but I would be lying if I said at times it isn’t hard. It’s hard being away from my family and friends. It’s hard with the 7 hour time difference. It's hard not understanding the language of 95% of the people around you. Not to mention, I have basically had to watch my niece grow up this past year through Snapchat. So yes, it’s hard, there are sacrifices and at times it's lonely but I could always justify my sacrifices because I was following my dreams and I was playing the game I love as my job. Until I wasn’t... I arrived in Germany on September 12th and between then and December 10th we played four games. We didn't have a schedule for daily practices so I found myself in the gym practicing alone a lot of the time. If you know me this isn't the biggest issue because I think there is a peaceful feeling about an empty gym, however, when you are only accountable for you it tests your dedication.

**Also, hear me out.. I know that not all countries or leagues are even competing and there are many athletes that didn’t get the opportunity this year to play overseas so as always I'm incredibly thankful**

The uncertainty of if we will be able to play games started to drain on me. I was surrounded by the most amazing people that felt like family but yet I began to weigh the pros and cons of my current situation.


Good Timing

I think life is full of good/bad timing and everything happening for a reason. Sorry, I know just so cliche it hurts but I truly believe it. As I began weighing my options a new opportunity appeared. An opportunity to join a team in the first division. The timing and the situation was perfect. Everything was perfect from my professional mindset since the first division was a more secure position, as all teams were funded for tests and had the resources needed. I knew that this was the right decision given the circumstances and the opportunity to compete at a high level, however, the right decision was far from an easy decision. Basketball aside, Bad Homburg was filled with my friends, teammates, and people that treated me like family and when you are away from your friends and family this is exactly what you dream of having. A support system that you know you can count on. Somehow I had made this random city in Germany feel like home. So back to weighing the pros and cons.


After manyyy phone calls home, (S/O Mom & Dad) I decided to join the new team in Nördlingen. It was one of the most difficult decisions I have had to make and after I made my decision, it only got more challenging. I was offered this opportunity on a Tuesday and moved out of Bad Homburg on a Friday. Those few days were so stressful and filled with emotional goodbyes. My support group was just that, supportive. Through all the emotions, I could feel they were happy for me. Little did they know that only made it harder for me because it just solidified how amazing of people they all were.


Nördlingen wasn’t a place I was completely unfamiliar with for two reasons. The first one being one of my teammates from Bad Homburg had played there before and another teammate actually grew up there. So, on one of our off weekends in November (due to a game being canceled) we traveled there and they gave me a tour of the city. Nördlingen gave off small village vibes, you know the ones where it's impossible to go to the grocery store without it turning into a social event. The city also radiated a simple charm to it, more of a rural vibe. When we were driving around I could have easily been convinced I was driving through the countryside of Wisconsin. It gave me a bit of a home feeling. The second reason it was unfamiliar was because I actually interviewed with both the Coach and the General Manager last May. They went a different direction to start the season but it all came full circle this winter.

Truthfully, I’m happy it worked out just the way it did. It gave me an opportunity to return to Bad Homburg for a few months to make up for the time that COVID stole from me last March. I was able to play many more games of Michigan Rummy, meet new friends, and enjoy a few more “family dinners”. There will always be a special place in my heart for Bad Homburg and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to start my professional career there.


-Laken


**Subscribe to receive next weeks post about my transition to Nördlingen and the challenges of playing professional basketball overseas during a global pandemic.


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