Sam Middleborn: First Pro Season Abroad? Top 5 things to consider.

(photo credit: @sammborn instagram)

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Samantha Middleborn
Sam Abroad
Features on our blog

To go off of my first post, when you go to live abroad playing sports, there are certain ideals you should consider for the desired way of life you want to live. My first season abroad taught me most of what I wanted out of my next season. The best way to learn what you want is through trial and error. Sometimes it takes not having certain aspects you’re used to to realize that those small details are very important to you. But hopefully this post will help other athletes get insight and a jump start on the season they’re preparing to commit 4 or 10 months to.

  1. – LONGEVITY. Before you go looking into your dream destination, consider the length of time you’re committing yourself to versus the length of time you’re willing to be away from home. Some countries have very short seasons, lasting around 4 months. While other countries have seasons that could last well up to 10 months. How long are you willing to be away from the comforts of home and be put into a new culture? While those athletes are doing 4 month seasons, others spend almost a year away, with only 3-4 months back home until they’re off again. Many people don’t know the duration they can handle being away from home until they’re put in the situation. But it’s definitely something to consider. I signed my Swiss contract for 8 months, which is long but not too long. It leaves me just enough time over summer to see family and friends before I set off to the next place.

  2. – DESTINATION. Some athletes sign their contracts strictly based on the country they’ll be living in. I’ve heard girls say “I don’t care if I’m never paid, as long as I get to live on the islands of Greece.” To each their own. But beware of the facade that some countries may have, especially if you have yet to travel much of the world. Because, if you’re not directly in the metropolitan of the country you’re living in, then chances are that you’re in a much smaller town that is nothing like the idea of the city you thought you’d be living in, e.g. my first season in France. You may sign your contract to live in Greece and end up nowhere near Athens or the beautiful blue waters you had anticipated. Is weather also and important thing for you? Because in Europe it’s  about 97% guaranteed that you’re going to have snow and if you’re from the West Coast like I am, then be sure you can deal with the possibility of frost biting weather. Some countries are WAY worse then others in that aspect, like Finland for example. Google and research, as best you can, the town and club you have been offered to play for. Find any information you can use to help you decide on whether or not it’s somewhere you want to live for the duration of your contract. For me, Switzerland is seriously gorgeous! We had hardly any snowfall last winter, and the sun was shining most of the year. Plus, the people are nice and the town is very welcoming!

  3. – THE TEAM. Again, google the team. See who has played for them or possible players they have recruited for the new season you may potentially sign for. Are there other American girls? And if not, can you deal with taking on the abroad task solo? Or can you find Facebook profiles that can tell you anything about the girls? No, this isn’t stalking, it’s simply helpful studying to determine if your new roommate is tolerable. Trust me, it matters! Maybe even Facebook message girls who have previously played there to get info on the team. Another important one is if the team has a good record. You have to know if you’re willing to play for a team that may be 3rd of 4th in the league and if you want to help push them  to the top this season. When you play overseas, the top 5 teams change places all the time. Its’ so different compared to collegiate sports where you build an amazing starting line up for 4 years. Abroad leagues and teams change yearly. Most players commit to a year or two and then go somewhere else, making the levels of different teams constantly shift. Which is why knowing your new team can be important! A huge reason I signed my contract here for a second season is because I knew I would be playing with people I genuinely like and a club that I enjoy representing!

  4. – SALARY. While other athletes play for destinations, some play for salary alone. Make sure that the pay you are being offered is the pay that you want. Granted, the first year you may not be making hundreds of thousands. It’s not impossible, but it’s also not common. Decide if you’re willing to have a little less your first go-around, get some experience and see if it’s for you. Or chase the big bucks and really sell yourself! Most girls that get the big bucks their first year are star D1 athletes. Even then, it’s not always a sure thing. I’ve seen some great athletes get barely 1,000 euros a month. Not all countries have the money to give you what you want, and a lot of countries make promises they can’t keep. Unfortunately, a lot of the countries that bounce those checks are the same ones with the best scenery, like Greece, Italy, and South America. While some clubs will pay you on time every month, others may pay you every couple of months, or not until you return home for summer. It could be a gamble and also a good thing to ask from the club/team before sigining. Talk to friends or

  5.  -TRAINING. In college, most sports have a hell week or weeks. Where you train twice a day and you can’t wait for it to be over. Well, if you’re playing in the top league abroad, you’re entire season will be hell season. Most 1st league teams will train twice a day, 5 or 6 days a week. However, if you’re going specifically for experience and travel and want to explore than I suggest going into a slightly lower league where teams train once a day maybe 4 days a week, giving you tons of travel time. Decide if going abroad is a job or a chance to explore. For example, here in my Swiss league we train twice a day, switching between two practices a day or weight lifting and one practice per day. It’s not easy your first time, it is A LOT and can be mentally and physically draining. But, if you are the player who wants to become better and move up in league then it’s necessary. So far this year we’ve had a tournament every weekend of preseason and have one game a week in the regular season. We also play in an international league and play for the Swiss Cup which is separate from our normal league. So sometimes we play 3 games in one week. We normally have the day after a game free, and potentially one morning free during a scheduled training day. Like I said, Its a lot for sure, but for me it’s worth it and puts me in a great place athletically to help open doors for the future.

     When you decide to play abroad, it’s important to know the reason you are going. Because if you’re going for the experience  and time to travel the world,then save up and have the time of your life! But if you are going to get paid and improve your skill, then you must remember that it is a J.O.B. There is no slacking off, hardly any sick days, no excuses for missing practice, and not a lot of free time to sight see. It is 100% dedication and it will be hard, and draining, and you’ll hate it. But in the end, you will have improved so much and become the athlete you want to be. With those tough days, come even more rewarding days. Know what you want and chase your dream! You are young and have the opportunity of a life time. Make the most of it, and don’t take it for granted!

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Samantha Middleborn
Sam Abroad
Features on our blog

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