Wednesday, March 28, 2012


  You may or may not be aware that there's an important movie being released this Friday (March 30th). And yes, I know "The Hunger Games" came out last week. But I'm not talking about "The Hunger Games".

  It's a movie far more important than that (or any other movie that's been released for entertainment purposes in recent memory). And a movie we ALL need to see. Kids, adults, and everyone in between.

  The movie is called "Bully".

  It's a documentary movie about the prevalence of bullying in schools. I know, bullying has probably been around since the start of man. But it seems to me, that more recently, we've been hearing more and more about kids who are afraid to go to school, and sadly, who have committed suicide because of bullying.

  It is said that roughly 13 million children will be bullied at school in the US this year. 13 MILLION KIDS! That number tells me that the problem of bullying is being ignored, or swept under the rug. Adults, and those in charge just saying, "Oh, kids will be kids...'

  Children, no matter their age or background, should never feel unsafe, afraid, or nervous about going to school. We need to do our best to make school a safe haven for all kids. 

  Alex, a boy in the movie, says: "They punch me in the jaw, strangle me, they knock things out of my hand, take things from me, sit on me. They push me so far that I want to become the bully."

  That's not just 'kids being kids'.

  I'm not exactly going out on a limb when I say that bullying has taken on a whole new meaning since the dawn of the Internet (and cell phones). With the Internet, it's easier to bully, and it's easier to be bullied. For one, everyone is more accessible on a daily basis. And secondly, when a person can hide behind a computer screen, there's no telling the things they will say. And that's a very scary thing, given the emergence and popularity of social media in recent years.

  We know the Internet isn't going away, and bullying isn't slowing down. So we need to do something about this growing 'phenomenon'. I wondered aloud a few months ago on Twitter, and asked: What is more important, emphasizing that bullying is NOT okay, or teaching kids how to deal with bullying? What do you think???

  I don't know how or when bullying became 'cool' or tolerated. But somehow, we need to send this thought back in the other direction. Bullying is NOT cool, and should never be tolerated. EVER.

  And at the same time, we're not going to stop bullying from happening overnight. As much as we'd like that to happen, it's not realistic. Coping techniques and support systems should become emphasized even more at school, and at home.

  Kids don't just become bullies on their own. Unfortunately they learn this behavior SOMEWHERE. They learn to bully. So we, as adults, need to take that responsibility and set an example for the kids in our lives. Whether they are your children, your niece, your brother, a child you coach, them how to behave, and that it is not okay to bully, nor is it okay to be bullied. 

  This is a big issue to tackle. But one that needs to be addressed. Like any cause, spreading awareness is a start. If no one knows there's a problem, we can't begin to solve it. Hopefully, watching "Bully" will go a long way in starting a dialogue, and we'll start to find a solution!

  Let's get out and see "Bully," and start putting an end to this terrible trend.

Note: "Bully" is rated PG-13, and contains strong language.

The Bully Project
Jillian Michaels Podcast 11/18/2011
The Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation
Creating Safe and Engaging Schools

Little Eyes Upon You

Monday, March 26, 2012

An Unexpected Boost: Learning from those around you

Cope in the post.
  The 2011-2012 season is rapidly coming to a close here in Dunkerque. Five more games, and we can call it a wrap.

  This past weekend, we had our last bye of the season, and I took advantage by watching as much basketball as I possibly could. It wasn't necessarily a conscious effort on my part, it just sort of worked out that way. And I think I found an unexpected boost to finish out my season. 

  Here in France (and Belgium, since I am so close to the border), there are various men's and women's pro leagues. With the number of other teams in the area, you would have thought I would have made it to several games at this point in the season. But until this weekend, I had only been to one game since I got to France in August (a women's LFB game that a friend played in January).

  In the span of two days, I went to two men's games: one Pro B game in France, and a Division I game in Belgium to watch a fellow Colorado alum Chris Copeland play.

  To me, it's very different watching a game in person, rather than just on TV. Obviously, I have seen my fair share of televised basketball games recently. But there is nothing like watching a game in person.

Lille versus Le Portel.
  You can see how each individual approaches the game. Their preparation. Their interaction with their teammates and coaches. Their focus. Their intensity. None of that can be conveyed though the television screen (or the computer screen in my case).

  In case you didn't know, the men's and women's game are two completely different games. Sure it's basketball, but they way the games are played, and even how the players approach the game is vastly different. (Or maybe MY approach is vastly different than how I see most guys' approach being.)

  I don't know how to properly describe it other than saying, I think guys take a "worry about yourself, and it's a full time job" approach. Meaning, they concentrate fully on doing their job, and their job alone, going into the game.

Fresh Perspective
  This weekend, and watching those two games was kind of an eye-opener for me. Or a reminder. And a fresh perspective. When you go week after week, game after game doing the same thing over and over again, it's easy to get stuck in a rut. You're in your own world, and you may or may not get any feedback or advice. As a result, you focus on the same things each and every game. And sometimes when that focus becomes more and more narrow, you can get into trouble.

