Chris McLaughlin – From The CIS To Austria

Chris 2My name is Chris McLaughlin and I played 5 years of CIS basketball at the University of Victoria. I was given the opportunity to share a blog post about my first season as a professional basketball player in the ABL of Austria. As the CIS is becoming more competitive and internationally recognized, I thought it would be a good chance to share some of the things I have learned so far as I made the transition from CIS to European pro. Hopefully this blog will give insight to current CIS athletes who are looking to extend their basketball careers overseas. Seeing that writing was not my major in university, I will try and keep this short and sweet about my life so far in Europe.

I officially signed my contract while I was playing in Korea in the middle of July. It was made official that I would be heading to Gmunden, Austria to play for the Gmunden Swans on August 23rd. I was lucky enough to arrive on a Saturday because practice started early Monday morning. The other 3 imports (North American players) got in Sunday afternoon and were on the court the following morning with barely any sleep. This was the first time I had ever been to Europe and I really didn’t know what to expect coming to small-town Austria. I was lucky enough to find myself in a town that really supported the basketball club. The GM, Treasurer, Coach, and all other support staff made sure I was settled in and comfortable in my apartment, showed me around town, and gave me insight into some of the lifestyle differences coming over here. I feel lucky that I was welcomed in that way and the hospitality still continues until today.
Before arriving in Europe, there were many things I wish I had known about the lifestyle. It seemed most of my knowledge about it came from rumours of other CIS guys and their experiences and old teammates and their unfortunate struggles. The next bit of this post will include the stuff that I have learned so far about life on and off the court to try and help those who are hoping to extend their careers after the CIS or other university league.

  1. Every team is different

This may come off as obvious – the range of talent, money, and skill varies a lot throughout Europe and the world, but I learned quickly that even in our 10-team league in Austria each club is extremely different in styles and the aforementioned. Contracts, training, and fan support are very different depending on what part of the country you are in. For example, I live in a town of 13,000 people and we have some of the loudest and most dedicated fans. However, not to long ago we traveled to the capital of Vienna and played the team there where there were probably about 50 people in the stands. Not only do leagues vary, but teams within them do as well.

  1. Summer is crucial Chris McLaughlin

I was lucky enough to be chosen to play for the Development Men’s National Team, which was full of CIS guys who played in the World University Games in South Korea in July. We had a training camp before in Kansas, where we played the Jayhawks who represented Team USA at the tournament. I think that this training and exposure to international play has played a key role in my success thus far. Without training and playing at the high level, I think my pre-season would have been a lot more difficult here in Austria. CIS play ends early so staying active and competitive through the off-season in crucial.

  1. You will become your own trainer

Buying a foam roller before I came here was probably the best decision I made packing wise. Treatment and physio is not as accessible in many places as it was in the CIS. We don’t have a full time trainer. We are able to schedule some physio sessions a few days in advance and we didn’t have an ice machine until last week – I sometimes use the lake as an ice bath. I got into the habit of excessively stretching and rolling before and after each session and I think it saved my body through pre season training. Learning to treat yourself before injuries is really important.

  1. Netflix

Practice has pretty much been non-stop since I have been here with maybe one day off a week after games with optional shoot around or weights. Every other day is 2-a-days or game days. Even with this busy schedule there is a lot of downtime in between, with no class to go to. Yesterday’s schedule was 9:30 am weights and shooting and then an 8:30 pm practice, with many hours in between. Now that the weather is getting pretty brutal, there is a lot of time to yourself. Netflix is key…Xbox live helps too!

  1. Anything can happen

We have just started playing teams for the second time around and it seems that every team has lost or gained a few import players. One thing I think every aspiring pro athlete knows is that once you show up you are basically making a first impression until you leave. Every game, every win, every loss comes back to the athletes that were brought over, in a good or really bad way.

  1. Team mates

I am happy to say that I have a really good group of guys on my team that I enjoy hanging out with outside the practice times. I think this plays a big part in quality of living while being away from home. I have heard many stories from people who have played in other countries where personalities clash leading to a pretty awful experience. Don’t get me wrong, there are still occasional fights/arguments but at the end of the day, in our case it is just healthy competition that makes us better. 

