Just a few years ago I played basketball for the BYU Women’s Basketball Team in Provo, Utah under head coach Jeff Judkins. At 5 foot 6 inches I was one of three point guards on the team, and I loved every minute of it. While practice was fun (and challenging) at that time I thought my experience was only to prepare me for the games we would play during the season, having absolutely no idea that my experience playing college basketball would launch me into a career of creating foreign basketball tours.
Shortly after finishing my time on the BYU Women’s Basketball Team, I transferred to Cambridge University where I had the opportunity to study, travel, and meet people from all around the world. This overseas experience, paired with my love of basketball and passion for travel was the perfect starting point to curating college basketball tours overseas.
According to the ncaa foreign tour rules (traveling rule), every four years an eligible team is allowed to travel overseas on an international tour to play against local teams and have a cultural experience in the country(s). Common places for basketball foreign trips include Europe, Brazil, Costa Rica, China, Japan, and South Africa - also common places for Volleyball, and Soccer International Trips. Like American Universities, most overseas clubs include a variety of different sports teams on their roster.
This year I had the chance to travel with the BYU Women’s Basketball team to Europe on their Foreign Basketball Tour, visiting the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia, and Italy.
Here are 9 Things I Learned from Traveling Overseas on a Foreign Basketball Tour:
Not all teams are equal, do your research on who you are playing
Having a cultural experience while traveling is as Important as playing games
Staying in quality hotels matters a lot, as getting good sleep is Important
Understand where you are going, and educate yourself on the culture, cuisine, language, and history of the place
Practice hard before you travel, so you can enjoy and relax while you are there
Leverage the opportunity to connect with family, friends, and donors who are joining you on the experience - they are your BIGGEST fans!
Your Team will walk away more Prepared, more Focused, and more unified for the upcoming season - Trust me.
The BYU Women’s basketball team played four games during their trip, and walked away with four wins (a handful of good wins and a handful of close wins).
The next time you are looking to plan together your college basketball overseas trip (whether you are a doner, parent, coach, or player) make sure you fully prepared for an experience of a lifetime! This is made easy by working with an experienced foreign tour provider. Contact Acanela for your next International Athletic Tour
Read a recap of their experience in Europe here, written daily from each of their players:
Prague, Czech Republic — The BYU women's basketball team arrived in Prague on Sunday afternoon, August 19, to begin its 12-day, four games, four countries tour of Europe.
The Cougars will play their first game Tuesday evening.
Athlete journal by Khaedin Taito – Sunday, Aug. 19
Flying into Prague, the scenery from the plane was beautiful. It reminded me a lot of back home in Hastings, New Zealand, seeing all the green fields. Getting out of the plane, the weather was warmer than I had expected. My first impressions after leaving the airport, I was amazed by the interesting graffiti as well as the pastel colored buildings that we drove past. You can definitely tell that this place has a lot of history because the attractive designs of the buildings and other structures portray such unique character.
As soon as we got to the hotel, lovely Czechs greeted us. What was different with hotels back in America is that the employees kindly insisted on taking our bags to our rooms for us. It took Shalae and I a good minute to open our room door, as the keyhole was weird, LOL. But once we did open the door, the room design wasn’t too different from American hotels. It was just a lot smaller than what we were used to. Also, the two single beds were beside each other, so we decided to pull them apart.
After showering and getting ready for the afternoon, my roomie and I decided to tour the streets of Prague. It was AMAZING! The atmosphere was so mesmerizing. Walking on cobblestone streets, surrounded by detailed buildings and a diverse range of people, it was crazy fun. It was so cool just being in a new place and seeing first-hand another culture and their way of life.
Once we got back to the hotel, we then met up with the rest of the group and took the metro to dinner. Dinner was very interesting. We were able to try a variety of Czech dishes. We started off with a delicious potato soup and then had a buffet style menu which included potato dumplings, sour cabbage, bohemian roasted duck, mushroom ‘Kuba,’ roasted pork and my personal favorite pork and beef goulash. We finished the meal with a popular dessert called strawberry dumpling accompanied by yogurt. It was definitely interesting!