  So that's what watching those two games this weekend did for me. It broadened my perspective, and it reminded me there are other ways to approach a game (Not that how I have been going into games is wrong. I just think it's good to change up your focus, and freshen it up a bit.)

  I came away from this weekend with a different outlook, and picked up a few things that I can add to my focus to help make me a better player. And I think refocusing will help me in my final five games this season.

  Guys play the game with so much confidence in THEIR game. It's not cockiness (well sometimes it's cockiness, but the confidence I respect, and am referring to is NOT cocky). And their approach to the game reflects their attitude, and that confidence. You can see it in how they warm up, and how they step onto the court.

Floor spread, one on one. Easy.
  During the game in Belgium, I found myself watching Chris a lot. What he did when he had the ball in his hands. And what he did when he was off the ball. We have a similar style of play and skill set, but he has more of a scorer's mentality than I have ever had. He evaluates, and thinks the game in the same ways that I do.

  I noticed he does what he does best, and he's committed to it. He scores the ball. And he asks for/wants the ball every time down the court. But not in a selfish way. He's just aggressive, and wants to do his best for his team. 

  Cause when he's at his best, his team is at it's best. That is something I need to remind myself, and apply to my own game. When I'm at the top of my game, my team will only benefit.

Do What You Do Best
  I get caught up in 'running the play' too much, and forget to just play. But at the end of the day, it's basketball. A game I've been playing since I was five or six. Regardless of the system you play in, the object of the game is to put the ball in the basket. So you have to figure out how to best do that. No matter what. 

  Another thing I noticed was that Chris was able to focus on just doing his job. He wasn't worried about helping the point guard get the ball up the court, or if the center or small forward were in the right position on the court. He focused on himself, and his job.

  He evaluated how the defense was guarding him, and he adjusted accordingly by reading the defense. It's what you're taught to do from the time you first start playing. You always read the defense. If you have an advantage in some way, you exploit that advantage -- regardless if the play calls for it.

  The last thing I took away from Chris's game, was that he was never in a hurry. He took exactly what the defense gave him. If the defense took one thing away, he countered. That's the great thing about being a versatile player: there's no perfect way to guard you. You always have an answer to how a defender is playing you.

Floor's spaced!
  When you take this approach, you're reminded just how EASY the game of basketball is. It's not a complicated game, but sometimes it seems that way. Over-thinking can be one of the biggest deterrents to a great basketball player.

  I learned (or re-learned) a lot from watching Chris this weekend. It was a great refresher for me.

  It reminded me of things I have told myself time and time again, and somehow forget over the course of a season. It allowed me to re-evaluate what I'm doing on the court, and how I approach the game.

  Anytime you feel like you're in a rut, sometimes the only way to get out of it is to change things up, and get a fresh perspective. I'm looking forward to my final five games this season. And I'm excited to put my new/updated approach to good use!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Soy Part II: Fermented vs. Unfermented

Unfermented Soy products.

  After I published my Dangers of Soy blog in October (suggested we should steer clear of all soy products), I got a lot of questions: What about the Japanese diet, don't they eat a lot of soy? So I can't have soy sauce? I'm a vegetarian, what about tofu? How much is too much?

  Being the curious person that I am, I wanted to know the answers! I'm definitely not an expert, but I am willing to do a little research.

  The most important thing I discovered is that fermented and unfermented soy products are VASTLY different foods. So here's exactly what that means, along with a few other highlights:

The Japanese/Asian Diet:
  Soy farming originally started in China, where it was used to build soil fertility and feed animals. Soy beans were not considered fit for human consumption until the Chinese learned to ferment them (which makes soy digestible). Asian diets now include mostly fermented soy beans in the form of natto, miso, tamari, and tempeh.

  Here's the important part: most soy foods that Americans consume on a regular basis are unfermented soy products: tofu, soy milk, soy ice cream, soy burgers, edamame, etc...

Soy sauce as a condiment.
  In today's world, the people who promote soy as a health food are quick to point out that Asians, who consume a diet higher in soy (30 times greater than North Americans), have lower rates of breast, uterine and prostate cancer.

  Those statistics comes with a caveat, however. Asians, especially the Japanese, also have a much higher risk of developing cancer of the esophagus, thyroid, stomach, pancreas and liver.

  Hard to say which is worse, isn't it?

  Usually, it's safe to say, anything in MODERATION is okay for you. It's when you go overboard, where it becomes a problem.

  Going overboard is where the American diet continually runs into problems. We don't understand what 'in moderation' means.

  In the Asian diet, roughly 10 grams of soy is consumed per day (or two teaspoons, usually as a condiment). But a soy manufacturer recommends that Americans should eat as much as ten times that (100 grams of soy per day)!