  1. You will get homesick

It comes and goes, here and there, and it was expected before I even came. I think having a comfortable living area mixed with a group of teammates that you get along with makes everything a lot easier.

  1. Days are long, but time flies

Some weeks of practice just never end — the grind. The Eurocup season is currently being played where some of the teams in our league are competing internationally, so we went from 2 games a week down to 1 game a week…or so. We had 9 days between games this week and it seems like you have practiced a hundred times and the body feels it. However, even though the days and some weeks feel very slow, the months have seemed to fly by. We have already played about 14 games and we are heading into December already. Its weird to think that the CIS season is only 20(ish) games and feels so long. Here we have a 36 game season with the potential to play close to 50. Many countries and leagues will play even more than this in 7 months or so.

  1. Talk to current athletes

When I was deciding to pursue pro basketball and make the jump over here I felt it was really helpful to reach out to previous CIS players who went over. Jordan Baker who played last season in Germany and who is currently in Portugal was helpful over the summer while in Korea, answering many of my questions about life across the pond. It seems there are more CIS athletes playing over here than ever, and it is worth reaching out if you have questions. It has also been great being able to keep in contact with guys from the CIS over here. I have stayed in touch with Jordan in Portugal, Johnny Berhanemaskel in Estonia, and my old team mate Terrell Evans who ended up playing in the same league as me and is in a town about 4 hours away. It has definitely been helpful being able to talk to them through all of our experiences during the transition.

I am very happy with my decision to pursue basketball professionally and I feel like I was very lucky with the situation I have found myself in for my rookie year with this team. I was welcomed into the town, which made the transition a lot easier. I know this is not always the case. Not every day has been easy and it is all a part of the grind, but it has been a great experience so far. I am excited about the strides the team has taken in the last month, and I am looking forward to every game in the future.

 

Thanks for reading,

 

Chris McLaughlin

6 Things I’ve Learned Playing Professional Basketball In Europe

The life of a professional basketball player is one of frequent travel. We have the unique opportunity to travel to not only tourist destinations, but also small towns that are not as frequently visited. I have been in Europe for four months and have learned a lot – both about basketball and life.

1) A simple thank you can make your life a whole lot easier…

When ordering food or trying to ask for simple directions – its amazing how much more willing people are when you care enough to mutter out a simple ‘Thank You’ in their native language. Although people usually laugh at my attempt to replicate their foreign accent, it shows that at least you are willing to try (I’m still not sure whether the laugh is a result of me probably sounding like an idiot or if they are simply floored that I know how to).

2) Europeans take their viewing of sports very seriously…

In America there are die-hard sports fans that go to every teams game home or away. In Europe there are die-hard sports fans that go to every teams home or away game and bring with them a drum and several other homemade noise makers. Multiply this by hundreds of spectators and you have a very, very electric atmosphere. This differs from North American sporting events in that most prohibit any noise making devices in the arena (short of a pair of “thunder sticks”).

3) Bored? You are simply not curious enough…

Being immersed in a new city unable to speak the native tongue can leave some completely out of the loop and bored. With a ton of places to see and cultures to learn there’s no excuses for being bored. My greatest discovery was iBooks, and the ability to carry with me hundreds of books at a time wherever I went. This proves to be extremely valuable when making long road trips with no wifi.

4) In the end all we really have is our memories…

When you buy something new the happiest moment is most likely when you bring that object home and from there your joy slowly diminishes. With life experiences you are creating memories that will derive joy at the time, and also years later when you reminisce about the experience.

5) The World is both very big and very small…

People live very differently in different places of the world and to have a true appreciation for this you really have to experience it. Traveling from gym to gym throughout the season we get to see a lot of places that the typical tourist wouldn’t. The small working-class towns that ignite on game day to rally behind their home team is a true representation of their home grown loyalty and is a sight to experience first hand.

