Written by Valts Rozentāls

Some rain snuck in overnight to offer us some fresh air to recover from all the heat of yesterday. While this brought some heavy sleep at night to rest our bodies – this would also mean that with the sunrise the extra water around would make the air heavy again. This was just the case as we found ourselves on the outdoor court of “Székelykapu Panzio”, our lovely host pension. Start at 800 sharp, both Teams on time and ready for a warm-up. Four station training – ball handling, footwork, shooting, 1on1. Perfect way to start a day, even if the rain cut our practice some ten minutes short. Short period of rain in a very hot weather – another lesson to be learned about being happy about the short relief, as it bites you thirty minutes later as the sun and heat makes their return.

Some time went by till we got to breakfast as for the first time the participants had to take part in preparing the food. As most of the first times, we had to accommodate the learning curve – also for dinner. At the end work went smooth enough and we could get a nice and well deserved meal.

After that some free time was in order. Some went to explore the village with all their inhabitants and their daily lives, some played some extra ball games on the court, and some were just chilling and enjoying the short period of extra rest. Miriam and I had to visit a very nice bakery in neighboring city Udvarhély called “Alexandria”. We were also on luck as just before we had to make our order – some lady walked in, and on our attempt to ask if they spoke English, she told us she can translate the German. Very helpful and made our purchase much easier. What did we buy? More on this below.

Around seventeen hundred it was time team up with the local youth, by mixing them and our youth in four teams, to explore the village of Bögöz with their 1’700 inhabitants (around 98% of population are Hungarians). The goal was the teambuilding, as the teams received 32 pictures to be found and had to communicate almost without any knowledge of the specific languages to find them. Of course, this was mostly based on youth of Bögöz as they had to lead the way to find the objects. As we later went into feedback round there were many challenges the teams had to overcome and many curiosities along the way. This way the local youth could show some parts of their village to the guests and our youth had a chance to take a glance how is the infrastructure (Bus and train stops, roads of different kinds, buildings etc.) around here and also – the local people. Altogether very nice and satisfying experience, culture shock guaranteed.

Right after returning to our base in “Székelykapu Panzio” – we had to prepare ourselves for an evening training. Topics were some easy footwork and cutting techniques, passing and fast breaks. This is also where the part of our visit to “Alexandria” comes in – a girl from Bögöz with soubriquet Orsi was having a birthday today and turning 15 years old! A time to celebrate, even if we could tell she came somehow shy on this kind of celebration, for a brief moment – all the attention turned to her. Anyhow, I and Miriam did get two very nice and tasty cakes from “Alexandria” earlier today (even with a Name written on one of them!) and after singing “Happy birthday dear Orsi” to her, we celebrated a little by eating a slice of chocolate cake after the practice. Practice, birthday and a chocolate cake… Isn’t the life beautiful?

After that it was time to say our goodbyes for today and go to dinner. Then the feedback round to reflect on all the amazing events today and determine some organizational points for tomorrow and up in beds we went to get well deserved rest and recover our strength for tomorrow as it will be also very promising day full of events. Dusk seemed to cool down the air to let us sleep at night, and as the darkness set in for stars to be seen – the grasshoppers went on stage to lull us into sleep.

Written by Valts Rozentāls

Dear Diary,

This was a good day. As it usually is, when one finds oneself on the verge of new adventures and experiences. Romania – this is our adventure this week, for seven days we will be exploring part of the country through the prism of basketball – a prism that, as Miriam nicely put it, requires no words. For some of us this is not the first time coming to Bögöz, they have seen many sides of this part of the world – this won’t be their story. Story you will emerge into will be written by somebody who visits this place for the first time. This is a prism of  first time experience.

Our journey starts on a rainy summer Sunday at 8.00 in Munich International Airport. Meeting point is on the first floor of Terminal 2, in the hall just before security control. The first members of this journey are already present and as one would assume – it is always good to plan some extra time on journeys aside from the flight itself. Especially if the travel includes a group of 15 young adults out of a total of 17. Once everybody arrives, it’s time to say our goodbyes for the next seven days and move on to go through security control, border control and boarding procedures to get to our Lufthansa flight with the number 1664 from Munich to Sibiu. As it later turns out, as much as it was rainy in Munich – it would be as sunny and stale in Romania. For us – complete difference and change of pace, just as the country itself. We board our CRJ series jet precisely at 11.00 and take off shortly after. A little over one and a half hours later we find ourselves in another world.

I am not really sure what hit us first – the heat wave or the size of the Airport. To be honest, relatively good for a city with a population just over 155’000. Nevertheless, one piece building with two paths – arrival and departure – seems a bit small if you just left the monstrosity of what Munich International Airport is. Of course, this might just be a part of their job training, but the first contact shapes one’s vision of the country and it was a welcoming one. The airport itself might be an older one and not as modern as seen around, but people were nice and that is what counts. After a short stop at “whiskey charlie” we moved on to find our drivers – they would bring us to Bögöz.