  Fermented Soy is ONLY type of soy that offers any health benefits, as fermentation takes care of many of the dangers of soy (but not all).
     -Tempeh is a type of fermented soybean found in solid, cake-like sheets that can be cut into any size you'd like.  
     -Natto is another type of fermented soybean that shaped in smaller, bite-sized chunks.
     -Miso is a thick, fermented paste that can be made from soy beans (but read the label carefully as it is sometimes made from barley or rice)
     -Pickled tofu which can also be called tofu cheese. You may be less likely to find this product in grocery stores but look for it at Asian foods market or a large-scale natural foods stores.  
      -Keep in mind that tofu is NOT on the fermented soy list. Most of the tofu available in supermarkets has been coagulated into its thickened, moist, cake-like form, but it has NOT been fermented. Pickled tofu is the exception. Like other fermented soy products, it makes a great addition to soups.
     -Most soy sauces you find in the supermarket have NOT been fermented, and you should look specifically for tamari if you want the full benefits of a fermented soy product.

Natto on rice.
What Does Fermentation Do?
  After a long fermentation process, soy becomes more easily digestible for the human body. The phytate and 'anti-nutrient' levels are greatly reduced. It is ONLY after this fermentation process that soy's beneficial properties become available to our bodies.

  One of the main benefits of fermented soy is that it's a great source of vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 is essential to preventing osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and diseases of the brain such as dementia, and protecting you from various cancers including prostate, lung, liver cancer and leukemia.

  But again, this is ONLY after the soy bean has been fermented.

  Unfermented Soy (tofu, soy milk, soy ice cream, soy burgers, edamame) SHOULD be avoided. Unfermented Soy provides us with no nutritional benefit, and in many cases, causes us more harm. These products are the ones I previously wrote about in October.

  Aside from being a genetically modified and a heavily-sprayed (with pesticides) crop, unfermented soy also contains natural toxins ('anti-nutrients'), hemagglutinin, goitrogens, phytates, isoflavones, toxic levels of aluminum and manganese, and is extremely high in estrogen. For a more in-depth explanation, I suggest: What Makes Soy a Risky Food to Eat?

One Last Tidbit
  One final piece of information to keep in mind: BOTH fermented and unfermented soy are goiterigenic (thyroid suppressing). This means that all forms of soy "contain hormonal mimics in the form of isoflavones which can not only disrupt delicate hormone systems in your body, but also act as goitrogens, substances that suppress your thyroid function".

  When the thyroid is suppressed, a host of health problems result, namely:

     -Anxiety and mood swings
     -Difficulty losing weight
     -Difficulty conceiving children
     -Digestive problems
     -Food allergies

Edamame - popular side dish in the US.
  If you do choose to consume any soy products, they should ALWAYS come from organic soybeans.

  As previously mentioned, in North America, soy crops are one of the most heavily-sprayed crops, and are mostly grown using genetically modified seeds (91% of soy grown in the US is genetically modified).

  So, should ALL soy be avoided? Unfortunately, there is no 'one size fits all' answer. I think that is a personal choice. Since I have found out the negative effects of soy, I have done all I can to steer clear of it, whether it's fermented or not. Sure, I'll occasionally have soy sauce when I have sushi. But that's about it.

  If you have questions, or are confused, do your own research. More information, and better understanding is never a bad thing. Ultimately take responsibility of your own health, and keep in mind: everything in moderation!


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

No Redos, No Regrets

CU Frontcourt: Me, Tera, and Linda.
  I think I've always played basketball without regret. You play hard, you leave it all on the court, and there's nothing to regret.

  But ever since my eligibility expired as a senior at Colorado, I've wanted to have one play, and one play only, back. A redo so to speak.

  If that play had resulted differently, maybe the rest of the game would have gone differently too. Then maybe my career in black and gold wouldn't have ended that afternoon in Knoxville. Maybe we would have moved on to our second straight NCAA Elite Eight appearance. And after that, who knows?

  It's been almost nine years, so some of the details are a little foggier than others. But here's the set up:

  It's 2003. The Colorado Buffaloes are playing the Villanova Wildcats in the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 in Knoxville, Tennessee. The winner moves on to the Elite Eight. With, in all likelihood, a match up with host, the Tennessee Lady Vols. You couldn't ask for anything better.

Timeout vs. Villanova.
  We had played Villanova earlier in the season, in a tournament we hosted over Thanksgiving called the Coors Classic. Villanova beat us that night in a close game. It was the first time we lost in the Coors Classic in forever (I don't know the actual stats on that, but you were never supposed to lose in the Coors Classic).

  Villanova was a good team. A lot like us actually. Fundamentally sound. A balanced team, in that they had three or four players you had to focus on, not just one or two 'superstars'. They were patient, and they were smart.

  I think it shocked us a little to lose that game in November. But early season losses aren't as devastating as losses in March.

  Now fast forward several months to tournament time. The brackets for the NCAA Tournament were released, and we saw Villanova in our bracket. I know every single one of my teammates immediately thought about a possible re-match with them in the Sweet 16. We saw that as a chance for redemption. And another shot at reaching the Elite Eight, like we had done the year before.

