Since the last time I wrote, numerous events have occurred and my experiences overseas continue to multiply. Some good, and some bad – but hey, that’s life.
Keeping it completely honest, this season has been tough. I explained in an earlier entry how young my team was, with 90 percent of my teammates – including myself and my other American teammate, Kahlia Lawrence, – being rookies to the top division in Italy. I knew coming in to this season that it would be tough for us and we would have to work really hard to be competitive.
Saying the words is one thing, but experiencing the difficulty is another. Now 13 games in and over halfway through with our season, our team has reached somewhat of a high-stress situation. Our first two games back from Christmas break were must-win games in order to basically guarantee that we are safe from being in the playout series. (For those who do not know, the bottom two teams in the league play each other in a five-game series, called the playout. Whoever loses the series then must wait to face off against a team from the second division to potentially drop down to the second division.) We did not win either of those games, but there is still a slim chance that we can save ourselves and avoid this infamous playout series. We definitely will have our work cut out for us as we play the top four teams in the league in our next four games.
As far as my off-the-court life goes, not much has changed. I am settled in and in my zone. With our team practicing twice a day most days and our only off day being the day after a game, I usually spend the majority of my time in my apartment, in the gym, or in a pizzeria eating a meal with my teammates. I have learned enough Italian to complete basic interactions with people on the street, in shops, and in restaurants – so my moments of being the “clueless American” have been limited. As far as weird or unusual interactions or occurrences… well, those have also been limited. (not sure if I am happy about this or not?)
One thing I do want to address, however, is the constant assumption by my American friends that women’s basketball is just not as serious as men’s basketball. What I mean by that is that others – mostly other men – assume that playing professional basketball as a woman is not necessarily a job. For instance, I have had a number of male friends check in with me during my time overseas playing and during the majority of these conversations, they would say something like, “well, you should just come home.” Or, “Why do you have to be there so long?” Most of these poor guys did not necessarily realize how these simple phrases offended me, but that didn’t save them from getting a lecture from me.
The bottom line is, this is my job. From now until as long as my body holds up and I still have love for this game, I will be overseas eight months of the year. As much as I truly love basketball, playing professionally is HARD work. It is grueling. A daily struggle against myself to constantly improve and stay motivated. Two practices a day, working my butt off, not to mention having to be away from my friends and family in the United States. When you truly love something, however, you make those kind of sacrifices. So no, I won’t just come home. And to answer uninformed-male-number-whatever’s question, because it is my job.
As the season continues, I will keep you all updated on our progress as a team and where we end up in the standings. As for my life outside of basketball, I am going to begin challenging myself to two things every week. One – I am going to read more. Whether it is some scriptures, sports articles, or full-length novels, I want to challenge myself to avoid reality TV and enrich my mind. Two – I want to explore at least one new aspect of the city of Turin every week. So next entry, I will give you all an update and hopefully my entry will be a little more interesting.
Taya Reimer is a former Michigan State standout who is playing her first winter overseas in Italy.