As we had to make a couple of stops in between, we spent about three hours on the road. Putting hot weather aside – roads are smaller than we are used to in Germany and also in a worse condition, but they are mostly being repaired by making cut outs locally and filling the damaged parts with fresh asphalt. At one point the repairs were not finished and left open – this of course leads to slower traveling times as the chauffeur always has to be aware not to hit one of them. Other than that – a pretty solid drive with very beautiful landscape. There were some occurrences where we had to stop as somebody from the group got sick from all those ups and downs and on the side of the road the local man showed his readiness to help by giving us ice cold (literally – it still had ice block in it) water bottle. Very strong gesture. Moving on.

Interesting observations are the houses. Villages all seem to be very similar with houses being built at the street and then stretching away from it in a rectangular manner. Beside the house would almost always be some kind of gate for car access and the front fence would be quite large – so you can’t properly see over them and tell what’s inside. Usually it would be another building and/or a piece of land with a garden on it. Houses are also very colorful – many different colors could be observed throughout our journey. Another rather peculiar thing – the aesthetic and constructional states would vary greatly from house to house. There could be a new, modern house built in between some worn off houses, where one would question it – whether anybody can live in something like that and if it is even safe? Really, there would be one seemingly expensive house and right after it three in a very poor condition. Then again another expensive one. This particular observation could be made again and again as we kept driving through various villages and cities. Did not matter how small or big the city was – this phenomenon could be observed throughout.

Another interesting mention is the geopolitical situation. We find ourselves in a municipality that used to be part of Hungary, but after the second world war was separated and added to Romania. To this day inhabitants here speak Hungarian and children are learning Romanian as a foreign language in the school. At this time there are more insights to be made in the upcoming days to look at this particular case of people with one identity living in a country with completely another identity. Just something to keep in mind as a reader.

Not to make this too long – I have to make a stop here. Altogether very beautiful country from what we have seen so far. Many more things have yet to be seen, lessons learned and friends made. In Romania, Mugeni or how Hungarians call it – Bögöz.

Written by Valts Rozentāls

“We who are profoundly joined in soul can only but heal the ruptures of the cosmos.”
Peter Høeg from ‘Elephant Keepers’ Children’

Sometimes we are so excessively spellbound in our own reality that it takes a special kind of shift in our surroundings to make us think about seemingly daily occurrences in a different kind of light. They say the devil is in the details – I do not know about the devil, but our thinking patterns and perception of the world definitely are. It has been an interesting experience to observe how our youth takes on the daily challenges in Bögöz and the seemingly mundane, simple things of everyday life. The outcome is different opinions, change of perspective and stimulation of thinking about how they perceive different kinds of cultures, people and themselves in different environments. Growth.

If there is one certain thing in our daily lives in Bögöz then it is the beep of the alarm clock every morning. Well, for the Coaches anyways, the youth always get nice and polite “Rise and shine!” to start their day. Today it was thirty minutes earlier. We got to get to the neighbouring town for the game day. There are two games planned – one for the boys team and one for the girls. Our Teams are built off of a mix of Hellenen and Bögöz youth and we are playing against a local team called ‘Vendor’. We start off with the boys and the game is balanced from the start on till the third quarter where “Hellgöz” start to make costly mistakes in defence and allow the opposing home team to score easy points on fast breaks as a result of many turnovers. On the other end we can’t find the right offensive tactic which results in many crazy individual plays and shots which are out of position. This leads to the loss for Hellgöz with around -30 points and many lessons learned. For the boys that means going a step back to drawing tactics on the board.

The game of the girls’ Team went differently – they started very well and it was obvious that the “Hellgöz” girls team was superior to the Vendor girls and it also resulted in a strong win. Nevertheless there were teaching points and much needed game experience for the Bögöz girls. Altogether it was a successful game day to practice basics of basketball and reach over the knowledge.

After hard work it was time for some fun, so we went to an open public swimming pool together. Although today the weather was not as hot as the previous days, the water did feel very refreshing and even allowed us to play some pass and catch in the water – very simple and fun making it easy for everybody to engage. Activities in the water always result in hunger which we satisfied with some Lángos – a traditional Hungarian dish of fried bread and the classic topping of crème fraîche (mixed with garlic) and grated cheese. I, myself, did not participate in the next part, so this will be written as a story of others.

The train passes by two or three times a day as it makes its way between two bigger cities. There is a high possibility that another time schedule is not even possible as there is only one railroad – which makes it impossible for two trains to pass each other in opposing directions. Speed is also very slow for the simple reason that the railway has many curves and crossings without any safety measures. It could well be that if the train had to stop very quickly in a short period of time while going at high speed it would not be able to slow down in time and would lead to casualties.