  It was my senior year. Lose, and you're done. So you play with a little extra energy, a little extra emotion. I was playing on a fractured left ankle (explains the 'robo-ankle' I have now) -- you better believe I wasn't going to miss my senior year NCAA Tournament. So if I could handle the pain, I was going to be on the court. Unfortunate, but I managed.

Headed to the Sweet 16.
  Like the game in Boulder in November, the Sweet 16 match up went back and fourth. We didn't really change anything strategy-wise from the first time we played them (which also might be a 'coulda-shoulda-woulda' moment for me).

  We believed in the way we played, our system. And we believed that we would make the plays down the stretch, and pull out a win the second time around.

  Villanova played us the same as well. They chose to take away all our perimeter scoring chances by sticking tight to their man when the ball went inside. As a result, our All-American center, Tera Bjorklund was racking up the points in the post with no double team, or help in sight. 

  The exact time and score scenario escapes me. We were either up by a few, or down by a few. Either way, it was a tight game, with less then seven or eight minutes to go. We ran the Triangle offense, of course made famous by Phil Jackson and Michael Jordan. And we ran it pretty well.

  Here's the play I want back:

Tough loss.
  The ball was on the right wing, with fellow senior forward Linda Lappe.

  One of the bread-and-butter cuts out of the Triangle calls for the opposite forward (me, on this particular play) to cut towards the ball, and receive the pass at the high post (or elbow). Villanova knew that cut, and over-played it.

  I did what I had done countless other times in past games and practices, and cut back-door to the rim. I knew Linda would respond, just like she had done time and time again, with a pass right on the money.

  I spun towards the hoop, and the ball was right there. I jumped to catch it on the left side of the rim -- and here's where I made a quick (unfortunate??) decision -- I chose to catch the ball and lay it in in one motion (an alley-oop per se). But there was a problem. I felt a push in my back, sending me off balance, and off the court. I put the ball up, only to have it trickle off the rim. I ended up out of bounds under the basket, and play continued.

  In hindsight, I should have caught the ball, come down with it, and gone back up strong. That way, you have better chance of putting the ball in the bucket, and any foul would have been more-obvious. I make that shot, and maybe things in turn our favor for the rest of the game.

  Regardless of that play, or any other of the dozens that didn't go our way that afternoon, we lost to Villanova by two points. And with that, our season ended, and my career at Colorado came to a close. Tough way to go out, but those are the breaks.

CU-Boulder: not a bad place to spend your college years.
  There is no regret. You live and you learn. It's just the same on the basketball court.

  I'm still not sure what I learned from that moment in Knoxville. Maybe I learned that you don't get redos. Not on the basketball court, not in life. You have to make each opportunity, every chance, count the first time.

  For me, I knew I wasn't done with basketball after that game. But I was done in a Colorado uniform.

  There's something special about putting on that black and gold, working in the shadows of the beautiful Flatirons, playing with the girls you've lived, sweat, laughed and cried with, day in and day out, for years. Nothing replaces that.

  That game had been on my mind quite a bit in past weeks. Probably because it's March, and it's tournament time. Call it irony, but as it turns out, the Colorado women (now coached by Linda) are playing Villanova this Thursday (the 22nd), in Boulder, in the Sweet 16 of the Women's NIT. Let's hope this time the game ends with the Buffs on top!

  Go Buffs!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Two Game-Changing Moments

I don't think he likes me. :P

  DMBC Dunkerque (my team!) was in store for a tough game Saturday night. We knew that coming into the game. League-leader Perpignan came to town with only two losses on the season. They had out-classed us, and easily beaten us in our first match up back in November. But for some reason, I had a good feeling going into the game Saturday. Maybe I'm crazy, or maybe I am overly optimistic -- but I felt we had a good shot at scoring the upset (it is March Madness after all, right?!?).

  There were two game-changing moments in our match up against Perpignan Saturday night. I doubt either moment stood out to spectators, but I felt they were the most important moments in the 40-minute game. Neither of them happened when the game was on the line, or in the waning moments of the fourth quarter, but they were crucial none the less.

Early-season game.
  My teammates and I opened the game strong; my good feelings prior to the game were backed up with solid play from the start. We were up 16-7 with less than two minutes to go in the first quarter -- clearly in control of the game. We had a opportunity to pull even further ahead of Perpignan with an end-of-the quarter run. But the opposite happened. After the first quarter buzzer sounded, Perpignan had cut our lead to 16-12.

  That was the first big impact moment of the game. Instead of holding them scoreless (like they did to us), and extending our lead to double-digits, Perpignan started the second quarter with all the momentum. To get wins against great teams, you have to capitalize on those moments.

