After having been offered an opportunity to take my sport, basketball, to a higher level, I decided to suspend my studies at the Institute of Physical Education and Sport at the University of Malta for one academic year to experience a semi-professional sport setting, signing to play with the club Magec Tias in Lanzarote.
Giving importance to education in my career, this was definitely not an easy decision to make, however, after thinking it through I felt that I was lucky to have been offered this opportunity and that this would be a great learning experience for me.
My eight-month journey in Lanzarote took off in August 2020.
Apart from training twice a day most days of the week, I took Spanish lessons and also successfully completed my DELE B1 exam in Spanish.
Learning Spanish was an important part of this experience as having a source of cognitive stimulation apart from basketball was essential.
I recognised the importance of such and similar activities or hobbies in an athlete’s life, allowing for what we commonly word as ‘to take your mind off’.
Throughout the season we played a total of 26 games.
The wider range of teams and players in addition to travelling for away games was definitely one of the advantages of this experience since unfortunately, this aspect is very limited in Malta.
I feel that facing the same players over and over from a very young age restricts us from watching, learning and playing against players of different skills and talents, to ultimately improve our game.
Playing in the second division Spanish league, Liga Femenina 2, was a good challenge for me, whilst the competitive environment during training sessions also taught me so much.
The professional set-up of the team, having three or four different coaches also differed to the set up in Malta.
Although luckily forming part of Starlites Basketball Club and having been coached by some top local and foreign coaches, having a number of coaches with specific responsibilities creates a comfortable environment for the team, rather than having decisions and sessions carried out by one coach only.
When looking back on this experience, I realised how this not only helped in my basketball, but also my personal development.
Living in an environment outside of my ‘comfort zone’, I feel that I faced and overcame challenges that helped me develop important characteristics and life values such as my confidence and decision-making, amongst many others.
An added positive experience that made the whole journey more enriching, was coaching young participants and athletes during my last month in Lanzarote.
I helped out with the U-6, U-8 and U-12 categories. This provided me with valuable experiences in working with children, an area which I seek to further explore as part of my professional educational career.
This opportunity was made possible by the support of a number of persons and institutions who have helped in different ways throughout this journey.
My parents, coaches, friends, my club in Malta (Starlites) and in Lanzarote (Magec Tias) and the Malta Basketball Association provided the much-needed support.
I also would like to thank Malta Sports Scholarships for all the help they offered me. I am glad to have been chosen and recognized by this institution and feel that it is a great support for aspiring athletes (and also academics) to aim high and take any opportunities which come their way
This experience could have not been made possible without the support of the Malta Sports Scholarship scheme which offers opportunities to student-athletes who would wish to take their studying or sport careers to a higher level.
I encourage all those student-athletes out there to follow their dreams, look out for support and take on the challenge.