The first impression is the train station – just some concrete plates and for most stops not even a shelter to hide from the weather. Also – everything is built on the ground level but the train is much higher – so for older people it is hard to get on the train and for people with some kind of disability it’s almost impossible to get on the train. It was packed – not everyone could get a seat and the first thing one would notice was the strong smell of sweat. For those who are used to controleurs in uniforms and undying following of the rules – the picture here was somehow different. No uniform in sight, shirt with some upper buttons open (easy to understand with the hot weather) and a nice golden chain around the neck. Somehow he did not even want to have anything for the ride and just let the whole group ride for free for the three stations.

As short as the train ride was from a distance, as already mentioned, it was also equally slow. This would allow a few observations to be made and brought up in discussions. One of them would be the family who seemingly felt very comfortable – almost too comfortable – on the train – they had their belongings all over the place. One kid was resting on the floor next to a watermelon (or even eating it?), a baby on the seat without much attention and from the observer point of view – a little bit too dangerous if the train had come to a full stop – we could assume that baby would be found at least one row further down the train.

Some man wanted to inquire where we were from, but unfortunately he may have had one beer too many nevertheless he was successful in asking the question, yet he was unable to comprehend the answer. It did not seem to bother him that much as he had just finished his current can and simply opened another one. Then he proceeded to tell a story of his love life and even give some tips to boys on how to be gentlemen and that they should offer their seats to the girls. Well, thank you sir.

In the evening – another practice. This time we splitted the groups as we had to work on focus and discipline of the kids of Bögöz. Everytime one works with a team where the focus and discipline is not present, one asks the question – why are we even here? The philosophy is very simple – things that are easy to do are also easy not to do. The challenge here is to get the individuals to focus and be disciplined enough so that the team of 12+ can function properly. The ‘why’ is another question though. ‘Why’ is an internal question, which can only be answered by each individual themselves. If the ‘why’ – the motivation and the drive – is clear, then the focus and discipline are the easy part, it comes naturally without pressure. This brings us back to the start as this is our individual journey, but most of the time it’s something we bring back into the world for all to see. With our work and every person we meet in our lives we touch a string that will vibrate forever. This is the divine conversation we have with ourselves when we are alone. Why do we do this? And if we cannot answer this question for ourselves, we cannot move others to answer it for themselves. Sandy put it nicely – most of the time we have to search within us, what is the damage that has been done to us? More often than not, this is the sole reason that keeps us going forward. The reason we want to make the world better and repair the damage done to others as we understand it ourselves.

With some luck and time, we all are able to find our inner ‘why’ and that would give us the hope that we can bring it into the world with our creative work and others would be able to learn and also have the inner conversations with themselves which would bring the focus and discipline to learn and develop themselves for happier and more fulfilling lives. As Jocko Willink put it – discipline equals freedom, but we can only find discipline if we are brave enough to search in ourselves and find the answer to our ‘why’.

P.S. Do you want a cookie?

Written by Valts Rozentāls

The last full day has come, tomorrow morning we will leave Bögöz and return to Munich. Before we do – one last adventure. Together.

Wake up and go. We are in a bit of a hurry – not even breakfast! By spending one week on our little retreat in the middle of Romania, it is easy to forget the rest of the world. Easy to forget our daily life. This is a throwback – something like Covid-19 is still holding us in a grip. The difference we saw already on the first day as we brought some tests with us to test the local youth. None of them, this whole time, had done a single test. Just for some comparison – in Germany we tested ourselves almost every day or at least multiple times per week. Here… many of them saw a test for the first time and it was a completely unfamiliar event for them, with all the emotions that come with it.

So, we leave early to get tested and get a certificate for our flight. Without this piece of paper (or passport of immunization) we can’t cross the borders. All the struggles we go through to build friendships.

After we return and grab a quick breakfast – it is time to leave for our last adventure. We are going to the trail and caves of Almási Barlang. Interestingly, on Wiki you can find information only in Hungarian. There is no article either in English nor even Romanian. I also did not go hunting for further information. Maybe this is just one of those magical places you just get to meet in your life and get to keep fantasizing about till you visit it the second time.

The drive was quick – about an hour from Bögöz. This time we also got rewarded by amazingly beautiful sights and views. Pardon my writing skills as I cannot put into words how beautiful this part of the world is. We tried to capture those moments and the astonishing scenery in pictures for you all to see, and even those don’t do them justice. Sometimes it was breathtaking, and one could only ask oneself – how can something be so beautiful?

As we come closer to our destination, the bars on the phone grow smaller and smaller till all we had was “no signal”. Looking at that plaque of a bear and a snake on it, I could only remember my first aid course: “Remember, even if you are in the mountains and your smartphone shows no network connection – 112 should work for emergencies.” I better hope it does when the bear comes…

We begin the adventure by parking on the side of the parking lot that is a bit further away, which is basically a big piece of grass. Nearby is a fireplace, so the first thing we do is to get some fire going, so we can prepare food on the grill. Old school – get some wood to burn through and get coal this way. This is also the best way, our bus drivers once again showed that they are like Swiss pocket knives – pulling yet another trick out of their, seemingly never ending, arsenal. They quickly start a small fire and engage the youth to bring firewood, literally out of the woods nearby.

