‘There is no way to replicate this at home’: Six women’s college basketball teams share memories, lessons from foreign tours

Note: This is a list of the teams I spoke with about their foreign tours this summer. It is not a comprehensive list of all teams taking foreign tours in 2019.
Note: This is a list of the teams I spoke with about their foreign tours this summer. It is not a comprehensive list of all teams taking foreign tours in 2019. /
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West Virginia (traveled to Italy and Greece)

West Virginia head coach Mike Carey has taken several teams on foreign tours in his 18 seasons. “I always think it’s positive coming out of these foreign trips,” he told High Post Hoops, “and this was no exception.” His Mountaineers played two hard-fought games against the Dutch and Greek national teams, the latter in Greece’s 18,500-seat Olympic Hall. “It was great competition,” Carey said. “… There were opportunities to see who played hard and who didn’t [and] what we need to work on … I saw a lot of positive [things] on the floor.”

The teams kept score, but they did not track stats besides points and no box scores were provided after the games. That didn’t seem to be a problem for Carey, whose main focus was on assessing his players’ strengths and weaknesses, not on winning. With four newcomers on the trip, some of whom had joined the team only days before departing, the games offered the West Virginia coaching staff lots of new information about this year’s team. “It really makes me more focused now,” Carey said afterward. “I know exactly what areas we need to work on … because of those [pre-trip] practices and that trip.”

However, that doesn’t mean that Carey took the games any less seriously. He surprised himself by giving his team a stern talking-to at halftime of the game against Greece. “I was like [it was] midseason,” he chuckled. “I really didn’t want to do that, but I did. And to see who responded … I thought that was good to see.” Season ticket-holder Terry Sigley, who joined the Mountaineers on the trip, said that the team played tentatively in the first half but upped its aggressiveness and intensity in the second half, spurring a comeback that fell just short.

While Carey and Sigley both enjoyed watching the Mountaineers on the court, they identified different sights as the most memorable off the court. Carey cited the Colosseum and the Vatican as perennial favorites, whereas Sigley was partial to the Pantheon (she called it “just spectacular”) and St. Peter’s Basilica. Sigley said of the Basilica, “It should be one of the seven wonders of the world. It is ridiculous.” The team also toured Pompeii; traveled via ferry to the island of Capri; and saw the Panathenaic Stadium, which hosted the 1896 Olympics.

The more mundane parts of the trip also left a big impact on Sigley, such as a pizza-making class in which the players pretended to be on the Food Network and an excursion to a local mall that ended with everyone excitedly comparing their purchases. “By the end of the tour, everyone’s laughing and it’s just a big family,” she explained. “There’s no strangers; everybody’s positive and feeling a sense of connectedness with one another, kind of looking out for each other … So I think that’s one of the things that just really strikes me about this women’s team is how much of a sense of community there is and how welcoming they are.”

Carey also mentioned several times how his players would remember the trip forever and how formative it could be for them. “I think that the sightseeing and seeing things that they’ve heard about their whole lifetime, that’ll always stand out,” he reflected. “Maybe not as much now as when they get older, but I think it stands out. I think the people we met over there will stand out. The bus trips on the little roads … [that are] hard to get a motorcycle on … and just the people and the food and the culture. I think all that’ll stand out.”