National team break: one player’s experience

Rebecca Harris, left, and Kristi Bellock overlooking Haifa, Israel.
Rebecca Harris, left, and Kristi Bellock overlooking Haifa, Israel

What a blessing this is! Although I have only been in Turkey for a little over a month, this break couldn’t come at a better time. There are about two weeks in between regular season games (in most countries), where the national teams from those countries get together, practice, and play in qualifying rounds to represent their respective countries.

If you play overseas and are currently on your national team, then it’s not really a physical break for you, but it can definitely be considered a mental break, as you meet up with close friends and family back home while you prepare.

And for the many overseas players who are not currently on a national team roster, that means we have 2-3 weeks in between games. Now what exactly does this mean? Well, that depends on the type of coach and team that you have. Fortunately, this season I have a coach who allowed me to take some time to myself and travel. I only got four days, but I made the most of those days, because there have been seasons when I haven’t gotten any real time off and just had to practice.

As soon as I found out how much time off I had, I booked a ticket to Israel. This is a place that has always been on my bucket list to go, and there was no more perfect time than the present to head over there. My favorite person on the planet, Kristi Bellock (a Texas A&M alumni) is currently playing there for the club Maccabi Haifa, so it was a no-brainer as to where I would go with this bit of free time. We had a game on Saturday, and by 6 a.m. the next morning, I was in the air and on my way.

Rebecca Harris playing for Energa Torun in Torun, Poland 2019.
Rebecca Harris playing for Energa Torun in Torun, Poland 2019

Once I arrived in Tel Aviv and went through customs, Kristi was there to scoop me up, and we headed to Haifa, which was about an hour and half drive. She had practice to get to! Her coach had given her a few days off before I got there, though. When we arrived at the gym, they had just started practice, but it wasn’t much of an issue because the coach knew that Kristi would be picking me up from the airport. I took a seat off to the side and let them get to it.

It’s always interesting watching another team’s practice. I can’t help but to compare some things. And there have been times in the past where I would have joined in, but since I had played a game the night before, had a late night and an early flight on top of that, I decided to just enjoy my break.

Practice lasted for about an hour and a half, so before I knew it we were free to go. I was looking forward to my first meal in Israel. What spot would we hit? Where would we go? If you know me, my first meal may be of no surprise at all. After a quick shower and a tour around the apartment Kristi shared with three other teammates, it was time to head to a sushi place called, Japanika. Since I’ve been in Turkey I haven’t had sushi or any real seafood, so this spot was a must! After a great meal, a few drinks, and great conversation it was time to call it a night and head back to the apartment.

Over the next few days I got to explore the views in Haifa, hit the gym and get a workout in, eat at Benedict’s in Tel Aviv, and even got to see a good friend, Alex Hamilton, play in a game before I caught my flight back to Turkey. Although the break seemed much shorter after my time was up, I truly enjoyed myself. I was able to get away for a bit, see a bunch of other Americans who are playing abroad, and stick my feet in the warm sand while everyone back home was freezing their butts off during the first snow of the fall.

When dealing with a season that can feel so stressful at times, it’s so important to enjoy every part of what makes playing overseas such an experience. There are so many parts of being away that people take for granted, but being able to travel is something I love most of all.

Rebecca Harris stands on the stairs of the Baha'i Gardens.
Rebecca Harris stands on the stairs of the Baha’i Gardens

Rebecca Harris is a former University of Illinois guard who has played over 10 years of professional basketball. From her seasons of playing overseas to the summers spent with the St. Louis Surge, every season has brought new challenges and great memories that she shines a light on from time to time. In her spare time off the court, she likes to dive into a good book, travel the world, and continue working on her brand Best Ever Created. This proud Fighting Illini alum is a military brat that is accustomed to adapting to the world and cultures around her all while making a way for herself and sharing her experiences with others.

Baha'i Gardens - Haifa, Israel
Baha’i Gardens, Haifa, Israel
Benedict's in Tel-Aviv, Israel
Benedict’s in Tel Aviv, Israel