Some nice sausages, grilled cheese and potatoes; served on a piece of bread. There is something about being hungry and eating basic food outside out of raw fire. For myself it throws me back to times of my youth where we would do things like this all summer long. I am older now, but I see myself in the youth around me. It is important not to forget our days as little humans. We grew up, became all serious and forget the play. This reminds me of an interview with Giannis Antetokounmpo, where he spoke about tips Kobe Bryant gave him. One of them was – never forget how to be a kid. Kids are always learning, they want to know stuff, they ask questions. Kids can play with two stones, or with some sticks and their creativity makes it a magical world with all kinds of adventures. The youth always does some crazy stuff which sometimes turns into stupid stuff. Stupid to whom? Us? We were also young once, it’s just how it goes. We laugh it off now as adults, but I think we can all agree – we did some truly dumb things back in the days. Why should our kids not get a pass? Just because we managed to grow up? Passes – I love them. It might be that as a Coach I try to show them the ropes and everything, but they must also make their own mistakes. Even if that mistake is to hit a log with a stick.

We get our food and move on. It turns out to be a proper hike. It starts very easy and gets harder as you go further into the natural park. Nothing crazy, but the terrain is not a walk in the park – many stones and roots, you have to watch your step not to stumble. Our first stop is the bat cave, well at least part of it. Turns out that we can access only the shallow cave of the system. The deeper ones have been closed to preserve the bats living in them. Understandable. So, we take a little course in the accessible part and move on. What are the caves like? Well, mostly cold and wet.

Next up is my favorite part – a hike! This is a mix, as we were the last and at some point completely lost the rest of the group. This is also something one must learn travelling with a four-year-old. Some things can be done, but they take longer. Just like in the old saying – if you want to go fast, then go alone; if you want to go far, then go together. We were going together, and we were going slow. Part of the fault could be also found on the bridge system. I did not count them, but I think there were at least ten of them and they all had a weight restriction of 200kg. If you know me, you know I am a bit over a half of that. So, for our own safety – I would always wait for the others to get over. Where we would lose time, was if there were other groups already on the bridges going the opposite direction. It was just impossible to pass simultaneously, and we would just have to wait. This would allow for some brief conversations and recalling of memories of those who had already left their footprints on this path.

As one would assume the nature around this trail was just fabulous. What I find very interesting is the small river that went along the trail. You could not see through it at any point. The mineral concentration was just too  high in the water, and it was not clear at any point along the way. Either very red or very turbid. The further we went, the rockier the path got. Maybe we just started at the wrong point? The hike itself was about 45-50 minutes from start to finish, excluding the visit to the bat cave. Once we got through, the question was – do we walk back for 45 minutes to hop on the buses or do we wait for two hours and let the buses come pick us up. Additionally, we would save about 30 minutes of the drive home. Well, you can guess once which option was chosen by our democratic vote. Two hours of waiting. Oh my, not our plan at all, but you got to deal with it, don’t you? That’s how democracy works.

We proceeded to set up a temporary “camp” in the shadows of the trees as the sun was just crazy burning hot and we already had been in the sun the whole day. Card games, chit-chat and boredom. Best way to spend two hours. Some took the time to get some rest and snuck in some proper naps under the blue sky.

There were some horses nearby, as it turns out, they are watched by a man who lives in a simple hut, seemingly with no running water and kitchen just outside his small hut. Someone made contact with a foal, and it followed them back as the offer was some flowers and greens. Simple life. Though, somebody tried to feed it some Plantain, to which the Romanian youth responded with immediate objections. One could trust them, after all many of them have grown up near or on farms and had experience with the horses. Shortly after the foal decided to leave for good and went through the electrical fence (which turns out is not as electrical as one might think), it was time for the horses to get their dose of water at the river before they were put in a smaller grazing zone for the night. We could observe that horses were more civilized than some humans – they took turns at the river and did wait for the one horse before them to finish drinking before going in. Maybe they just had some privacy issues?

Two hours later the buses were finally here, and we could go to them – the parking spot was like 300-400 meters away. Even at a remote place like this – there were some small huts on our way and people just enjoying the summer days with some barbecue and drinks. Keeping it simple and enjoying it very much. Our bus drivers pulls yet another bonus point – they did not just hike back 45 minutes and drive with the buses around the mountains, they also picked up fresh drinking water on the way here! We could fill our flasks and satisfy our need for water as some of us had none left after the hike and all the waiting. Now it was time to get back to “Székelykapu Panzio”. This next part I had to reach out to Nadine, as somehow, I was already drifting between actions and missed some of it.

After a long exhausting hike, we are finally back at the pension. Thankfully, Irenke had already prepared us one of her delicious meals for dinner. To round up this unforgettable week a cozy movie night was planned under the stars. Additionally, prior to the movie, we had to go through a celebration round. We were finally going to find out who won the scavenger hunt we had on our second day as well as the results of the 1on1 contest which had been going on all week long.

