Great Expectations

Why California? Why now?

© TG Neuss via: Ana Behnke Llanos

zur deutschen Version

We, Ana and Ayla, are at 10,000 meters altitude, the Atlantic is below us. We have really done it: We have actually departed from Germany and are now on our way to California. It will take a couple of hours more before we will land in California. This is a great opportunity to reflect on the background of our trip and to share our thoughts, hopes and expectations. Here you go:

The American Dream
The American dream – it is different for everyone. However, we both share the same dream: to combine basketball and university, ideally in the US. So far, we have had little to (honestly) no personal experience with the American basketball. Of course, we know the players who have made it. We watch their games and occasionally even some interviews in which they talk about their time as student athletes. Still, this feels rather abstract, barely within reach and somehow vague.

Just like for almost any basketball player, for us the United States feels like the Mecca of our favorite sport. We have always dreamed of traveling there one day. So why not combine pleasure with something useful? Why not gather our own experience with the American Basketball directly in the country?

When, if not now?
Summer 2016 – for us, this is the perfect time to travel. We are young and free: not yet of legal age, but already to a large extent independent from school, work and parents. We can’t wait to gain new experiences, meet new people and become acquainted with new cultures. If we simultaneously come a bit closer to our dream, things can hardly be any better. As much as we will enjoy our visit to the United States in the present time – we also hope that this journey will help us for our future.

We both go to school in North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany. Here, the school time to the Abitur (the German high school diploma) is shortened by one year compared to other parts of the country. If things go as planned, we will both be 17 when we finish high school. Basically during each school year the question comes up what you ultimately want to do after graduation. The fact that our education system accelerates its farewell and sends students into the great wide world as soon as possible, of course, increases the pressure on us and our classmates to find the right path for life. We currently do not quite know for ourselves which route we want to take. But also here this trip can help us.

In fact, we both agree and we are certain that basketball must continue to play a role in our lives, also during university. In Germany, the combination of basketball and studies is barely as supported financially and socially as in American colleges. Moreover, what better way is there to learn the English (or any other) language and get to know the culture than in everyday situations in the country. The US offers an optimal educational system for people like us who hope to somehow effectively combine sports and studies.

Self-assessment, development, opportunities
Of course it would be great if we were scouted by college coaches during our trip and get exposure to valuable contacts. It is one of the reasons why we have chosen to participate in a performance-focused camp, where we have the opportunity to gain "exposure".

Still, our primary intention of this trip has always been to get acquainted with the American basketball and the local atmosphere. On top, we are eager to get an assessment of our capabilities and to grow as players as much as possible. For this purpose the camp is ideal: We will be playing in the US against American players, will get an assessment from the hugely successful German basketball player Linda Froehlich and will work with professional coaches to advance our techniques and experience on the court.

How did our trip to the camp take shape?
We are convinced that we have made all the right choices to meet our goals this summer. A friend of Ayla’s recommended Linda's "Live Your Vision Camp" to us in early January and made us aware of the opportunity. At the time, we both played on the same team and had no plans for the summer. So we teamed up and started to work out our trip. When we contacted Linda she was extremely helpful by patiently answering all of our questions (and we had a lot of questions). Based on this, our plan started to take shape. In the beginning, things were a bit slow – it was complicated to keep track of all the different elements of our travel arrangements as well as all the restrictions linked with our young age. With great support from Linda and our parents, we have finally managed to arrive at a good solution which works for all aspects involved – from school to exam requirements and basketball. We are proud things have worked out.

Really only basketball in California?
The desire to improve our basketball skills caused us to go on this trip in the first place and of course keeps dominating the plans for our stay. But we are not only flying to California to sweat in a dark gym. We are also planning on having a lot of fun on this trip. Of course, during the camp itself (and also the sweating there will a lot of fun), but also after our stay at the camp: We want to get to know California, to travel around the state and to enjoy the sun. We will let all of the impressions sink in which we will be exposed to. Be it culture, landscape, sports or people. For both of us, it is a great adventure to explore a foreign country without an accompanying adult or guardian.

In essence, our trip is the perfect combination of a performance-oriented and enjoyable basketball camp, the fulfillment of a childhood dream and a holiday at the beaches and cities in one of the most visited regions in the world. We hope that after this journey, we will have a better idea of our lives after school.

There is more!
German Disc Golf star Simon Lizotte made the move to California and lives his dream - read Simon's story here.
See Ana’s and Ayla’s first blog post on Living a basketball dream in California
Read Linda Froehlich’s perspective on What is next after a successful professional sports career?

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