MARQUETTE, Mich. – A European adventure during summer vacation. Now that sounds like fun. For two members of the Northern Michigan University women’s basketball team it was no holiday, but a business trip. Juniors Kellie Rietveld and Erin Powers served as assistant coaches for a group of 15 young women who played basketball in Finland, Latvia, Estonia and Sweden last summer.
The young women were all from the central Upper Peninsula and played in international tournaments in Tampere, Finland and Riga, Latvia. The group also played in Stockholm, Sweden. The two had fun and learned about the different cultures with their experiences.
The group was under the direction of director/head coach Lisa Coombs-Gerou. “Both players were a tremendous asset to have on the trip,” said Coombs-Gerou. “They helped with planning activities.” The European game is a bit different than its American counterpart. The game across the pond is a little faster, the lane is different and the way they call fouls is different.
For Powers this was her third time making the trip, but first on the bench as a coach. For Rietveld this was her first time in Europe. “I went in high school twice with my AAU coach,” said Powers. “A group of girls showed some interest this past summer and as a joke she (Coombs-Gerou) asked me if I wanted to go again.” Powers then mentioned it to Rietveld and she said yes. So the duo was set and ready to go. They both helped coach the teams during the games and assisted with drills in practices.
Before the group could go to Europe there was a little thing they had to do. Everyone had to find a way to pay for the trip. The group held fundraisers such as selling pizza kits and a free throw contest. Each person on the trip had to raise about $3,000.
Outside of basketball the two experienced what it was like to stay with a host family and be part of the culture. “I loved seeing the different cultures and seeing different people live,” said Rietveld. “Comparing to living in Europe and here is completely different.” According to Powers, she has stayed with the same family in Finland every trip, as they are like a second family to her. “I like to travel and play basketball,” said Powers. “So, two -in-one is perfect.”
What both Powers and Rietveld said is that in Europe to play basketball in college as a part of one’s life is different than in the states. The way the Europeans play is through a club system. “They think to play basketball in college at a university is one of the coolest things you could do, since they can’t do it,” said Rietveld. Rietveld and Powers talked to the girls on the trip on their experiences of playing basketball at Northern Michigan University. “We talked to the girls over there on what it was like to play in college,” said Powers.
With any travel one takes something with them that could last a lifetime. Both student-athletes felt the Europeans were friendly and got excited to hear Americans were staying with them. The host families wanted the Americans to stay with them.
Both Rietveld and Powers said that if anyone has a chance to take a foreign trip to just do it. The experiences and the chance to live in a different culture one gains will last a lifetime.
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