The second game-changing moment happened early in the third quarter. We made the mistake of putting them into the bonus (five team fouls) with almost seven minutes to go in the quarter. So anytime we committed a foul, for the remaining seven minutes of the third, Perpignan was headed to the free throw line for two shots. Easy way to control the game, and put points on the board.

Earlier this season.
Against some teams, that might not hurt you too much. But against Perpignan, who boasts front line players of 6'6", 6'4", 6'4", and 6'3" (that's TALL on the women's side), it'll kill you. They're a team that constantly goes inside, and pounds the offensive boards. Needless to say, Perpignan spent a lot of time at the free throw line in the third (and fourth) quarter. They shot 27 free throws on the game (to our 14, by comparison). Perpignan easily put points on the board throughout the second half, while we struggled to keep pace.

  Obviously there were many moments before and after that had great impact on the game Saturday night. But to me, basketball is a game of momentum and runs. And those two moments tipped momentum and the advantage to Perpignan both times.

  Here's another thing that became obvious against Perpignan: you can't teach size. It's as true in Europe as it is anywhere else you toss up a basketball. Many of you know I'm on the taller side of the height-spectrum (6'2" for those of you wondering), but I am rarely the tallest player on the court. Many times on Saturday, Perpignan's five on the court looked like this: 6'6", 6'4", 5'11", 5'11", and an averaged sized PG at 5'7".

  They controlled the paint, and made scoring inside difficult for us. With height all over the court, any defensive mistake on our part likely led to a lay up, or an offensive rebound, and put back (or foul) for Perpignan. Tough to compete against a team like that for 40 minutes.

Versus Le Havre.
  It was great being back on the court, and competing in a game (it had been a while since I had played in a game because of bye weeks, and an injury). It's always tough to take a loss, but taking a positive approach, I felt we played a solid game. Perpignan was just a stronger team. We only have five more games on our schedule -- wow this season has flown by!!

  ~ Sabrina

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

LEMO Foundation

LEMO Foundation

  I've made the importance of athletics in shaping my life no secret. Without basketball, my life would be on a vastly different course. I wouldn't be living in Europe; seeing its sights, experiencing its cultures, and playing the game I love, all while getting paid to do it.

  My road here has had many twists and turns. Maybe without just one of those twists, my journey would have led me to a different destination.

  Everything, for me, started with a solid foundation. My parents, my schooling, and my coaches and mentors, all helped me along the way. But what if I didn't have that foundation? Or what if I was missing one key piece? Then what? Would I have earned a Division I scholarship, leading to a career as a professional overseas?

  I've always thought that every kid should have the opportunities I have been lucky enough to have, no matter their background, and no matter where they grow up.

  A longtime friend of mine, Allison Magner, has recently gotten involved with the development and growth of a non-profit organization based in the Bay Area. LEMO Foundation is exactly the kind of community that would have come in handy, had my foundation developed cracks in it as a teenager.

  The founders of LEMO, Ali and David Taufoou, wanted their organization to be like no other: based on a family atmosphere. Not just a place where kids could receive academic tutoring, or only athletic coaching.

LEMO Playmakers!
  LEMO focuses on the development of kids (or playmakers, as they call them) as people, as students, AND as athletes. They want 'to empower high school students to strive for greatness and to become responsible, compassionate leaders.' 

  They help develop the skills necessary to become a successful student: organizational, time management, and study skills. SAT preparation is also provided, along with NCAA Clearing House guidance (a must if you want to compete at the collegiate level). 

  LEMO provides a family atmosphere that serves as a safety net for kids if their home-life doesn't provide the support they need. As mentors, earning the trust of, and showing commitment to each and every kid, is essential.

  Obviously the athletic training is what brings it all together. Sport is the common denominator for the playmakers at LEMO, and the motivator for many kids throughout the US. By using that interest in sport, and commitment to becoming a better athlete, LEMO (and organizations like it) has the platform to develop the leaders of the future. Athletically, LEMO promotes all sports, but specialties lie mostly in volleyball and football at this time.

The Foundry
  Maybe the most important thing, is that LEMO provides ONE place where all this can happen.  Every facet of LEMO is operated at The Foundry. Whether it's for a workout, study hall, a tutoring session, or practice, the kids at LEMO rely on the cream of the crop facility for everything. 

  Gym time and access to academic facilities can always a stumbling block when developing organizations like LEMO. Matt Krebs has been generous enough to partner with LEMO to allow The Foundry to serve as LEMO Headquarters.

  As part of their mission statement, and vision, the LEMO Foundation will continue to search for ways to "strongly focus on and help guide the spiritual, mental, and physical aspects of each individual that we serve - Liahona 'the Compass' of LeMo. Success is defined differently for each individual, but LeMo offers every avenue for our youth to reach that path according to their specific goals - Motu 'the Rock' of LeMo."

  LEMO might not be for everyone. The commitment has to be there from the playmakers themselves, and not just in one area. Just because you're involved with a great organization, doesn't mean you no longer have to work. The coaches and mentors will not pull anyone along.

