This guide is meant to give helpful tools and things to think about before your international basketball tour. You will find the following information, passed on from basketball team to basketball team, helpful when planning and executing your basketball tour. The most important item is to remain consistent with is communication.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Introduction to International Basketball Travel
- The Role of a Group Leader
A. Involving Parents and Handling their Requests
B. What to Bring
C. Expectations and Questions
D. The Alcohol Question
- Money Tips
- Permission to Travel Forms and Releases
- Passports and Visas
- Flight Travel Suggestions
- Accommodations and Food
- Dealing with Locals you will Meet
A. Bus Drivers
B. Premier International Tours Representatives
C. Tournament Personnel
D. Opposing Coaches and Players
E. Clinic Trainers/Coaches
F. Owners of Accommodations
- If Problems Arise
1. INTRODUCTION TO INTERNATIONAL BASKETBALL TRAVEL (top)
When you decide to take your team abroad, Premier International Tours and its agents will help you make it an adventure everyone will remember for a long, long time.
Many countries are countries of contrasts. You'll see castles and modern cities; you'll hear foreign tongues, and English spoken with unaccustomed accents. You'll eat new foods, and pass familiar fast food franchises. Your athletes will find themselves part of the international basketball community but they'll see and learn things about the game they never dreamed existed.
It's difficult to speak of a single "European, South American or Asian experience". Each continent consists of many different people and cultures; even within a single country there are enough variations in geography, customs and lifestyles to fill a book.
Of course, this is not a book. It is simply a guide to help you as a group leader prepare your team for its international trip. We've tried to cover the situations group leaders face most frequently. We suggest you read it now, then refer to it often as you prepare your group for departure, and while you are abroad.
Leading a group is an important job but it's also one of the most rewarding experiences in basketball. Good luck and enjoy your trip!
2. THE ROLE OF A GROUP LEADER (top)
- A successful trip abroad begins at home. You have already taken a major step by involving Premier International Tours; we'll take care of the majority of the logistical work. But a few details must be handled by the group leader. You are the liaison between your group and Premier International Tours.
- Group members should notify you of any changes in individual plans, and you should then contact us immediately so that we can make the proper arrangements.
- A group leader does not have to be in charge of every little detail but does need to make sure everyone is doing his or her assigned job.
- It is a good idea to create a long-range calendar. When are payments due? When must passports and permission to travel forms be applied for? How often should the group get together prior to departure? A master calendar, distributed to everyone at the start of your planning, can prevent many last-minute glitches. Sometimes the group leader is also the coach. If that's the case, try to involve other parents in the planning process, so that the soccer portion of the trip does not overwhelm everything else.
- If the group leader is a non-basketball person, it's important for him or her to communicate directly and honestly with the coach. That way both will be on "the same wavelength" regarding the aims of the trip, the emphasis on basketball, and the expectations and demands placed on the players.
- HOWEVER, whether the group leader is a coach or not, it's important he or she involve the players from the start. After all, it's their trip. They should know from the outset exactly what's expected of them: how much they'll be training, how many hours they'll spend fundraising, and what other obligations they'll have as part of this wonderful International Basketball Travel opportunity.
- Also the role of the parents should be clearly understood well before departure. Are they traveling simply as tourists, or are they chaperons? Will they be required to supervise activities, help with equipment, deal with all the youngsters or only their own -- or are they simply to watch and cheer? Can they take side trips whenever they wish, or must they always remain with the group? Every group must answer those questions in its own way, as it sees fit -- but the group leader must raise them before the group departs, preferable in time for parents to think about, and clearly define, their own roles on the trip.
A. INVOLVING PARENTS AND HANDLING THEIR REQUESTS (top)
- A group leader should involve parents in the planning of an international basketball tour, right from the start. It's a big undertaking, and the more people working on it the better. Parents can provide good ideas, can ease the workload on all, and can help prepare everyone for a great experience. Parents can perform a great deal of logistical work but always, of course, under the supervision of the group leader.