All in all, Prague – the city, the food and the people has been better than what I had expected. It’s been an awesome way to start off our European trip.
Athlete journal by Malli Valgardson – Monday, Aug. 20
Today was our first full day in Prague. We went and toured the Old Town and New Town of Prague. Then Paisley Johnson, Ashley Beckstrand, Maria Albiero and I went on a boat ride on the river. As a team, we got to see the city all lit up. Our day ended with the team eating ice cream together.
Prague is such a pretty place. The buildings and the architecture are just amazing. I feel like I am in a movie. So unreal.
The majority of the people here speak English so that has been nice to be able to communicate with them. That is something that is very nice. I would be lost if not.
The food has been good so far. They love potatoes and meat. I have liked it, but it hasn't been my favorite. They don't serve ice in their drinks so in this hot weather I have been craving some ice water. All in all, the food has been good, but the ice cream is where it's at! It is so good over here.
HRADEC KRALOVE, Czech Republic — Shalae Salmon’s double-double of 10 points and a game-high 15 rebounds led the way to a 79-76 Cougar win over the Hradec Kralove Club Team.
Paisley Johnson led all scorers with 17 points along with four rebounds and two steals. Brenna Chase followed with 14 points and three rebounds. Freshmen Tahlia White and Shaylee Gonzales contributed 11 and 10 points, respectively, in their debuts as Cougars. Redshirt freshman Ashley Beckstrand had eight points and four rebounds. Salmon also added five assists and three steals in the winning effort.
“We are very proud of how hard all of our players competed today,” BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said. “We did a good job of adjusting to their style of play. Shalae really played well for us. She was very physical. We got to see some really good minutes from our freshmen (White and Gonzales)."
Hradec Kralove finished the first period of action with a two-point, 23-21 advantage and extended its lead by eight, 29-21, in the second quarter before a 3-pointer from Chase brought BYU within five, 29-24, with 5:54 left in the first half of play.
The hosts continued to lead the way, up by seven, 36-29, with 3:45 remaining in the second quarter. Gonzales made it a two-point game, 36-34, after two free throws with 3:03 showing on the clock. Johnson scored on the next Cougar possession tying the game at 38. BYU’s strong defense kept Hradec Kralove from scoring the remainder of the period. The Cougars enjoyed a 42-38 advantage at the break after a last-second basket from Gonzales.
A quick start by BYU in the third quarter extended its lead to eight, 46-38, with 8:50 left in the period. The Cougars maintained their lead for most of the quarter. Back-to-back trips to the free throw line by Beckstrand gave BYU a 58-56 lead with 1:40 left, but a last-minute trey from the hosts gave Hradec Kralove a one-point, 59-58 edge to end the period.
In the final quarter, neither team was able to take a comfortable lead. The game was tied 71-71 with 4:27 left. A basket by Chase with 2:27 showing on the clock gave BYU its biggest lead of the quarter, 75-71. Two free throws and basket from Salmon in the final seconds clinched the 3-point, 79-76 Cougar win.
The team will head to Vienna, Austria on Wednesday, playing its next game on Thursday, Aug. 23.
Athlete journal by Ashley Beckstrand – Tuesday, Aug. 20
Today was completely magical! We ate some delicious breakfast in our hotel and then went on a tour to go see the biggest castle in the world.
Who knew that the largest castle in the world was located in Prague? I know I sure didn’t.
It was incredible to learn more about how their government is run and hear more about their rich history.
We toured for about three hours and then walked to our destination for some tasty lunch. Most of the team ordered spaghetti to get a carbohydrate overload, but I ate some unique Caesar salad. The food here has been different but still yummy.
Shortly after lunch, the girls left the parents to go shower and get cleaned up for the game. It took us about an hour and a half to arrive at the gym where we would play our first game.