  Surely there are organizations like LEMO all over the country. But from my experience it's difficult to weed through the countless after-school programs that may have various motivations. To me, these organizations should have one thing in mind: put the kids' best interests first -- no matter what.

Fellowship at LEMO
  What's amazing about LEMO is that the kids don't pay a thing. Through sponsorships, donations, and volunteers, playmakers are provided with an incredible opportunity without having to take out a small loan to do so.

  The LEMO roster stands at 22 right now; there are 22 playmakers. However, the foundation is looking to progress and grow, so that more kids can reap the benefits of their organization. In order for that to happen, word needs to spread, and more generous hearts need to be found!

  Regardless of their outcome, reaching the collegiate level (or beyond) or not, kids' involvement in a community like LEMO will only be beneficial to their (and OUR) futures. If kids are a part of something, if they have adults/mentors who care for, and who are invested in them, they can achieve anything. 

  Everyone deserves to have the opportunity to be the best they can be -- in all aspects of life -- and the LEMO Foundation is helping kids in the Bay Area do just that.

  For more information on how to become involved, in any capacity, with LEMO, please check out their website here.

Monday, March 12, 2012

March Madness Tips Off

Sweet 16 celebration -- win over LSU. 2002.

  March -- it's arguably the best time of the year. Some might say Christmas or summer is their favorite, but for those of us who love hoops, March Madness takes the cake. For three weeks, college basketball takes center stage and hijacks your TVs, computers, Facebook statuses, and Twitter feeds. And frankly, there's nothing better.

  I was fortunate enough to play in three NCAA tournaments while at Colorado (with trips to the Elite Eight and a Sweet 16 on the resume). And sure, there were plenty of highs and lows -- with emotions riding high, and stakes just as high -- there were bound to be some memorable moments.

First half vs. Oklahoma -- Elite 8: a high. 2002.
  Some of the high points:
  • each and every selection show. We'd gather at Dal Ward to watch the brackets be revealed. I don't know why, but we'd frantically pencil-in our own bracket as the schools were revealed, like that was the last time we'd see a bracket, ever. And you really DON'T know where you're going, or who you're playing until you see it on ESPN -- it's exciting! 
  • restoring a once-proud NCAA tradition to Colorado. The pictures of Buff teams that came before us, jumping on the scorer's table after a Sweet 16-trip was punched, was a picture we had all seen -- and were thrilled to do be able to do it ourselves! Two times!
  • proving the 'experts' wrong - as a nationally-ranked team from arguably the toughest conference in the country, no on picked us to make much noise. We felt that disrespect, and used it as motivation.
  • obviously each game we won was an extreme high. To live to play one more day, and extend the season with my best friends/teammates!

Second half vs. Oklahoma -- Elite 8: a low. 2002.
  The lows are a little bit more difficult to think of (thankfully), but there were a few none the less:
  • I injured my back my sophomore year, and was forced sit out our second round game vs. Vanderbilt. All I could do was watch as our season came to an end.
  • obviously only one team per year can end on a high note. So being eliminated each year were sad moments. 

  As a college basketball player, you work the entire season to make it to March. And March Madness is the culmination of that excitement. Once you get to the Dance, anything can happen. You're just fired-up to be a a part of it all -- what you grew up watching on TV.

Senior year Sweet 16 in Knoxville. 2003.
  Before I got to college, I remember watching the games: the upsets, the close games, the crazy finishes. In high school, guys brought portable TVs to school and we'd watch during breaks between classes (or sometimes during classes, if we were lucky!)

  I think the parity in the men's game makes March Madness even more special (and crazy). Anyone can really beat anyone on any given day. From the tip off of the first game to the Championship, each and every game can be a thriller, and come down to the wire. We don't see that on the women's side just yet, but it's slowly getting there.

  What are some of your March Madness memories, or things you're looking forward to in this year's tournament? Can't wait to watch!!

Below are some of my favorite NCAA Tournament pictures from my CU days!

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Elite 8 game action vs. Oklahoma. 2002.
Elite 8 celebration -- win over Stanford. 2002.
Clinched Sweet 16 -- win over North Carolina. 2003.
Tip off vs. Oklahoma. Elite Eight. 2002.
Sweet 16 celebration -- win over LSU. 2002.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Taking Inventory

Must have been after a win!

  If you're a regular visitor to Sabrina's Crossing, you know the topics I write about can vary as much as Springtime weather in Colorado (shout out to the Buffs!). From basketball, to traveling, to a variety of health/food issues, to life in Europe, to things that inspire me -- my blog is a melange of thoughts that could be running through my mind at any given moment.

  You might call it scattered, or random. But here are a few questions: Is it too scattered? Do I write about too many different issues? How can I make things better?

  So I want to take inventory, of sorts. Do away with the things that aren't useful. But continue to build on the topics that you readers find interesting, and potentially want to hear more about.

