One of the main things I knew about Brasil before I came here was that this country is passionate about soccer. Soccer is Brasil’s sport, and it is also considered a man’s sport by many of the people here. This being the case, I wasn’t sure that there were girl’s teams for soccer or any other sport for that matter. So far, I haven’t found a girl’s soccer team I can play on, which is a bummer, but I have found a team for another sport I love! Basketball! My friend Mariana and I were talking one day, and the subject of sports came up. I talked about how I was missing playing organized sports, and she said that she plays on a team at an athletic club in Joao Pessoa. She invited me to come to a practice one day, so I went and checked it out.
Since that first practice that I went to, I’ve also been to watch some games (though I haven’t played in one yet) and to a couple more practices. It has been interesting seeing the similarities and differences between Brazilian and American basketball. I’ll highlight a few:
- When I arrived with my friend Mariana at the gym, I was expecting us to be sort of late, because she said she’d meet me at the bus stop at 3 and she didn’t get there until 3:30. However, I found out that the practice didn’t actually start until 5, so we were about an hour early! Most of the kids were already there, however. For the hour or so before the practice actually started, everyone just played pickup games together, like a 3 on 3 rotation sort of thing. It was a fun, relaxed atmosphere where everyone just enjoyed playing together, though it was actually more tiring than the actual practice!
- The practices I’ve been to are boys and girls together. Maybe this is because there aren’t enough girls, because there were just like 4 or 5 other girls there along with the 15 or so boys. The age group I’m with is mostly like 14 or 15 year old boys, and girls slightly younger than me. This actually works out ok, though, because these boys are pretty much my same skill and speed level.
- Lots of the drills we did were pretty similar to the ones I did in high school. We did this one similar to ‘Millie Drills’, a ball handling/conditioning workout we used to do. However, everything was just way slower and relaxed. The point of Raider style ‘Millie Drills’ was basically to get a work out and go as fast as you could, however, here people were just sort of jogging through it. I kept thinking I had to go faster, but everyone was just taking their time.
- Suicides, Killers, Champion Makers, or in the case of NHS, Raiders, unfortunately also exist in Brasil. We did a 5 on 5 scrimmage at the end of the practice, and the losing team had to do one. No one was allowed to go slow during this though. The two slowest runners had to do two more!
- When the teams scrimmage or play in actual games, there seem to be no set plays. They do what my high school coach would call ‘just playing basketball’. It was sort of refreshing! There were a lot of fast breaks, and everyone seemed to want to push the ball up the court as fast as they could. Also, whenever someone didn’t know what to do, they just shot the ball from wherever they were on the court, which I found funny.
- The average skill level of most of the kids was slightly less good or about equal with the girl’s varsity team at NHS that I played on. At least most of the boys were around that level. I mostly played with the boys because the girls weren’t quite as advanced. I think everyone was expecting me to play like a girl here would play, because they were pretty shocked when they realized I’m fast and can actually play basketball!
- All the girls wear spandex shorts. Now, if anyone wore spandex shorts to a Raider Girl’s Basketball practice, I’m pretty sure they’d be asked to leave the gym. However, when I showed up in my long, baggy, boy’s basketball shorts, people were laughing. I wore soccer shorts to the next practice instead.
- I almost cried of nostalgia when we did a drill similar to ‘High-Low 120’, this drill we did in RGB where we had to make 120 different shots in 5 minutes from 6 different places on the court. It was just 100 shots when we did it here, and just 4 different places, but still! I wasn’t expecting many of the drills to be the same in Joao Pessoa, Brasil, as in Northfield, but it just goes to show that sports are just another thing that are fairly universal from country to country.
I loved the opportunity to play basketball with a group of young people again! I hadn’t sprinted the way I did at the practice since the section final track meet! It’s so great that basketball, a game I love, is another way of bringing two cultures together. Since I’ve been here, I’ve realized how well sports can bridge cultural gaps, just by playing pick-up games of soccer, volleyball, basketball, or whatever. People say music is a universal language. I agree, and I also think the same goes for sports. Maybe not literally, as I have already forgotten the Portuguese words for ‘shot’, ‘lay-up’, and ‘dribble’, but you know what I mean.
Ate mais, um grande beijo!