About the game from athlete Paisley Johnson – Tuesday, Aug. 20
We won our first game 79-76. The first quarter was where we adjusted everything. We finally caught on to all of the different rules after that quarter. We also brought the same level of intensity they had.
The girls we played were really aggressive. They came to give us a tough game, which they did. We were neck-and-neck most of the time. They always pressured our guards in the front court so we needed to adjust to that. They were all shooters! Even their bigs would take deep shots so we went to a small rotation with Tahlia and I both playing the 4 at times.
The facility and gym were extremely hot. We take our air conditioning back home for granted. We started to sweat when we were just warming up. It was still a nice gym.
I like our team chemistry already. It’s awesome. We work well together and for the most part find the open player. This will be a great season for everyone. Be excited about our season!!!
VIENNA, Austria — Led by 13 points from junior Brenna Chase, BYU women’s basketball easily defeated BK Duchess 76-42 in Vienna Thursday.
The victory improved the team’s record to 2-0 on its European Tour with two games remaining on the schedule.
Shalae Salmon tallied 12 points and freshman Shaylee Gonzalescontributed 11 in their second-straight game with double-digit points. Junior Jasmine Moody pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds along with four points and one assist. Tahlia White finished the game with nine points and five rebounds. Sophomore Paisley Johnson’s stat line included eight points, four rebounds and one assist. Abby Mangum and Kaylee Smiler scored five points each.
The Cougars pulled down 54 rebounds while shooting 38.3 percent from the field, 22.2 percent from 3-point range and 80.0 percent from the charity stripe. They also dished out 15 assists and collected 25 steals, the most so far on their tour.
“I thought we were a little sluggish to start the game but Shalae and Brenna gave us a good spark and got us going,” BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said. “I’m really impressed with our freshmen, they are playing with a lot of confidence. I was also impressed with how Shalae and Jasmine have been consistent in both of our games. We played well in spurts and I thought we had a really good rebounding night.”
After being down by one, 9-8, midway through the first period, BYU used a 17-0 run to take a 25-12 lead into the second quarter of play and never looked back.
BK Duchess made the score 25-16 with just over eight minutes remaining in the second quarter. The Cougars’ Maria Albiero put up a three at 6:27 to give BYU its first points of the period. Despite a scoring drought in the second quarter, good defense by the Cougars held the home team to just 12 points as they took a 17-point, 41-24 lead into halftime.
BYU's defense continued into the second half of action as the visiting team held BK Duchess to just seven total points and enjoyed a 33-point advantage, 59-26, with under five minutes remaining in the period.
The fourth period saw both teams struggle offensively with each only scoring 11 points to finish the game. BYU’s 34-point lead heading into the fourth quarter was more than enough to secure the 76-42 victory.
All available players for the Cougars saw playing time in the game.
The team departs for Lake Bled, Slovenia, Friday and plays in that country’s capital, Ljubljana. on Saturday.
Athlete journal - Babalu Ugwu - Thursday, Aug. 23
We did some sightseeing today in Vienna. We went to St. Stephen's Cathedral, one of the biggest churches I've seen. It is a Roman Catholic Church built in 1716. We also walked between the small sheets and got to learn about Bertha von Suttner, the first Austrian female to be awarded the Nobel Peace Price in 1905.
I learned that Vienna was created by a military camp. We saw a monument against war and fascism. Vienna remembers the victims of the Nazis with The Gates of Violence Monument.
Our tour guide was Gert Schmidt. She was born and raised in Vienna. She told me that her favorite part of the city is the St. Stephen's Cathedral and the food.
For lunch, I went to a place called Plachuttas Gasthaus zur Opur. I ate roast beef with mashed potatoes and fried onions. I also went to one of the main streets and bought a white T-shirt that says "I love Vienna."