- Suggested committees for parents include:
- A group of parents must sit down and work out a logical, realistic budget for the entire trip. Besides the obvious expenses of airfare, ground transportation, meals and lodging (all part of the Premier International Tours contract), plus gifts and uniforms, the budget should address cancellation penalties (individual and group), supplemental insurance policies, emergency expenses and the payment schedule.
- Fundraising Guide:
- Visit www.premierinternaitonaltours.com/basketball, and then options under “Fundraising Tools” to see how each basketball player could earn $1,000 or more toward their international tour.
- In Europe, Asia and South America, it is customary to exchange pennants before each game. It's helpful to carry easily packable souvenirs from your city, state or region to give to people you meet who are particularly helpful or friendly.
- Transportation: to and from the U.S. airport.
- An International Basketball Tour is a great opportunity to get some good "ink" and "air time" for your group in your local papers and TV stations.
- Uniforms and equipment:
- Some teams traveling internationally purchase warm-ups, travel bags, and travel shirts or jackets (these not only look nice, they help keep the group together). And don't forget balls and medical kits.
- This committee can help teach the participants (prior to departure) a few things about the countries they will be visiting on their basketball tour (geography, history, customs, language, etc.).
- Youngsters take their cues from adults. If coaches, parents and chaperons complain about minor items -- unfamiliar food, no ice, different electrical currents -- then players will also. A group leader should make certain all negative adult comments are made only to other adults, behind closed doors.
- That goes for major philosophical differences too. If one group of parents want to take everyone sightseeing one day, while another group feels the team needs to practice, solve those differences on your own, apart from the players. (A compromise is always best: an early practice, followed by a few hours of touring.)
- As situations arise, the group leader should deal with them honestly and directly . A discussion before you go should cover many issues, but some may not arise until you are actually overseas -- for example, a parent wants to have dinner with one player and a friend while the rest of the team eats in a dormitory dining room. In that case, the group leader should make a decision after hearing all sides -- in private.
- It cannot be emphasized enough that good relations between the group leader and other adults begin before you depart, with a clear discussion of rules, roles and expectations.
B. WHAT TO BRING (top)
Here is a basic checklist of things to bring. You may want to add or delete items, depending on your group's needs and desires:
- Traveler's checks
- Sneakers and other shoes
- Pocket money (US $100.00 - US $150.00 per week)
- Athletic tape
- Camera and film / notebook and pen
- Dark and Light uniform set
- Alarm clock
- Extra jerseys and t-shirts for trading
- Toothpaste and toothbrush
- Shampoo and soap
- Practice shorts and t-shirts
- Dress slacks and shirt
- Everyday clothes, including shorts, jeans and shirts
- Plastic bags (for wet or dirty clothes)
- Rain gear
- Warm jacket
- Small detergent packs
- Room/school freshener
- Playing cards
- Prescriptions and medications, including glasses/contact lens
- Foldable travel bag (to be used as an extra bag)
- Clothesline (for drying clothes)
Group leaders should ensure these items are together for the basketball tour:
- Medical kit
- Gifts for hosts and other helpful people
- Airline tickets
- List of passport numbers (with a photocopy of the photograph page)
- Emergency phone numbers (in the destination and in North America)
- Permission to travel and medical forms
- Extra "group" money
NOTE: frequent travelers follow a simple rule, “If you don't need it, don't bring it!”
C. EXPECTATIONS AND QUESTIONS (top)
- Youths do not have the same experience and knowledge of adults. They often approach an International Basketball Tour from a different perspective than older travelers do. Some of their preconceptions, expectations and questions may surprise us, or seem trivial -- but the following queries and statements are voiced often by American boys and girls.
- "I'll lose touch with everyone"
- Give your youngsters cards with emergency information on how to call home. A calling card number is a great idea. Besides nowadays in almost every city you can find internet cafés. On the other hand, don't burden them with unrealistic commands, such as "Be sure to call as soon as you get there." Encourage players to travel with open minds, free from commitments to friends and relatives at home, free to discover things on their own.
