Ok, so I’ve been really bad about updating this over the last couple months but oh well. Get over it. Like I said, I will finish catching up with my posts even if they’re two months late.
The next post that I would like to do is about the weekend in May where a U13 team from old club in Ireland, the Galway Titans, came out to Toulouse for a tournament with my new club in France. Throughout the course of the year I had been in talks with the Titans about the possibility of bringing a team out for a tournament or a couple games or whatever. I was really excited about the idea of forming a relationship between my two European basketball clubs. It wasn’t until the last third or so of my time in France that the idea finally came to fruition. A huge thanks to Joe Coughlan and Simone Kiernan of the Titans for helping to put together a team and organize flights. And on the French side a HUGE thanks to everyone on our board and all the parents and coaches who helped to coordinate an awesome weekend in Toulouse for our Irish friends.
Before I go any further, I should mention that my friend, fellow American, and Titan, Brendan Barile, did a great post about the weekend in Toulouse on his own blog, Eire Brendan. The post is titled “We’re Going to Toulouse, but We’re Not Going to Lose.” Clever name if you ask me. (click on the link to see his post). He did his post way back in May right after the weekend so he was a bit more punctual than me, but whatever. He went to a fancy prep school in New York City with rich kids from the Upper East Side and I guess they preach things like that down there. Psh.
Anyway, I got back from Paris Thursday night, and was up Friday morning with a few parents heading out to Carcassonne to pick up our Irish guests. We packed a lunch for their arrival and figured we should show them the medieval city of Carcassonne before heading to Toulouse. It was also my first time in Carcassonne and the city wasn’t really a city as much as it was a castle. But it was awesome.
-Myself and Brendan with the Irish kids
-Then Brendan and I with our Irish little brother Joseph (obviously I had to rock my Titans shirt for their arrival)
-The boys were having fun walking around the top of the castle and giving the couple mothers who came with the team, as well as the French parents, a few heart attacks!!
So we drove the hour or so back from Carcassonne to Toulouse and went straight to the gym. That evening we had a little meet and greet, for lack of a better term, for the U13 St. Oren’s team and the Titans. Despite the kids not speaking the same language, they had a blast together. We mixed together all the players, and even had some players from my U13 girls team participate, and we just played some small-sided 4 on 4 games.
-Obviously we had to start off with a couple games of knockout, or “Lukey Luke” as they call it in France. Still no idea why they call it that but thats the French I guess!!
-Then Joseph started talking trash to Sam, one of our French players, and next thing you know the two of them get into a 3 point contest! (Sam is 13, Joseph is only 9 for what its worth)
After the little training session we hung out at the gym for a little bit longer. The kids had some snacks and the parents drank, at which point I introduced Brendan to the term “apero” which pretty much means “Let’s drink” in French. He became a big fan of the “Apero.” A bunch of the French parents were there for two reasons. 1. The Irish kids were staying in the homes of some of our French families. 2. They had never brought in a foreign team like this before so it was a great experience for everyone!
Now I wasn’t sure how this was all going to work out with the kids staying in the homes of the French families, seeing as how I THOUGHT most of the parents didn’t speak English. I was wrong. All season they would be speaking French with me. Like 2 fathers spoke English with me and everyone else spoke French. Next thing you know more than half the parents are conversing in English or at least broken English with the kids. I was like, “WHERE WAS THIS ALL YEAR?!?!?!” I was out here for about 9-10 months at this point struggling through conversations with these people and NOW they decide to bust out the English. Unreal. Anyway, it was great for the kids, and definitely made things easier. So we sent two kids off to each home with one French family. I had Brendan and my little man, Joseph, staying with me, which was awesome.
-The boys hanging out having some drinks. Jameson for the Americans and Coke for the little guy, but he loved being “one of the guys.”
The next day was the tournament. We were supposed to have a team from Spain come up but that fell through at the last minute, so we improvised. We made two teams out of the St. Oren’s players, plus the Titans, and one other club from Toulouse, Pamiers.
