Meet Team North West, my National League team! This team is comprised of players ages 16-30, and this is the first year that the team is in existence! This is the first time that women from the Northwestern part of Ireland will be competing at the National level, so you could say we have a lot to prove!
To start the season off right- our coaches Paul and Bill announced that we were invited to Spain for a preseason tournament where we would play 6 games in 2 days. When Faith and I heard we were going to Spain – we started dancing in the kitchen, because we would get to go to a new country; a place both us had on our bucket list! We arrived in Spain late Friday night and met our incredible guide for the weekend, Juan! He was extremely accommodating and showed us around the town- and even got us some late night ice cream (he knows us too well!) It was SOOO WARM in Spain, about 95 degrees Fahrenheit (I am still not used to degrees in celsius yet!) I love the heat, and it’s not very warm in Ireland so I couldn’t complain!
Saturday, we had 3 games against some great teams, and we went 2-1. We got to play against several Spanish teams, and that was a unique experience because neither team knew what the other team was saying! Also, the officials only spoke Spanish, so I am pretty sure they had no idea what we were saying! In between our games, there was a under 10 Spanish girls team playing and they just kept smiling at us and saying “Hola!” They were so cute, and we tried talking with them, but my Spanish is very poor, so we just kept smiling at them! During their game, my team cheered them on and every time when they scored – they would look back and give us a thumbs up, and we would give them the thumbs up back! That is one of the best things about basketball or any sport – you don’t have to speak the same language or come from the same background, at the end of the day basketball is the same in every language. I got to witness that first hand with the little Spanish girls and it just reminded me why I love this game so much. After our games, we got to explore the town more, but we couldn’t eat dinner till 8:30pm! We were in Spain, they close shops and restaurants from 2-8pm because it is the hottest part of the day and people usually nap, so we couldn’t even get dinner till 8:30! We were starving and then had to try ordering in Spanish, which was very difficult!
Sunday, we had another 3 games and also went 2-1. Our last game was really tough, the team was very very good and well disciplined. All in all, Team North West did a great job for never playing together before and for playing 6 games in 2 days! It was an all around amazing experience for me personally getting to play against girls from other countries, and I am just so thankful to be playing basketball again. Sunday night, Juan took us to an italian restaurant and the food was amazing! We sat around and laughed about everything and taught each other different Irish, American, and Spanish words. It was really cool to be surrounded by so many people from different cultures- again all thanks to basketball which brought us together. Later that night, we tried mattress surfing, like the movie the Princess Diaries, and my coach Paul wiped out head first! It was actually really scary, but he came out unharmed so we were able to laugh about it!
Monday, several members of the team had to head back home, but a few of us were lucky enough to have a late night flight home, so we got to spend in Spain with Juan! In the morning, we were invited to a Spanish press conference in the city hall where we met the mayor of Molina and we were put on the local radio station! It was an awesome experience! From there Juan took us to the city of Murcia, where we toured the whole city, and the best part was that Murcia is not a touristy area at all, so I felt completely immersed in the Spanish Culture, almost no one spoke English. I always love non-touristy places, because you get to experience something so different! Murcia was beautiful, the architecture and cathedrals were unbelievable! There was a guy playing live music in the center of the city and it just really made the whole experience even better! It was funny because all of my Irish teammates were hating how hot it was and were avoiding the sun because they didn’t want to get sun burnt, meanwhile I was basking in the sun trying to get tan, knowing that I may not see the sun much for the year when I get back to Ireland! After a full day of seeing the city, we headed to the airport. When we landed in Belfast – Faith and I actually couldn’t get back into the country! There was an issue with our VISAs and it was very scary at the time, but needless to say we eventually safely arrived back in Letterkenny, with some great stories to tell! The next day, I got hit by a car in Letterkenny, but I was thankfully okay! It was sure an eventful weekend in Spain, and I had the absolute best time bonding with my teammates and coaches, getting to meet new people, experiencing real Spanish culture, and touring a city! Huge thank you to Molina Basketball and our Tour Guide Juan for such an amazing time, we will be back soon! Adios!