Holding two plates of what seemed to be two delicious pieces of chocolate cake, Miri began the short award ceremony. Eager to know who the lucky ones are who are about to receive these mouth-watering pieces of chocolate cake – the youth can’t keep quiet. Finally, Miri announces the winners of the younger Group: Johannes, who had won in the final match against Leonhard; and the winner of the older Group: Marisa, who was able to attain this title by beating Ferenz in the final match. Very content with their accomplishment both champions walked to the front to accept their reward. Cheerful applause kills the silence surrounding us.

Another important announcement follows. The winner of the scavenger hunt. The race was tight. A box of small fruit tarts is in Miri’s hands waiting to be devoured by the winners. After building up some suspense Miri announces that two teams had achieved the same scores: her team and Levi’s. The deciding factor was that Levi’s team made it back to the pension earlier than Miri’s team thus making them the winners of the scavenger hunt. Once again, we applaud the winners while they walk to the front to claim their prize.

Smiles and laughter all around. Not only the winners are celebrating. Everyone is. We’re celebrating the end of an unforgettable week filled with new experiences, lifelong memories, and fun times.

All cuddled up, we are ready for the movie „Space Jam“ to begin. For those who are familiar with Basketball of 90’s Era – this is one of the classics, for those who are not… Well, watch it before you go on and watch the second part with Lebron! This one includes Jordan himself.

Hugs and love, it is time to depart from one another. Next day, the youth of Bögöz would return to their daily lives and we would return to ours. This is another law of the universe, everything that starts – must end, sooner or later. It is the acceptance and the friends we made along the way, the understanding that under the right conditions we have more similarities with one another than differences. And as hard as it comes – it is best seen in the eyes of people who say their goodbyes. We promise to come again, they promise to be waiting. Meanwhile – we must hold onto the memories we made, even if that’s only in our dreams.

“Uzvelciet baltu kreklu un rakstiet jaunībai. Viņa atnāk ar taureni bizē.

Viņa ir soprāns vidusskolas korī. Un viņai ir baltas kurpes.”

Imants Ziedonis

Lost in translation: “Put on a white shirt and write to the youth. She comes with a butterfly in her braid. She is the soprano in the high school choir. And she has white shoes.”

This is the last evening. After the youth of Bögöz went home – our youth wanted to spend the last night chatting and reliving everything. Us coaches, we have been there before, we know how thrilling the last night always is. However, packing the bags and cleaning everything up comes first! After that – they are free to do whatever they please. As the weather was not quite welcoming the past days, some of the players still want to get some game in with night basketball. Amazing activity, the night is welcoming and pitch dark – perfect circumstances for playing night basketball. For those of you wondering how this works: you put up lights around the square on the board and around the rings of the baskets, fluorescent sticks around the players’ necks, wrists and feet, and you get a special ball which is lit up. I am sure Sandy will add some nice photos to bring this amazing experience closer to you!

We max out at around 300-330, this day used up our reserves to the maximum and we are really done. Tomorrow we have to get up early, eat breakfast, do the last checks in the rooms and on the luggage. Our brains do not even register the moment before and after passing out. Legend says, some even did not go to sleep and pulled an all-nighter. Why wouldn’t they? The next morning, we would find them all together in the middle of the corridor of the first floor. Beautiful youth.

“You don’t play against opponents; you play against the game of basketball.”
– Bob Knight –

Never skip steps. This is perhaps the most fundamental philosophy of basketball or any other sport for that matter. It takes time for players to learn and understand the concepts and we cannot skip them. It takes time and we must obey to this simple truth. This is also why it is hard to do – just as mentioned in one of the previous posts: if it is easy to do, it is also equally easy not to do. Same goes with skipping the steps, concept itself is as simple as it gets, but because it is simple, it is also easy not to act on it. This is exactly what we were teaching this week to players of Bögöz village – not skipping the steps, learning the basics. There have been many great basketball players and there is yet one to come who would say – nah, basics doesn’t matter! Every single one has mentioned at some point of their career that learning and understanding of basic concepts and skills of basketball was a crucial part of their journey to become best of the best. Who are we to assume otherwise? Know it all?

In this foggy morning we only had sixty minutes for a practice. While the youth of Munich were just waking up and going for breakfast, me and Sandy started off with Bögözians on the field. This morning we would work only with the local youth to return to five-out concept of pass, cut and fill. At 1000 we had to move out and take a journey to city of name Szent György which was give or take around two-hour drive away. Accounting for my lack of Hungarian, the practice went well, and we could work on two sides simultaneously to develop understanding of the five out concept. It seems that the most important thing is to really take time and put in an effort with this youth. In some instances, they lack discipline and guidance. We can’t teach them for life within a week, but we can give them a glimpse of how it is to set decent standards and implement them. It is always heart warming to see in eyes of the people the change their experience in the moment once you set them up for something they did not know they can achieve. Me? Am I able to do this and succeed? Yes, you are. You know, since ancient philosophers, we know that we are what we repeatedly do, and it goes both ways. For me it seems that Bögöz kids receive more signals that they wont amount to anything than they get encouraged… and it takes great character and inner strength not to default on failure. This makes me think – maybe, therefore we are here, even if promptly, we can reach inside them and trigger a vibration, a belief – yes, I can! And maybe, it would keep resonating and grow over time, and just maybe – we have changed lives and turned destinies. Just maybe. Now, keep cutting – we run in opposite direction of the ball! If you pass right, you must go left; if you pass left, go right! Move, keep moving, rotations! Good job, now faster! Just maybe.

