General information about playing in Europe as a professional player
Europe offers 47 different countries. In the majority of those countries, there will be leagues in which both men and women can earn money playing the game of basketball. Europe is smaller than the USA. Each country has a different language. The newspapers are in this langue, TV and Radio as well.
Between the western European countries (Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Holland, England, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Luxembourg, Denmark) there are no borders. As an American, you don't need a visa to come over to Europe, but you do need a PASSPORT. To get a passport will take between 2-4 month, it depends on where you are. Normally you apply for it at the post office. All the big cities have a passport office. If you are willing to pay 100 -200 dollars extra, you can get the passport quicker. No team will pay for your passport and no team will wait for your passport. You can´t sign a contract without a passport in hand!
Some countries also ask for working visa and for long term staying permission. In some country for example Germany the club will get these things done for you after your arrived. Other countries like France have strict rules and the visa needs to be done in your home country at the French Embassy or Consulate.
Europe has its own currency. In 90% of the western European countries the currency is the EURO. One Euro is equivalent to about 1,13 American dollars. The exchange rate is different from bank to bank and from day to day.
A lot of languages are spoken in Europe but nearly everyone speaks English. In most countries, English is the first foreign language that kids learn at school, starting in grade 5.
The living standards in Western Europe are basically the same as in the United States. They have the same cars. For example, Mercedes, BMW and Volkswagen are German cars and Fiat is an Italian car. Most cars are stick shift. In England you drive on the left side of the road, England has it´s own currency although they are a member of the European Union.
The apartments are the same as in the USA with electricity, cold and hot running water, TV and telephone. There are computers everywhere; most of the cities offer Wifi in public places (internet cafes). And meanwhile it is standard to have internet flat rate at the apartment.
Everybody has a phone at home and 90% of the people have a cell phone. Compared to the USA, phone calls are very expensive. Watch out for that! In some countries you can use certain pre-numbers which make the phone calls cheaper, ask for them. Receiving phone calls is free in some countries, for example in Germany. But the cheapest is Skype.
TV is mostly in the local language. There aren't as many channels as in the USA. There is cable TV or satellite TV but to receive US programs, you would need a special satellite which is extremely expensive. CNN and MTV are available in every country.
To download films and music is forbidden in Europe. Do not use share programs or download any music or film. This is very expensive and you can be sure that a lawyer will make you pay if you do so. There are lawyers specialized only on these things. They charge you up to 2000 for one download. YouTube if fine, but NOTHING else
Food is different than in the USA. Of course you will find McDonalds, Burger King or Kentucky Fried Chicken but every country has their specialties. For example, Italy is the country of pizza and pasta. France has a lot of good food as well.
Yogurt, cereals and a lot of other products are the same as in the USA but have different names. The refrigerators are half as big as American refrigerators. European people don't put everything in the fridge. For the most part you won't find many juices or drinks that are refrigerated when you buy them, including milk.
Public transportation is good in most of the countries. If you would like to travel around, the best way would be to get a railway pass that allows you to travel all over Western Europe. This ticket is good for about three months for a fixed price.
Although things in a particular country may seem strange to you and are a little bit different than in America, you still have to respect other people's culture.
Basketball is different. The women's game is faster than in college. Most of the teams can only bring over one or two Americans (depends on the country and the league). In case they are allowed to bring over two Americans, they normally take a point-guard and a center. The center spot is always the first choice. As the American player the pressure will always be on you. Not all players on the team get paid. As far as women are concerned, there are few teams in all of Europe that have ten paid players. For the men teams, it depends on the league and the country. Very often, you will find young, local players on the team who do not get paid and who are still going to school. In Europe the kids start school later and they get out later as well. At the age of 24, they are still in college or university. Sometimes, depending on what they are studying, they won't finish before the age of 26. Especially with the girls, it happens that there are players on the first division teams who are only 17 years old. Women's basketball leagues don't have much money, but it is getting better. Women play with the small ball, the women´s ball.
Basketball in Europe is played at clubs. Schools and colleges do not provide any teams. Good basketball is offered by clubs which are supported by sponsorships. These sponsorships come from big companies or local firms. For most of the clubs it's very hard to get a good amount of money together. Women's basketball has problems all over Europe. Men's basketball is on TV in basically every country, which makes it easier for the division one teams.
Basketball is organized in divisions. It starts at division one and sometimes it goes down to division five.
A lot of teams in different divisions only practice 3 times a week in the afternoon and have only one game on the weekend.
The more advanced leagues for example: division one in Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Greece, Israel, Belgium, Poland and Russia practice twice daily. These leagues are totally professional. Because of this, there is a wide range in the amount of money you can make according to the level of the league.
What is important, is that you get a good start on a good team. You need to get your name out, even if you don't make as much money as you would like to in your first year.
The main thing that clubs expect, when a player comes to them, is that the player is in top playing shape and is prepared to do what it takes to maintain his or her professional level. One of the biggest problems American players have in Europe is the traveling call. To avoid being called for this during the game, always put the ball on the floor before you make your move.
European basketball is more finesse than power. In some cases, stronger players are at a disadvantage because the referee sees one player physically stronger than his opponent and the player will not receive as many calls in his favor. Trash talk for the most part is not allowed. Let your game speak for you. Teams will not tolerate any form of hard or soft drug use. In all of the top leagues, drug testing is mandatory.
Travel to Europe takes a toll on your body. It will take you at least one full week until your body gets adjusted to European time. One way to help you overcome this jetlag is to force yourself to stay up all night before you take your international flight. That way you will sleep on the plane and will be ready when you arrive.
Contracts signed through us will always be completed before you get on the plane. Most of the time when a player arrives, the apartment is not ready but the clubs will provide the player with a place to stay until his or her apartment is complete. Cars need to be picked up from the sponsors and may take at least a week. Registration and medical insurance need to be done as soon as you get here. You normally get paid on the first of every month. The standard is to get your first paycheck after the first month (not in advance) with your Club. You can send money over from Europe to any bank in the US. Credit cards are acceptable, as well as traveler checks. Always bring some extra money with you for emergencies.