After five successful seasons as a member of the GPRC Wolves, Jen Seemann has moved on to play professional basketball in Speyer, Germany. Throughout her times in Europe, Jen will be posting her experiences, stories and more, here on the Wolves website.
So here I am after months of preparation and eager anticipation; In Speyer, Germany, the heart of the Rhineland, surrounded by cobblestone roads, little stucco houses covered in vines, and cathedrals that are over thousands of years old....I think it’s safe to say: “Toto, were not in Kansas anymore!” I have been here now for 9 days and have been trying my best to settle in and make a place for myself that feels like “home”.
The club has been very good to me so far and have made me feel extremely welcomed. They have set me up with a furnished apartment which I further stylized with a visit to IKEA (I love that place!) with the help of one of the girls on the team. I have also been given a bank card and a cell phone by the club so I can feel connected to my teammates and coaches, and reach them whenever the need be. Everyone involved with the club has been very friendly and I believe that they are doing their best to help me through this difficult transition unscathed. However, no matter how beautiful the surroundings, and no matter how welcoming the community, I am still fighting with my homesickness on a daily basis. I think the biggest problem is that all of my teammates are either going to school, or with their families during the day, and we don’t see each other until our evening practice sessions. This means I have to try to keep myself busy during the day, which can be hard when you don’t know anyone, and don’t speak the language. Thankfully the coach had warned me about this before I arrived, he told me “We like to keep our foreign players busy during the day, or else they have too much time to sit and think!” Ha-ha, well now I know exactly what he was talking about! So now I am helping coach the U14 girls team with another teammate of mine and that has been helping me pass the time.
I have been spending my days getting orientated to the city by walking around and spending time in the local shops and parks. I have also made a number of visits to the famous “ Kaiserdom zu Speyer” (Imperial Cathedral of Speyer), a magnificent masterpiece of a church built in 1061 which holds the graves of many deceased kings and emperors including King Henry the 3rd, 4th and 5th! The Cathedral is only about 2 blocks from my apartment, as I am living in the very desirable downtown district of Speyer, and I can hear its bells chime every hour on the hour (very cute during the day, not so cute during the night when I’m trying to sleep). I have also been spending a lot of time with my teammates when they are available, two girls in particular: Marie and Mandy. Marie is 18 and has been the starting point guard of the Towers for a number of years. Her father is the manager of our team and she has been involved with the German national program since she was 14; a very gifted player. Mandy is a 22 year old post player who has also been on the squad for a long time, and is very involved with the administration of the team as well. Both girls have taken me under their wing so to speak, and have been helping me find my way around the city and taking me to practice each day. I even joined Marie and her high school class to one of their swimming lessons at the local Aquatic center where I was allowed to participate with the class in the pool.
Last weekend we participated in the club’s annual pre-season tournament which included other division 1 and 2 teams from both Germany and Luxembourg. I had the honour of seeing some of the best players in the world play, including the 19th WNBA draft pick, Megan Vogel, who is playing for another division 1 club here in Germany. I also saw some girls who I recognized from the Luxembourg National Team when I played them back in June with the Outwest Elite. Our team played well, but it was obvious that we still have a lot of work to do. It was only my third day with the team, and some girls didn’t even arrive until the second day of the tournament, so we were all still trying to get used to playing with one another. Also, in our first game, tragedy struck when our backup point guard Anya, sprained her ankle which we now know will put her out for at least 4 weeks. Because of this we have recruited a new player named C.J., an American lady who has been living in Germany for the past 6 years on the army base here with her husband. Despite these first few setbacks we still managed to win 2 of our 4 games, and I did well, playing almost 35 minutes per game. The weekend also gave me a chance to get to know Marie and her family better as I stayed both nights at their place because a huge festival was taking place in downtown Speyer. My neighbourhood was filled with drunk, singing Germans for the entire weekend. This made it difficult to sleep at night, to say the least!
So this is where I am at now. I am enjoying the new scenery and the basketball as always, but am still trying to fight off my feelings of anxiety and loneliness from being so far away from home. I know that these first few weeks will be the hardest of all, and I am hoping that eventually it will pass, and I will be able to enjoy myself and this great opportunity. It also helps that I will be receiving a visit from my long time boyfriend Ron at the end of October (can’t wait!), and that Xmas break is fast approaching. I also have this upcoming weekend to look forward to, as my team will be going to Switzerland for two friendly matches against their local clubs. I am reading a wonderful and inspiring book right now by C. Vivian Stringer, the head coach of the Rutgers University women’s basketball team called Standing Tall, and she says this: “You have to stay true to yourself and what you believe. The minute you allow disappointment or tragedy to stop you in your tracks, you have stolen something from yourself, something more precious than you can even imagine: your dreams.” I know that as hard as it is to be here right now, I must stay and try to make the most of it, or else I would be doing myself and my dream of playing professional basketball an injustice.
Until next time, peace and love from Germany.