On the road we go. There is always something about the bus rides – you never really know what you will get. Sleep? Chit chat? Games? Dancing? We get plenty of all, two-hour drive flies by and we get out at the gym. Oh, this is an older one, it has the vibe of the past. Oldschool wooden floor, with thick floor paint, not too many lines – just enough to accommodate two or three most common sports played here. Basketball is one of them.

Girls are playing first, then the boys. We already know that opponents are good, they are missing some of the lead players as they had to report to the National Team. Nevertheless, competition is fierce – this will be a very interesting game. Running time, five times ten minutes. Jump ball.

Hellgöz girls started with a lead at first, but after first two fifths the home team took over and held the lead till the end. From our side we tried to implement the strategy of pass, we taught the Bögöz girls this week, in the offense and just get as many stops and push as many bad shots as we could on defense. It seemed to work just fine, and game developed very fluently. Both teams scored, we did more penetration that shots, but the opponents were shooting more than penetrating. Long story short it all came down to 53 to 50 with four seconds to go – favor for the home team. Our players used the oldest trick in the back and after a foul play they closed the distance by letting the ball roll on the field. This was an interesting occurrence as the home team could’ve just let the time run out on foul and call it a day, but it seems that the opponents Coach wanted to test their defense on last shot. Well, we had to take a 3p. After picking the ball up, it was just the time to perform two short dribbling actions and release the ball and… well it went in! 53 to 53, friendship wins! What a great score to end an equal friendly game, also with a great shot from our side.

Boys were up next. This seemed to be a game with a score determined before the game began. We spoke with the opposing team Coach, and it was a younger team with about one year difference. But you know – the playing part here was more important than the winning. Also, the kids here did not have the ability to play a season and for everybody the ability to play again was something amazing. Even if you were playing against a bit older and bigger opponent, it did not matter – playing the game matters.

After snapping a beautiful picture of all the participants – everybody was as happy as hungry. We decided to grab a pizza before our drive home. While the order of local restaurant was pending, we found a nice place to sit – on the stairs of nearby square, just on side of a city park. Beautiful place, full of flowers and it even had a water fountain! Well, even two – but the second was more like an object to get refreshed in a hot day, than a fountain. It consisted of a basic wooden frame with some rubber hose attached to it. The idea was brilliant – the hose had running water in it, but the openings were so fine that it turned water in a fine curtain in the air. This way one could go through it without getting too wet and still get water on one’s body to refresh one in a hot summer day. Brilliant solution!

Pizzas were also superb. It seemed less than deserved by playing this hard today, but there was dinner awaiting us once we get back to “Székelykapu Panzio”. Our lovely bus drivers had done their job once more and buses were just about 200m away from us. So, we just took a quick photo at the big letters on the side of the city square and it was time to depart beautiful Szent György. Even if this was a brief visit – a nice one, new friends, good food and amazing memories.

Company, as good as it gets, assured that the bus drive was as good as always. There was nothing more planned for this evening, just dinner and feedback session. For our bodies require sleep, tomorrow comes with new adventures!

Sometimes you must take time and sometimes that means that you should seek new experiences. Humans have always attempted to manipulate time and dreamed of time machines – to get more time out of their finite lives. Unfortunately, we do not (yet?) possess such powers, but there is trickery which involves our own minds. Just go back and think about your days as a kid, did they not seem much longer? I surely remember that I had long days filled with many adventures in my childhood. Then, somehow, the days speed up, they go by quicker. This is the phenomenon of new and old experiences. If all we get are the same experience, our perception of time speeds up, if we gain a new experience, it slows down. So, strangely enough – we can bend time, at least our perception of it. Once we wake up from the dream that is new experiences we are living – we must return to reality, much like the old folks’ stories the grandparents tell their grandchildren. When the clock hits midnight, you must return to who you were before. But we are still in the dream, our time is still slow.

