Wednesday, May 2, 2012

No Practice, No Game. Now What?

**Originally appeared on SLAM Online May 2nd, 2012**
  Days off typically are saving graces for us all, are they not? They give us a much-needed opportunity to rest physically, and decompress mentally. As a hooper in Europe, it's no different.

  On average, you have one day off per week -- to do absolutely nothing. No practice, no weights, no meetings, no obligations to speak of. How you choose to spend your rest day is completely up to you. 

  That one off day usually comes the day after a game, so you might find your body a little sore, and a little more tired than usual. You can stay in bed all day if you want and watch movies. Or you can get out and do something out of the ordinary, and change up your routine.

  But rest days abroad come with a caveat: many times they can become incredibly monotonous as well.

  I think people like routines (or maybe that's just me). No matter your job, if you have a schedule to keep, it makes things easier. Sure, there are times when you HATE that schedule. But for the most part, having a routine ensures that we're accountable. We know exactly where we're supposed to be, what we're supposed to be doing. 

  It's no different as an athlete.

  In college having a strict, busy schedule kept us out of trouble. Our days were accounted for almost from sunrise, to sundown. Yes, it was tiring. And we despised it at times. And we wondered what we would do if we didn't have to go to practice, or study table, or 6am weights. (To be fair, that schedule also helped us learn how to prioritize our lives, manage our time, and become disciplined.)

  But on those extra-special occasions when we got a day off during the week, usually by 4 o'clock that afternoon, we'd be completely lost (not to mention bored)! We wouldn't know what to do with ourselves.

  In Europe it's exactly the same. Obviously, we have no classes to attend, or homework to finish. But all week, we look forward to that day off. Where we don't have to be inside those all-too-familiar four walls of the gym, with the same people we see day-in-and-day-out. When we can do whatever we want to do, whenever we want to do it.

  But just as in college, as we grow accustomed to being on a schedule (such as being at practice at 11am and 6pm every day), when we suddenly don't HAVE to be there, we get bored.

  Your level of boredom can depend a great deal on what the city is like where you play. Obviously, if you're in a big city, it can be very easy to fill your free time. But if you're in a smaller city or town, off the beaten path, you have to search a little harder to fill your day!

  While I don't get homesick anymore, days off are when homesickness can rear its ugly head. You realize just how far away from home you really are. You're a continent away (and six to nine hours away, time-wise) from your family and your closest friends. Even with the wonders of the internet, most of the time they're all sleeping while you're awake and have nothing to do.

  So what do you do?

  You can only sleep so much, or watch so many movies (in my opinion, of course). Laying around all day is a surefire way to give me a bad case of cabin fever. But I'm sure there are people who say otherwise.

  Sure, I do try to sleep in as late as I possibly can (some days that works better than others). After my normal routine of checking the news and scores from the night before, and of course Twitter, and Facebook, I usually try to get out and get some fresh air.

  This season, I have been extremely blessed to live on the beach, so I am out on the sand as much as I can possibly be. In prior years, when I didn't have a beach to explore, I still found a way to get outside and get some fresh air. Whether it was out and about in the city, or a brisk walk in the cold Northern Swedish air (or on a snow mobile!), I always find a way get a little exercise, and a little fresh air.

  If your off day happens to land on a Sunday, which is often the case, nothing will be open. So for those of you who like to shop, there will be none of that. No errand running, no trips to the grocery store. Sundays in Europe truly are rest days for everyone.

  Again, the things you can do depends on where you're located. Maybe you can do a bit of traveling if you're a train-ride or drive away from any worthwhile sights.

  If you're in a place where you can easily travel, multiple off days are a blessing. Then you can be a tourist for a few days. It gives you the opportunity to get out and see some of the things that everyone thinks were over here seeing on a daily basis!

  It's nice to do something different, something fun, and something that will take you away from basketball for a bit. You find little things that interest you: reading, writing, movies, architecture of old Europe, sea glass hunting -- really, anything!

  I know, I know, what difficult lives we lead, right? Complaining about being bored on off days. Hope it doesn't sound like a complaint, I'm only trying to give you the player's perspective!

  Above all, rest days are a must. You have to allow your body and mind to recover from a long week of practice, and a physical game. If the downtime, and the quiet aren't for you, then this might not be the job for you either!


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