6) Life is A LOT more cluttered than it needs to be…

When I landed in Europe I had with me two bags. One with my basketball gear and the other with my computer gear. In my apartment I have a desk, a couch, a bed, and a lot of wide open space. The more things you own the more cluttered your life becomes – sometimes less is more.

With the season not even halfway through, I’m sure there will be a lot more to add to this list as time goes on. All of these lessons were waiting for me back home, but I had to leave and walk into the world to discover them on my own.

The World Didn’t End… I’m Still Alive in Deutschland

If there was a model for the perfect procrastinator, it would FOR SURE be me.

My last blog was posted when I could still go outside and wear a bathing suit – now my wardrobe is limited to parka, parka or… parka. But Luckily it keeps me warm in Germany… and so does the German beer, but that’s a secret trick I really picked up in Canada. The Germans think Canadians drink more beer than they do… and we Canadians believe it to be the other way around. Regardless of who is right, my conclusion is that both nations enjoy their barley sandwiches.

I will apologize to the world reading my blog  at this moment for my negligence… which is maybe 5 people, all of whom are probably related to me and have been nagging me to chronicle my season thus far.

But thanks for being so interested in what I’m doing! Hugs to you all : )

Okay so here it is… my last four months in Germany.

1. Basketball

My league, the 2nd Damen Basketball Bundesliga, is split into two divisions: North (12 teams) and South (11 teams). My team, TG Sandhausen, competes in the Southern Division. The top four teams from each division continue on to the post-season, which begins in April.

We have 4 wins/7 losses on the season. Currently we sit 9th in the South with 9 regular season games left in the next 10 weeks.

Personal stat line as of today:
14.5 points per game / 9.9 rebounds per game (6th overall) / 1.6 assists per game / 2.8 steals per game (5th overall)

The furthest we travel for away games is 5 hours by bus.

Early in November, the other import player on our team decided to go back to the USA. Since then, we have acquired a new point guard from Mississippi. Her nickname is Scoobie… coach called her Scooby Doo first day of practice. She’s been a great addition to our team, leading the fast break and finishing at the hoop.

2. The Germans

Are strict. Some may say they lack emotion and are generally cold people. But this is not true. They may not be as outwardly affectionate as the Portuguese, but the German commitment to detail clearly has not gone unnoticed as their country continues to be prosperous, innovative, and globally influential.

Are brutally honest. If they think you look terrible, they will tell you “You look terrible today!”

Will not cross the street unless the sign says ‘walk’. And if someone crosses the street on ‘don’t walk’, you can feel the disapproving eyes descend upon you from all of the people who are patiently waiting on the sidewalk for the sign to turn.

The Autobahn is pretty great. Especially when you are driving 180km/hr and a Porsche flies past you!

Tall girls exist over here! And they even wear high heals! This is inspiring because I ALWAYS wear flat shoes. I now own a pair of healed boots – kind of a big deal! Note to self: EMBRACE IT BABY!

I visit the grocery store everyday here compared to back home where we go to Costco every Sunday and stock up for the week. I kind of like it better this way because everything you eat is always fresh and obviously much healthier.

3.  Travelling/Extra-Curricular

I’ve become really great friends with one of my German teammates and her family. I nicknamed her “The Princess” after only knowing her for a few days. Naturally, her retort was to crown me “The Queen”. We may believe that together we are above the commoners; however, we are both blonde. While we have both positive and negative qualities, being blonde has left us with many great stories from an ever-growing list of adventures. Most recently we travelled to Paris together. I had never been but it was her fifth trip to the famous French city. We hit the major sites like The Eiffel, The Louvre, Champs-Élysées, Pont des Arts, and Montparnasse.  We ate crêpes with Nutella everyday and I even ventured out a little – trying frog legs and escargot! Both were really yummy. Our Parisian tour was so great that we are currently planning a trip for The Princess, her boyfriend, and her brother to visit Canada this summer!