This beep again. It seems that the tiring days are starting to get to us. Observation – I am not alone, but I know that I am the one who must keep the spirits high. There always must be someone who brings the energy when it is lacking. This makes the people wonder – why do you have it? I do not… but I do as I had it, and it comes to me. This is one lesson the youth should learn; everything begins from within. Every day there’s practice. Do we always want to do it? No. Do we have to? Yes. Do we always have energy for it? No. Can we push ourselves to find it? Yes. So, we move out, we step on the basketball field, in the garden of “Székelykapu Panzio”. Local players join us in our daily meeting with our favorite activity – the one that brings us all together – playing basketball. We start with some light fitness warm-up and stretching. Nobody can stay asleep while doing jumping jacks, mountain climbers and burpees. Blood is pumping and even the sleepiest ones are wide awake. We proceed to work on the skills we have been developing all week long.

Breakfast, free time to play some ball (generally or 1on1 tournament) and prepare for the horse carriage ride. Today we are going to ride around local fields, up on the hills. Just right after lunch three horse carriages await us just outside the “Székelykapu Panzio” to take us up the hill. This is some action of about two hours but seems much longer. Our ride through the village attracts curious locals who want to see where all this noise is coming from. Smiles and waving hands somehow bring joy to every one of us. In a short time we find ourselves surrounded by fields and woods. The sun is shining bright and we feel the rays of the sun heating up our skin. The trees in the distance seem very welcoming, their shade provides a refreshing refuge from the bright sun. I can vividly imagine taking a good book and seeking solitude on a hot summer day in the shadows of the trees.

We keep moving on the pre-determined path through the fields. At one point we encounter a local shepherd with his loyal guard dog and bunch of sheep and goats. This is an older gentleman and it seems he is also an experienced one. He is walking with a stick in each hand, one could only assume – this is the result of the substantial days of work he has put behind him over the years. The Sheepdog looks at us full of suspicion. To him we are only a disruption of his daily discipline – keeping the herd safe of wolves and bears. This is his mission; this is what he has been taught to do – to keep the herd safe. It would not even matter that we are nothing like a wolf or a bear, if we come near the herd – we become a threat thus his target. This is something no one of us is willing to try out. So, we remain seated on our carriages and keep moving. At some point we must lower the electrical fence and change the direction to the hill. I am sitting in the last carriage of three, so our coachman must close the fence after us. This required him getting off the carriage, closing the fence and getting back on. Well, but it seems he wants to save some time by keeping the carriage moving. At first he just wanted to put the reins on the bench we were sitting on, but then he glanced at me, sitting right next to him and decided it could be a good and safe idea to give the reins to a stranger. Well, from a city as far as he should be concerned. I did grow up in the countryside, but never had anything to do with horses. Long story short – I’ve got the reins in my hands, the man jumped off the carriage to close the fence and the horses kept moving. Of course, at the same time the two carriages right before us stopped moving as their respective coachmen figured out – hey, let’s stop as the man from our carriage must close the fence. Therefore – two carriages standing and our kept moving out. Once the fence was closed, our coachman turned around and understood his mistake – reins were in the hands of somebody who had absolutely no idea how to handle the situation. Luckily for us, the Coach reassessed the situation and realized that there was only one valid option – to stop the carriage. The other two almost crashed in the carriage before us and the second one would have rolled down in the ditch on our left. This is where all the experience I was able to gather from films I have previously watched comes in handy. I did proceed to pull both reins simultaneously to bring us to a halt. Hearing “ooh”, “uuh” and “aah”s which ended in happy cheering – it seemed that I have had done a decent job. The coachman was also happy, jumped on the carriage and we continued our journey up the hill.

Fifteen minutes later we reached the top of the hill and made a short stop to enjoy the view. On our left we could see Bögöz and on our right, a bit further away – Székelyudvarhely. The shepherd we met at the bottom of the hill had also made his way up, he took the shorter route – perks of moving on foot. After taking time to take some nice photos and absorb the beauty of the area and its nature, it was time to continue the ride and get back to the village. The journey down the hill was faster and shorter than upwards, it seems that we took the longest route to get up and coachmen saved the shorter one to get back down.

The evening practice was cut short due to a storm which seemingly just appeared out of thin air. One downside of living in between mountains – you never see the storms coming, the clouds just get over the top of the hills and within a few hours you find yourself surrounded by rain and thunder which roars after the lighting strikes. There is one upside though – it is easier to breathe as the hot air fades away for the night. We sleep tight.

One would say that this day was not as busy as all others, not as full. We should observe how we look at things, just as we see a room full of stuff, it is empty of space. Also, a day which is not full of action is full of time. Time we can use however we want and that is part of the game – having fun, slowing down, enjoying the ride. As Nadine put it – just as our bodies need to take a rest day from all the activities, our minds also need rest days. I think she is quite right on this one. Especially when we are afraid of missing out and not delivering – take a rest day, slow down, enjoy the ride. Sometimes even nature takes care of that and sends a storm to save us from ourselves.

