Taya Reimer overseas diary: grinding both on and off the court

Taya Reimer boxes out her opponent. Photo by Belen Sivori.
Taya Reimer boxes out her opponent. Photo by Belen Sivori.

This past Saturday marked two months since I have been in Italy. We are now four games into a 22-game regular season (plus the championship), and I am officially feeling like I am settled in – not only as a temporary resident of Turin, Italy, but also settled into the season and the routine and constant grind that comes with it.

As I promised myself before I wrote my first diary entry, I want to be completely transparent with my experience overseas, sharing the ups and downs of life both on and off of the court. In my first piece, I wrote a lot more about the things I experienced off the court –  some humorous, and some a little less pleasant. 

Since you last heard from me, my adjustments have been more on the court than off. The past two weekends we have played arguably the two best teams in our league: Venezia Reyer and Familia Schio. Venezia Reyer is playing in the EuroCup, and Familia Schio is one of the top teams in the EuroLeague, including well-known players such as Jantel Lavender, Jackie Gemelos, and Sandrine Gruda. SO…that part I mentioned before about being a rookie playing the role of veteran on my team…yeah, that was tested against women who exemplify the meaning of the word veteran. 

I could sit here and sugar coat those two experiences, saying that my team played amazingly and that I lived up to the challenge and exceeded expectations, but I won’t because I said I would be transparent. Even as I am typing these words, I’m still not mad about either outcome. Believe me, I absolutely hate to lose, but I’m not delusional. I knew coming into this season how young our team was and that it would be a learning experience – especially in games such as these. However, as the games were being played and I battled against women who I have watched on TV and who have been the places I dream to go, I felt like I belonged. I felt like all of the work I had put in over the summer and all of the obstacles I have faced to get to this point were worth it. 

These diaries are so therapeutic for me as well, because I get to really analyze my experiences and almost study them. I believe everything is a learning experience, ESPECIALLY when it comes to the game of basketball. So sitting here and thinking about our four games, I already feel like I am mentally preparing myself for the next one… which is important considering this weekend we play Dike Napoli – another strong team that is headlined by Gabby Williams, Courtney Williams, and Izzy Harrison. There really are no breaks in this league!

As a team we have faced a lot of adversity off of the court, too, in our first month of the season. Two of my teammates, Valeria Trucco and Guilia Togliani, both had one of their parents die within three weeks of each other. The two are close friends and roommates who played together on Italy’s U20 National team. So along with the normal struggles that come along with the season getting under way, two of our key players have suffered devastating losses, and our entire program has felt their sorrow. Funerals are hard events to attend, and I have unfortunately been to two during my short time here already.

The adversity that these two young women have faced and battled to overcome, one losing their father to cancer and the other losing her mother to the same disease, has given me strength. Thinking about it as I write this, I cannot imagine losing my mother at this age, and both of them are only 19 years old. Valeria and Guilia both honored their parents in the most beautiful way possible, by continuing on with strength and courage and living their lives with love. They have both continued to bring so much to our team on and off the court and have vowed to continue playing the game they love for the parents they lost.

Another aspect of overseas life that some people do not always realize is the grueling travel schedule. I realize how truly blessed I was in college to be able to take chartered flights to games and back home. For our first away game (keep in mind this is all on the same day as we played the game) we drove 30 minutes to our local airport, hopped on an hour flight from Turin to Rome, and then got on a bus and drove 4 hours to a city named Campobasso. We arrived about two hours before tip-off, and let’s just say that was not fun.

The next weekend, we traveled to Venice (also the day of the game). This time, we took the train. Our train ride was about three and a half hours long, maybe a little more. Upon arrival, we drove about 30 minutes to the gym, put on our jersey, and went out to warm up. Now I won’t sit here and say that my travel experiences have been the worst possible, because I have many friends who have spent eight hours driving overnight on a bus to get to games while playing overseas. However, it’s pretty dang difficult to travel multiple hours in crammed spaces and then hop right on to the court and perform. Not an excuse, but another adjustment that has to be made. That’s what this experience is for me – getting out of my comfort zone and being able to adjust, because that’s what life is all about, right? 

As far as off-the-court life goes, all I will say is, when you are overseas away from home and loved ones, it really is the little things that makes all the difference. Literally, the little things. I found teriyaki sauce at the grocery store the other week and I almost shed a tear. Kahlia and I had veggie stir fry with beef and chicken, and some rice on the side. (Enter sunglasses emoji here). I really enjoy cooking, so anytime I find something at the grocery store that I can use – other than pasta because…hello, it’s Italy – I get really excited. 

October is coming to a close, and as I finish up these last few paragraphs and get ready to start my Scream movie marathon in the spirit of Halloween, I am excited for what November will bring. Next time I write to you all, I will have a few more games under my belt, not to mention some more experiences. Italy’s national team gets together in November, so there is a week and a half break in our season. I hope to have a lot of fun experiences to share as I plan to do a little traveling around Europe with the few free days we will have during this time. 

Ciao from Torino!