Two of my Vancouver friends came to visit me for a week while they were travelling Europe. THAT adventure consisted of bicycle rides, bottles of wine, arugula salads and cheese. I was so thankful to have good girlfriends overseas to keep me company, even though it was short lived. Needless to say, our limited time together did not limit our escapades. We had so much fun that it only gave us another excuse to get together once I’m back home. Next time at a ‘high class’ trailer park in British Columbia likely consisting of boat rides, light beer, burgers… and cheese.

I’ve been to a bunch of professional basketball, football (soccer), and hockey games.

I’ve been to some of the major cities in Germany as well – Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Bremen, Hamburg, Mannheim and, of course, Heidelberg (which is the city I am 15 minutes from). I still hope to get to Berlin and Munich before I leave, but so far my favorite city is Stuttgart.

I also took an online distance course through SFU last semester called “The Biology of Aging”. It was super challenging and I really hated it, but I got a B! … Maybe being blonde doesn’t make me as dumb as I thought.

I was able to spend 10 days in Canada with my family during Christmas. It’s always beyond amazing to go home and recharge with the people who love and support you the most. Just this week my sister was watching sports highlights with my 5 year-old nephew and said, “We should go watch Lebron James play in Miami, eh Brock?” [sidenote, I would never allow him to go to a Heat game unless they were playing the Celtics]. His classic reply, “Noooo, we have to go watch Aunty Money play. She gets the ball all the time!” And then my heart melted and I wanted to go home!!! But a few more months left and I can overload on family time. Until then, I am focused on continuing to play well and our team improving so that we can make it to the playoffs. It’s going to be a tough goal to achieve, but jumping out of your comfort zone is never easy, except somehow, always worth it : )

In a nutshell, that’s pretty much the major details of the last four months.  I’ll be better at updating from now on!

Tschüss loves <3 !

MMH

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Julie Seabrook Blog #3 – Preseason is OVER!

Sorry everyone!

I guess you could call it writer’s block. The hardest part is getting started!
Let me fill you in…

Our preseason started on September 22nd when we drove the four hours to Yverdon to play in a round robin tournament.

Our first game was against Elfic Fribourg, who is in our league. We played well for our first game together, but in the third quarter Fribourg came out strong and we ended up taking the loss.

Our second game of the day was against Esperance Pully, another team in our league. We played well as a team and even though we were down at half we pulled through for the win.

In between the games I entered into a 3 point shooting contest. I tied with another girl in the first round and in the second round I lost, but overall my three-point shot is coming along nicely.

After the tournament was over they had a little award ceremony and we got a team picture with Miss Swiss.

On Sunday we played another game versus Lausanne Prilly, a second division team, and we won.

On September 25th we hosted a Team Presentation Conference in our gym. We announced the team to the public and sponsors, and we took team and individual photos.

We were also in the newspaper the next day. (Don’t worry Dad I got a copy of it!)

Our next game, on September 30th, was for Swiss Cup. Let me explain Swiss Cup to you. Basically all the teams that play in all the divisions in Switzerland are entered and you randomly draw your opponent. Every couple of weeks you have a game until there is only one Swiss Basket Champion. In our first game we played BC Alte Kanti Aarau. We won 92-61 after coming out in the 3rd quarter with a 30-6ish run. I played well scoring 21 points and I didn’t even play in the fourth quarter. Our next Swiss Cup game will be against another team in our league, Riva Basket!

 

 

 

 

 

 

This past weekend we traveled north to Basel, which is in the German part of Switzerland, to play our first league game versus Martigny. All the other teams were also there. We did not play well and got down early in the game. We settled down in the second half, though, taking better care of the ball and working the ball around on offense, but in the end we could not dig ourselves out of the hole.

We still have a lot to learn and a lot to work on, but I am staying positive and look forward to getting better this week at practice before our first home game on Saturday versus the Luzern Highflyers.

After the game, all the teams got together for a Gala Dinner! We ate burritos and sang karaoke. We chose to sing Man I Feel Like a Woman by Shania Twain and it was a blast!

Ciao from Switzerland!

~Julie

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