After and 8-hour red eye, 12-days ago en-route to Buenos Aires (called B’s & A’s as I learned), I turned to my partner in crime, Cat, and said something to the effect: “…I really don’t think those sleeping pills worked. I slept no problem and didn’t feel the effects.”
You see, I’m not one for taking drugs or pills. Well, fast forward to our return trip which was another red-eye. This time, however, we packed those wonderful greeny-blue pills in our checked luggage. Big mistake!
To say that I wished I could have retracted my previous statement would have been a big understatement; to say the least. In that moment when the clock struck 4-am and we were only halfway into our journey, and I was wide awake, I knew clearly why most international scouts when faced with a transatlantic journey, swear by those magic pills. One referred to it as his “crack.” (I wished in that moment I could have taken a hit!).
Oh the joys of travel. I really do love it though.
If this were a travel blog, I would write – assuming I could at some point conjure up the ability to be just that – about the beauty, tranquility, and elegance of both B’s & A’s and the wonderful people of Argentina. But, this is not the place for that. So I’ll forgo tales of the richness of the city’s food and wine – which I enjoyed in copious amounts. [SB: Can you tell I'm rather sprite right now? Slap me if I drop such words like "forgo," and "sprite" again.]
I will sum up my trip by saying that if ever fortune and time are in your favour and you can make the trip to Argentina, do it. We even, made the short trip across by boat to visit Uruguay. I look forward to my return, as by focusing my time in B’s & A’s, I don’t think I really got a true taste for all that Argentina has yet to offer. The country is too large, too vast and too varied in culture, history and, let alone, geography to do in a short stay.
Allow me to spin things back to basketball…
Even when on vacation I manage to squeeze some in and make time for learning.
You see outside of venturing to new parts of the world to expand my perspectives on the world, I had targeted a trip to Argentina after returning from the U19 World Championship in Serbia/Slovakia in 2007.
At that time, I began asking people in the international basketball community, ‘which countries were doing the best job of basketball development?’ That is, from grassroots mini basketball to high performance national team and pro. Argentina was referenced by many as having one of the best development models.
Well, with the help of a very generous friend, I learned about a sport school (for high school aged athletes) in Argentina called BQT. (Don’t ask me what it stands for… to say my Spanish is basic, would be putting it nicely). BQT is a centralized, but privatized, national training school whose focus is on producing top quality professional basketball players – both nationally, but more importantly, I’m inferring, internationally. From what I now understand, they take great pride in also producing players who go onto play for their respective age-group national teams.
As luck, language barriers, and most influentially, my uninformed assumptions would have it, I ambitiously planned my trip at the worst time to take in BQT. The school let out for summer vacation a mere 3-days prior to my arrival. (Ouch!).
All was wasn’t for naught though… With the help of a wonderful Italian man, I was able to connect and spend a few hours at a café talking basketball – and many things in between – with one of the key coaches and talent scouts from BQT, Javier Morretti. (Muchas gracias, Gianni!).
As I came to learn, Javier’s experiential background extends far beyond BQT. And, in our talks, I was once again hit with reminder that basketball is such a small global community as our paths had crossed in 2004 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, during the Young Men’s World Championships. He was an assistant coach with the Argentine team and I was there with Canada Basketball participating in a FIBA coaching course.
I won’t discredit and under serve Javier’s background as an athlete and coach, but I did learn that he played basketball professional for many years during which time he also played on Argentina’s senior men’s basketball team from 1979-88. He went on to coach professionally in Argentina immediately after hanging up his shoes and has followed that by many years working with the various national teams.
Javier spoke so openly about Argentine basketball – from BQT to national team programs to talent identification to the professional leagues to the sport infrastructure in the country.
It’s amazing how time passes so quickly when talking hoops. I should have offered to buy him a few more “café con leche,” but I had already stolen too much of his time away from family and work.
(Encantado, Javier! Y, muchas gracias tambien).
There’s so much I’d like to share, but here are a few quick tidbits…
“There is a difference between a point guard and a playmaker.” Often people look to identify a ‘point guard,’ but for Argentines, they look for playmakers instead. Anyone can bring the ball up the court. A playmaker is someone who is smart, knows the game, plays within the team, executes the team’s stuff; has ‘gamesense’ (SB… is the term I like to use). That is, they understand tempo, momentum, what the team needs in each moment, understand flow, etc. For Argentina, Pepe Sanchez, is their prototypical “point guard.”
- In Argentina, in order to coach at ANY level, you must first attend 2-3 years of clinics to receive your certification. Level 1 certification allows one to coach athletes under-14, Level 2 is required for under-17 and finally the Level 3 cert is for professional coaches. All professional coaches are required to attend a mandatory 1-week coaching clinic EVERY year in order to maintain their certification. Javier talked at length at how regardless of philosophy, Argentine coaches are all guilty of working too hard. There is a great passion shared amongst them all to get better and develop in their craft. They had over 400 coach drive in from all over the country for a 1-day clinic not long before my trip. Once you get an appreciation for the size of the country and how modestly the majority of people live, that number became quite impressive.
- Argentines have a shared national style of play that defines their National Teams: ‘…hard defense, smart play focused on execution and attacking and exploiting the best option…’ As Javier explained, the country does not produce many bigs (i.e. 7-footers); 6’8-6’9 posts are the norm for them. However, skill, execution and their attitude allows them to compete with the rest of the world. They have what Javier kept calling in Spanish “orgullo.” Later in the conversation I realized the English translation: pride.
So much more to see, experience and learn – in basketball and the greater game of life.