Life gets boring if you stay within limits of what you already know. Many great people have pointed out that we should try and do new things every day – always keep learning something new, something that we did not know the day before. Additionally, we should not be afraid to emerge fully in new experiences – without overthinking! Sometimes people tend to overthink – how will I look? Will others find it funny and laugh? What if I fail? It must be too hard for me to do… This inner voice that makes us doubt ourselves before we have even taken the chance to try out that new, exciting experience. Another personal favorite of mine – What if I don’t do it right? But… you will, just as Astrid Lindgren put it nicely in character of Pippi Longstocking:

“I have never tried that before, so I think I should definitely be able to do that.”

This is the way – believing from the beginning that we can achieve what we set our minds to, we can achieve greatness. Otherwise, what’s the point? And even if it turns out not to be our thing, at least we tried our best and made some nice memories along the way. This is the story of day four in Bögöz. Day of new experiences and giving our best.

There is something fascinating about starting your day with a quality practice. It is almost as good as cold showers and the smell of a fresh brewed coffee. Surely no one can stay sleepy while moving around, maybe still a little bit tired from yesterday, but certainly not sleepy. Morning practices include the four-station concept – every morning we organize the same four stations (ball handling, shooting, footwork, 1on1) and since day one we work to develop skills of the players and increase the complexity of the drills. This allows us to show and teach the proper structure and what it takes to develop skills over time.

After the practice we had to eat a quick breakfast, shower and rush to the local culture center. We had an appointment with a dance teacher who showed us the folks dance of the Székelys (Szeklers). As it usually is –the youth had some doubts about how they could and would handle this new experience. This is also an important part of new experiences as we learn to share our inner doubts and try to find solutions for them as a group together. This strengthens the bound between the individuals and brings us closer as a group. Dancing is also intimate experience as we must step over our personal boundaries and let other people or singular person closer to ourselves. It really breaks down the walls we set up around ourselves and takes down the shields we hold in our hands, suddenly we see each other in a different light. We all have our own doubts, but that’s just it – our imaginary obstacles and nothing more. By letting others closer to ourselves and working together, we can defeat these doubts and march stately towards the challenges the life throws at us.

The dance itself was a pleasant experience with one exception – all the sweating. It was a really hot day and despite the door and all the windows being open – the air was still. Teacher was the very energetic kind and had the aura – please stay disciplined or… We had a lot of fun learning the steps, of course we also made many mistakes, but within about an hour we did go through multiple dance variations, and I would say – did well. At some point our teacher started to dance between us to show us how it is supposed to look like and one could only conclude that she taught us very, very basic steps. One other thing I enjoyed was that the people walking by randomly stopped to watch us.

We as coaches could also see parallels between the dancing and our footwork drills. It seemed that every one of us wanted to add dancing as an extra activity to develop better footwork and coordination of our players. This is a thought that we should keep in mind for sure.

Next on agenda is lunch and after that games outside. Not basketball games though, diverse teambuilding games. The Youth, both from Hellenen and Bögöz, got split into two teams – black and red, and had to compete against each other in different team games. We played a sporty version of musical chairs, tic-tac-toe, getting a cookie in one’s mouth, picking up objects with eyes tied (and team helping just with a voice guidance) and for culmination a fun game with water which was not only exciting to play for the win (as the teams were tied), but also refreshing when water got spilled on you. At the end black team won thus celebrated as winners! Their reward was ice cream to satisfy the winners in the hot day.

We were really happy about the fact that Hellenen and Bögöz started to communicate with each other more, because it was not happening beforehand while doing scavenger hunt two days prior. This would mean we were succeeding in building the teams together and getting the youth to work together instead staying separate in two groups. It is always nice to see people grow closer, sometimes it takes more time, but maybe it is just like the saying: true friendships are like a sea – it heats up slowly and cools down slowly. Maybe this is just the case.

Evening practice started with twenty minutes of a discipline drill. The goal was to show and learn that the small things matter. If we can’t do the small things right, how are we supposed to do more complicated things right? It is important to understand the concept of small numbers: first, we must learn to handle in small numbers, otherwise we can’t handle in large numbers. In basketball we can’t skip steps. So, on we went to perform one of my favorite drills – one must make a step forward and go on to run to other side, one can’t make a step backward. This went very well! It took some time, but we got together as a team and could perform the drill six times. To be honest, we expected the players to object and lose focus before successfully completing the drill, but everybody did their best to succeed and well… they did!

Right after we went on with the training schedule. Because it was Coach Levi’s birthday – his wish was to play with other coaches against the youth team – Hellenen as well as Bögöz. We went out as five coaches against about twenty youth players. Even with tactical odds against us, we performed very well and could win with a good difference. A gift for Levi on his “21st“ birthday – this is also an insider. For the celebration we got him a cake! Unfortunately, the only available candles were 21 and we had to make it work, everybody knows that candles are a must! Another nice evening in Bögöz.

Here we go, days fly by, and we find ourselves already in the middle of our adventure. We have made progress on the court, in our minds and our hearts. All it takes is to take the step forward and dive in the unknown, new experiences. All it takes is a small doze of craziness, love and courage. This opens the whole world of opportunity and well allows us to makes friends along the way. In the heart of Romania, Bögöz.