Up until this point, I had worked to help organize the tournament and all that, but didn’t know that there was an actual name for the tournament. I knew there would be t-shirts and trophies, but I had no idea what would be on them. Saturday morning I found out when I was handed the schedule of games.
They named the tournament after me!!! And I don’t care what Brendan says or believes…I had NOTHING to do with that and literally had NO idea they did that!! But it’s definitely up there with the times that I’ve felt the most honored.
-They even put it on the t-shirts!
Honest to God I had NO idea!
Back to Saturday morning. The 4 teams were warming up getting ready to play and the gym was buzzing. We had music going, people taking photos, English and French being shouted around the gym, basketballs bouncing…it was AWESOME. The best part about it all was that I didn’t have to coach, ref, or really do anything. I kind of got to just oversee everything and translate when necessary. It was a great relaxing day for me. I wish I could say the same for Brendan. He was stressing out a bit, especially as he saw the French kids warming up. He was worried how his younger, smaller, Irish squad would fare. Despite his worries the boys played their hearts out and definitely impressed everyone in the gym with their toughness and fighting Irish spirit.
-Coach Barile and his boys
-The Pamiers squad, who, by the way, had a set of twins that were BALLERS
-One St. O team
-The other St. O squad
It was a great day of hoops complete with a skills challenge and everything!
One of the twins from Pamiers came home with the chip, but the black St. O team won it all!
-As they hoist the first annual Tim Basket Tour cup!!! haha I still can’t get over that!
I should backtrack really quick and mention that we had about an hour or so break at lunch time. A couple parents helped to prepare a nice lunch for all the teams. However, as lunch was being prepared, the Irish kids had to hop in cars as we had to run up the street really quick for an even at the town hall. The mayor and the town wanted to welcome the Irish team to Saint Orens. They were greeted with a marching band and I’m not kidding at all!!
-With the mayor
Once the tournament was finished we had food for everyone and once again, an apero for the adults. While the adults chatted in English and French, the kids all headed outside to play on the outdoor courts. They couldn’t get enough hoops! Not to mention the Irish kids loved the opportunity to be able to play outside without some rain!!
When all the festivities were over, the kids went back to their respective houses to shower up. Then one family invited everyone to their home for a little party which was a ton of fun. Once again I was blown away at how much fun the kids were having with each other despite the language barrier. It just goes to show that not just basketball, but laughter and fun, can serve as universal languages!
The next morning we held a little mini-camp for the St. O players (including some of my older U15 players) and the Titans, run by myself, Brendan, and Celine, the U13 boys coach of St. O. It was a fun morning where we ran a bunch of drills, got the kids working hard and TOGETHER, and finished up with some games.
-Joseph trying to take on my tallest U15 player(he’s like 6’4)….fearless!
I should also mention that this weekend was a real challenge for me, especially when I had both French and Irish teams together. It was the first time I had to effectively coach in both English AND French! I would explain something in French. Then have to turn around and explain it again in English. Then I would go to say something to a French player and be saying it in English. Then I would turn to an Irish player and say something in French. I was so confused!!!! But it was a great experience and definitely gave the kids a laugh!
-After the training all the players exchanged gifts from their respective countries/clubs
And after all this it was time to take the boys into the city of Toulouse and show them around a bit.
Since we were in the city, I gave my teammate, Jean-Ma, a call and asked him to come meet us. I figured the boys would get a big kick out of meeting my 6’8 teammate. We told them that he played for the French national team and all that but they weren’t nearly as impressed with that as they were with the fact that he looks like Will Smith. They just kept saying how he looked like Fresh Prince and called him “Will” all day. Jean-Ma was a great sport about it!
Then it was one more night in Toulouse, with an apero back at the gym, then Monday it was back to Ireland for the boys. I can’t begin to tell you how amazing of a weekend it was for everyone involved. I kept thanking everyone in St. Orens for being so great to my Irish club and they kept telling me to stop saying thanks because it was such a pleasure for them as well. Needless to say we’ve started a new tradition and established a great relationship that is sure to carry on for years to come!! And since it’s now MY tournament, I guess I need to keep going back to France for it!!