In her first Blog for MVP, Great Britain star Julie Page reveals the anxieties of a out-of-work baller waiting for the phone to ring.
When Eurobasket finished up in the summer, I spent a lot of time working out twice a day with my brother Keith Page. He’s now playing professionally in the BBL for Cheshire Jets and so it is great to have someone who is striving to achieve similar goals and wanting to really push themselves during the off-season.
It means that we keep each other motivated and focused and we can offer help and advice to one another should either of us need it. With the guidance and programmes from GB’s strength and conditioning coach Nick Grantham I managed to get in the best shape of my career and I’ve only been following it for four months.
The process for finding a club was stressful this past summer. I had contractual conditions that I was unwilling to negotiate and it meant it took longer to find a team that could meet all of these requirements. For example, constant access to the weight room was really important but there were many clubs that could not offer that to me. I know that for me, the small details will make the difference between my conditioning being good and being great for London 2012, and I was unwilling to accept anything but the best from myself in such an important year.
I wanted to play for a club that played at a high level, with a coach who can help me improve, in an environment that is going to enable me to thrive in order to be the best I can be come the Olympics.
When the various leagues around Europe began their domestic seasons I was very anxious. However, I am lucky to have a great support network around me. Not only were my family and friends there to support me, but Damien Jennings and Vanessa Ellis, current assistant coaches for the senior women Standard Life GB women’s team both helped me a great deal during this time. I am also fortunate enough to have a fantastic agent, Mr. Torres at BPI, who I have a great relationship with. He worked tremendously hard to get the best for me and helped calm my nerves and keep me focused on being ready when an opportunity arose.
When I did get the call, it was on a Wednesday, I then flew out on the Thursday evening, arriving in the very early hours of Friday morning. The club – Energa Torun – was only able to fly me into Warsaw airport which is a 3 hour drive away from my new hometown. Add that onto a 7 hour journey from Manchester and a delayed pick up…I was extremely tired when I arrived! But the club wanted me to play on the Saturday so I had no time to decompress as they had 24 hours to get my clearance.
And so at 8am on Friday morning I was in the doctors office for a medical appointment to make sure I was ok to take part in physical activity, then it was direct from there to practice. Then after practice there were other medical appointments, one to check my eyesight, another to check my hearing. Pardon!?!?
There was a little time to grab a quick lunch break between appointments and after my final doctors check, we drove back to the gym for another practice where I was given my first look at our offensive schemes. I was shown 9 different offensive sets and 2 out of bounds plays. My memory isn’t the best to say the least but I did my best at picking up the plays as quickly as I could.
Thankfully the girls on the team are great and helped me write them all down so I could study them on my own time. When I arrived back at the hotel I had a quick study session before finally passing out in bed!!! It really was a whirlwind day and a little overwhelming but it was nothing a good night’s sleep didn’t remedy.
So when Saturday morning arrived, we jumped on a bus for a 4-hour drive to the game. I was expecting to just suit up, maybe play a few minutes here and there in spells to slowly integrate me into the team; so my body was in total shock to find me playing 31 minutes. I was running on adrenaline and excitement for this new adventure and chapter in my career and that really helped carry me through the game.
I played reasonably well but unfortunately we lost by 2 points so my performance counted for nothing. It was almost an ideal start to a new beginning but there were still plenty of positives to take from the game for us to build on.
So a week passed, and I finally got my apartment. The landlord bought all new furniture, totally decked the place out! The only thing I am not used to is the gas stove and gas oven, so if you see me without eyebrows, you know why!!!
My second game, but my first home game, was a surreal occasion. We have a 7-man rotation and 3 of us fouled out, which meant we had a young Polish player, who actually set a record for being the youngest ever player to play in a Polish League game, coming off the bench! Our coach got 2 technicals and was ejected, resulting in a suspension for 2 games.
Our fans went crazy, throwing bottles onto the court at the refs and trying to swarm the court, thank goodness for the security guards! It was absolutely insane! I knew the fans here were passionate, but I was caught a little off guard. I am just glad they’re supporting me and not chanting against me!
It’s an exciting prospect to be playing in front of such passionate fans, it makes basketball that much more exciting.
I will be writing a regular blog for MVP this season. If you’ve any questions, post them below and I’ll try to answer some of them in future posts.
Pic: MAP/ BB
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