  Basketball, obviously, is my mainstay. While I'm in-season, hoops is the most important thing in my world. Same goes for day-to-day life in Europe, and traveling -- as long as I'm in Dunkerque, I'm going to write about it! But can I bring more to the table where basketball and Euro-living is concerned? Let me know...

Chillin in the Swedish snow.
  As I read more, and in-turn write more, about the US food system (and our various health issues), the more I feel I need to write even more! It's like one thing leads to another -- a domino effect. I enjoy learning about it, and want to pass on the information. I find it interesting, and informative. But the question is, do you?

  If I don't hear from you, I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing, and let the randomness continue to fly! So let's hear it! The good, the bad, the ugly! Just asking for feedback, and trying to improve...

  Many thanks, as always, for reading!!

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Expect the Unexpected

Comense: Italian Champs 2004.

**Originally appeared on SLAM Online March 8th, 2012**
  If there's one trait you need to play for an extended stretch overseas - and not go loony -it's the ability to adjust on the fly. You have got to be able to roll with the punches. I might go as far to say: expect the unexpected. Even then, you're bound to have a surprise or two.

  From year to year, team to team, things are never the same. What may have been the norm for one club, might be unheard of for another. Any previous assumptions should be thrown out the window when you go into a new season.

  And if you're coming straight from college, toss those US-norms even further out the window. 

  What am I talking about?

  Living arrangements, practice schedules, roommates' habits, team routines, language barriers, gym/arena problems, travel/hotel accommodations, payment issues, media/fan critique, the list goes on and on! No one thing can be taken for granted.

The Moment of Truth
  Year to year, you never know what you're going to get when you walk into your apartment for the first time. I always say to myself, if I wouldn't live in it in the US, it's not acceptable to live in while in Europe either. I think clubs try to take advantage of inexperienced players sometimes, and try to get away with less-than-stellar apartments.

  On two occasions, in my nine seasons abroad, I've had to ask to be moved to a hotel until they found something more suitable. First and second year players might be hesitant to speak up when living arrangements aren't up to par. But in reality, if you're not happy off the court, your production on the court will suffer.

  But at the same time, you need to keep in mind what reality is. The US and Europe are vastly different places, so your expectations need to reflect those differences.

  And depending on the club, they may or may not ask you to live with teammates. Whatever your preference may be, that could be a good or a bad thing. I have always preferred to live by myself while in Europe, but I've had roommates on several occasions as well.

  Now what about on the court?

Sprechen Sie Deutsch?
  First and foremost, your coach and/or teammates might not speak English. If they do, great -- you're good to go! But if they don't, you have to be ready to watch and learn. During drills you might need to go to the end of the line, so you know exactly what's going on when it's your turn.

  You learn by observing. And you'd be amazed at how quickly you pick up basketball terms. That's always a great moment when you're able to understand your coach's instructions without having to go to the end of the line.

  You also need to make quick-friends with someone who will translate for you. I've had great teammates throughout the years who have had the patience to translate pre-game talks, practice rants, and day-to-day communication with coaches or presidents. You really can't make it without them!

  I'm sure many of you have seen the movie Love and Basketball. The locker room scene in Spain is actually somewhat realistic -- where Monica relies on a teammate to translate her coach's pre-game speech. Although 'he say to give the ball to you' might be a SLIGHT exaggeration!

  One thing I had no problem adjusting to was learning the that phrase 'get on the baseline' (in whatever language), was no-longer cause for a panic-attack. Anyone who's run countless suicides during practice can appreciate that! Throughout my time in Europe, I haven't had to run too many suicides -- which has been a welcomed change.

Home Court Advantage
  The gyms can be cause for concern at times as well. There might be days where there's no heat in the gym when you arrive for practice or a game. It might be 50 degrees inside the gym, but guess what, you still have to play!

  My first season in Italy, we played in Napoli in December or January. Since it's in the south of Italy, and there's really only one 'cold' month, the gym didn't have much of  a heating system. The host team had blankets on their bench so they were prepared. But I certainly wasn't. My hands were like icicles, and I was stiff, and miserable the whole game.

  This season in France, the heat in our gym is hit or miss. Some days it's there, some days it's not. You just have to come prepared.

  I learned by my fourth season abroad, in Poland, to have long tights and long sleeves to practice in -- just in case. But I'm always happy when I don't need them!

Plane, Train, or Automobile
  Another thing you need to be ready to adjust to is how your team travels to away games. Depending on the country and club, you could see anything. You could have the best/fastest scenario: taking a plane. Or you can have the worst: taking 12-hour bus rides.

  The most difficult travel situation I've had to adjust to was while I played in Germany. We would ALWAYS travel the day of the game. No matter how far we had to travel. Eight-hour bus rides on the day of the game made for an interesting time. It's not your preference. But guess what, you adjust and learn to deal with it. It's amazing that we actually won some of those games!

