Bradley women’s basketball’s 12 players, six coaches, trainer, academic advisor and family members flew across the Atlantic Ocean and found themselves in Portugal on Aug. 4. For the next eight days they experienced a unique team-bonding opportunity through its culture and played three teams.
It was the first international trip for women’s basketball since the summer of 2004. The NCAA allows programs to travel abroad every four years. When head coach Andrea Gorski took the job in April 2016, she told then Director of Athletics Chris Reynolds international travel was the most important thing she wanted to share with her student athletes.
“It was definitely due and only two players had passports prior,” Gorski said. “It really is a big advantage when you can spend that time together [before the season officially starts].”
Gorski said Sports Tours International guided them towards Portugal, where the extracurricular activities are affordable.
“We went on a bike tour around Porto which was a lot of fun, went surfing, went sailing and had a team building competition on the beach which was really unique,” Gorski said.
Senior Chelsea Brackmann’s favorite part? Surfing. Best surfer according to freshman Mahri Petree? Brackmann.
Petree also said the trip opened her eyes beyond just the salt water stings.
“I just went and experienced a whole different way of living,” Petree said. “We got to know the little things about each other. I don’t really want to live in America anymore.”
It was the simple things that stood out to Petree on and off the court. Portugal exposed her to a less complicated way of life.
“People have downtime to enjoy life and see things,” Petree said. “They take their time with food and have a little more appreciation for the simple things over there.”
The first team Bradley took on, Seleção ABP of the Porto Basketball Association, played one of the purest forms of basketball, according to Petree.
“They all used their heads and were smart,” Petree said. “They didn’t overexert themselves unless they were hustling. They were diving on the floor and going for rebounds. They played tough and smart which is like the best kind of player you can ask for.”
For Gorski, the trip proved that the team needs to play with more purpose.
“That sense of urgency is what we have been focusing on now. [Seleção ABP] was very smart if you made a mistake they made you pay,” Gorski said.
Bradley beat all three programs they competed against, which allowed the coaching staff to play athletes at different positions and try different things out.
Gorski said playing in real games against other teams allowed the entire team to have a better grasp on where they stand.
“[Playing exhibition games lets] you get a quick look and what our strengths are but more importantly what our weaknesses are,” Gorski said. “We don’t have to guess and have a good feel on what our difficenties are.”
She also said the trip fostered a more relaxed atmosphere. Usually on team trips all attention is focused towards the next game the entire time.
“It’s nice for the coaches just to be with the team, not just focused on the next opponent and scrambling to get scouting reports done,” Gorski said. “Just seeing each other in a different light allows you to really get to know someone. It gave the players a good culture experience and something different than America.”
Gorski said that some of her players hope to play abroad following their Bradley career and thought the trip gave players a good grasp on what playing overseas means.
“It showed how far that plane trip is and how disconnected you are from your family in [America],” Gorski said. “[It also] gave them a whole new perspective and just to know the world is their playground.
Although Brackmann hasn’t officially been named captain, the Seleção ABP box score listed a “C” next to her name. She laughed it off.
“Maybe the ‘C’ stands for Chelsea,” Brackmann said. “[The trip] was a good foundation for the year to start it off right.”
Gorski believes that international travel will help young adults develop into great world citizens.
“It makes them more hungry to do well in school, be passionate about their career so they can do well and have these types of opportunities, it puts a little carrot out there for them because they see what options they have if they continue and graduate the sky’s the limit. They knew this was a trip of a lifetime and it was good to see how grateful they were.”