Game recap by Tahlia White - Thursday, Aug. 23
In the BYU vs BK Duchess game, the Cougars came out on top with a 34-point win. The other team was very physical, but we matched their intensity and competed hard. In the first half, our shots weren’t falling, but we stayed aggressive and crashed the boards. Our offensive rebounds and putbacks kept us in the game and gave us our advantage.
We had a huge advantage because of our size. The bigs really mixed it up inside, scoring easily on their smaller opponents, playing tough D, and rebounding. The guards were scrappy and ran the floor well, resulting in fastbreak opportunities.
Even months before the season, you can already tell this team has good chemistry. We have a lot of work to do, but I can’t wait to see where we are at when October rolls around. This group makes playing ball SO fun!
BLED, Slovenia — After a decisive victory in Vienna, Austria, the BYU women's basketball team spent most of the day traveling to Bled, Slovenia, Friday. The Cougars play in Ljubljana Saturday.
Athlete journal by freshman Shaylee Gonzales - Friday, Aug. 24
Today we left our hotel in Vienna at 9:30 a.m., to go to Lake Bled, Slovenia. It was a 4-hour drive filled with rolling hills and tall trees. It reminded me of ‘The Sound of Music’ setting.
We got to the hotel at Lake Bled around 3 p.m. We had a little bit of rest time and then had to meet downstairs to go on a tour around Lake Bled. While we were walking around it was raining a lot, we all got soaked. After the little tour, our guide gave us the option to either go back to the hotel or to go up to see the castle and the church. Four of us players went up to the castle and church and it was beautiful. The view from the castle was breathtaking.
After that, we had dinner at our hotel, which was a buffet. It was filled with delicious Slovenian foods and desserts. I can’t wait to have another day here at Lake Bled tomorrow and am excited to play our next game.
ROME — BYU women’s basketball spent Tuesday in Rome learning about the city’s rich history and culture, and concluded the day playing in a Blue/White scrimmage between teammates. The White team won 49-45.
The Cougars will spend one more day in Rome before returning to Provo, Utah late on Thursday, Aug. 30.
Athlete journal by Brenna Chase – (Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018)
Today we were in Rome! We woke up at 7 a.m. to get ready and eat breakfast at the hotel. Then we went and toured the Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel.
Leading into the Sistine Chapel there were many galleries all with beautiful artwork from different eras. My favorite was the one right before we entered the chapel. It was a long hall and the whole ceiling was decorated in the Baroque era style. It was very detailed, flashy and beautiful.
This experience was very cool for me as I grew up going to Catholic schools and had previously learned a lot about these places.
After our tour ended around noon, we went to have lunch at a little restaurant in the Vatican state. It was a great day in Italy.
ROME — BYU women's basketball finished its 12-day European Tour with one last day in Rome. Players, coaches and staff spent time learning and discovering more about the historic city.
The Cougars now return to Provo to prepare for the upcoming 2018-19 season. BYU returns five letterwinners, including two starters. Cougar fans will get to see five new incoming freshmen along with senior Caitlyn Alldredge, who was a three-year starter on the softball team. Three redshirt freshmen will also be on this year's roster.
BYU opens up the season hosting Dixie State in an exhibition game on Tuesday, Nov. 6.
Athlete journal by Caitlyn Alldredge - Wednesday, Aug. 29
Today we had the opportunity to have a full day of sightseeing in Rome. We were able to have an Italian-guided tour of the Colosseum (which was AMAZING) and the Roman Forum. It is crazy to me how buildings that are over two thousand years old can still be standing.
After the tours, we had time to go with teammates or family and go shopping and see many other sites like the Trevi Fountain, the Parthenon and the Spanish Steps. This city is so beautiful!
Being all over Italy has been amazing, but Rome has been my favorite. The food here is so delicious, especially the gelato! The people around have been so kind. They are willing to help us and try their best to communicate with us.
The overall experience that has come with Rome has been very special! I feel very lucky to be on this team and travel the world!