No Pay, No Play
  Probably the most important adjustment is learning how to handle late payments. If you play long enough, they're bound to happen. With the exception of one or two seasons (thankfully I can include this season in that list), I have had clubs not pay me on time at some point.

  There can be numerous reasons as to why you're not getting paid on time: president is unhappy with your team's performance, sponsors/city are late giving the club funds, they don't have the money, paperwork/accounting issues. Whatever the reasons, you're never happy when payday has passed, and you haven't seen your check.

  None of those reasons are good reasons, but it's what might happen. And how you respond can vary a great deal. It might depend on the club's reputation, your working relationship with management, your own previous experiences, economic climate, etc.

  It's not unheard of to sit out practice if a team is late paying you. After all, you're there for a reason: you're there to play basketball and get paid for it. When the money's not there, you don't play. Some people have the motto: 'No pay, no play.'

  If management is up front with you (in cases where sponsors are late providing funds), and they have shown you can trust them, you might give them a little leeway. But if they get too far behind (and that's at your discretion), you have to put your foot down. Otherwise you are getting taken advantage of.

  Imagine your employer missing your payday! How long would you stand for that?

  In my opinion, it's never okay for a team to withhold your payment because of lost games or poor performances on the court. But it happens (it happened to me on two or three occasions -- and each time, I handled it differently).

  Sometimes the situations can be pretty complicated, and vary a great deal depending on each scenario. Payments/late payments seem to be what people are most-interested in hearing about, so if the interest is there, I'll do a follow up with more in-depth situations.

You Can't Please Everyone
  Smaller issues such as: dealing with fan/media critique after poor performances (they can be very blunt), sometimes not having a trainer present at practice (makes things interesting if there's an injury), less-than-standard hotel stays, not being able to get a phone/internet put in your apartment for three-plus weeks -- can also arise at some point during your time overseas. You just have to try to not let it bother you, and move on.

  All in all, you need to pick your battles -- because you're not going to get everything exactly how you want. What is TRULY important to you? Those are the things you need to speak up about, and demand to have taken care of. Do your best to remain professional, and remember what you are there to do.

  To be as successful as you possibly can, you have to be able to roll with the punches, and do what you do best: hoop!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Natural Food Label

Nothing natural about Cheetos.

  Labels, labels, labels -- they can be so confusing at the grocery store!

  We have 'USDA Organic', 'Natural', 'Gluten Free', 'Zero Trans Fats', 'Made with Real ...', 'Range Free', '100% Organic', and so on, and so on. And that's just the front of the box!

  So what do they all mean?

  Unfortunately, they're not easy to differentiate, or keep track of. The inclusion or exclusion of just one word, can make or break your 'healthy' purchases at the grocery store.

  Today, I'm going to tackle possibly the most-misleading, and most-useless label we have: 'Natural'.

  Anytime you see Natural on a food label -- in any capacity -- it doesn't mean a thing. The FDA has no definition, and no regulatory meaning for Natural. So whether the label says '100% Natural' or 'All Natural', it means the same thing: it's unregulated.

  In its description, the FDA says: " is difficult to define a food product that is ‘natural’ because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth."

  Wow, no longer a product of the earth -- that's NOT natural.

  The ONLY time Natural has a meaning, is in regard to meat and poultry. But that definition isn't much clearer. The USDA has defined it as any product “containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed (a process which does not fundamentally alter the raw product).”

  What does 'minimally processed' mean? And that definition doesn’t address whether or not the animals given hormones or antibiotics, or raised in confinement.

Organic vs. Natural vs. Conventional.
  However, if the label says 'Naturally Raised' it means "no growth promoters, antibiotics, animal by-products, or fish by-products" we used on the animal.

  Confused yet?

  Two things are clear: natural certainly does NOT mean Organic, and it doesn't mean it's healthier either. So let's lose those assumptions right away.

  By the FDA's 'definition', High Fructose Corn Syrup can be labeled as natural. So what can be in/on foods, and still be considered
natural? Pesticides, fertilizers,
and Genetically Modified ingredients (GMOs) for starters.

  And guess what -- those foods with the Natural labels, more often than not, are more expensive than foods without any sort of labeling.

  If you're spending extra money buying Natural, make the jump completely, and buy Organic.

  Organic is the only way you can be certain the foods you're buying contain no artificial coloring/preservatives/flavors, GMOs, and weren't sprayed with fertilizers and pesticides. Otherwise, save your money and buy conventional.

  Conventional and natural foods are roughly the same junk anyways.

  The labeling situation in the US is a mess. We, as consumers, regularly play guessing games when purchasing food at the grocery store. There is too much uncertainty; too many meaningless labels. Marketers are taking advantage of people who are making an effort to eat more-healthily, but can't keep track of the ever-changing lingo.

  Hope I was able to clarify the uselessness of our 'Natural' food labels!

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FDA Meaning of 'Natural'
Misleading Food Labels
Food Politics: Natural Food Label
5 Sneaky Super Market Tricks
Certified Organic Label Guide