- "What about the language barrier?"
- Reassure your players that many International people are familiar with the English language. Your players will not starve or be stranded. However, some youngsters think that everyone abroad speaks perfect English. They don't! Encourage each player to learn such simple things as numbers, "Good morning", "Thank you" and (of course!) "Where is the bathroom?" Don't worry about sounding silly; attempting a conversation in the listener's native tongue is more important than sounding perfect. All over the world, people appreciate visitors who try to speak their language.
- "I won't like the food."
- Some foods will be very familiar; some will be similar to what they're used to, but prepared differently; other food will be unfamiliar. No American youngster has ever not eaten at all on a Premier Internaational Tours trip -- in fact, many have had their taste buds opened to new, exciting foods. But prepare your youngsters for certain differences. In many of or International Basketball Travel destinations, breakfasts are smaller than in the U.S. (in many places it consists of sliced meats and cheese, yogurt and fruit). Lunches are bigger, and dinners lighter. They will find familiar fast-food restaurants -- but the group leader who steers his group away from the familiar as much as possible is doing them a great service.
- "Don't drink the water."
- Occasionally, a youngster's digestive system will react to new water. Bottled water - with bubbles and without - is readily available too. Ice, however, is less available in most places than Americans are used to. Drinks are often served at room temperature.
- "There's no drinking age."
- You should inform your players that every country (and many restaurants and cafes) has its own regulations concerning the sale of alcohol. In addition, you as a group leader should discuss and develop "Codes of Conduct" prior to departure. These codes can cover alcohol, how much freedom each player will have (for example, "No player may go off by himself; always travel in pairs") and lights out -- all of which relate, in some way, to the issue of alcohol.
D. THE ALCOHOL QUESTION (top)
One of the most vexing problems for group leaders involves alcohol. Europeans and South Americans hold different attitudes about alcohol than many Americans. In some countries there are no rules prohibiting youngsters from drinking, while in other nations the legal age is lower than in the U.S. You will find that youngsters are easily served abroad in bars and restaurants; some tournaments even have beer tents open to players.
Your alcohol policy depends, of course, on your particular group's age, makeup and community standards. This policy should be decided upon in advance by you as group leader, in consultation with the other adults, and should be communicated clearly to all group members -- including parents not accompanying the team -- prior to your departure from the States.
Bear in mind, however, that alcohol is a "big deal" to many American youngsters, and it’s ease of availability will be attractive to them. Be prepared for "testing" behavior; it is a rare team on which the issue never arises, in one form or another. The groups that have the least trouble with it are the ones that have thought it through beforehand.
3. MONEY TIPS (top)
- Always carry traveler's checks, or ATM cards, not cash. Cash cannot be replaced if lost or stolen; also, banks and money-changing agencies often pay better exchange rates for traveler's checks than for cash. All major brands of checks are accepted abroad, but be sure to get a list of International phone numbers (particular to the basketball travel destination visiting) to call in the event of loss. Of course, you should carry small amounts of cash, for small purchases.
- Tourist attractions are referred to in the tournament or excursion information sheets. The time available during tournaments to visit attractions will depend on the match schedule and on the results of your team(s). Admission fees for sights are usually not included. We advise you to collect at the beginning of the tour i.e. $ 75.00 per person to pay for these admission fees (and/or tips for bus drivers and guides). This will save you a lot of time collecting fees at the last minute.
- Charge cards, such as Visa, Master Card and American Express, are widely accepted abroad at stores, hotels and restaurants (though not at most discount stores). The exchange rates paid by the charge card companies are quite competitive, there are no exchange transaction fees, and cash advances can be readily obtained.
- Don't exchange U.S. or Canadian dollars for foreign currency before leaving the U.S. or Canada. American and Canadian banks pay lower exchange rates (compared with those abroad), and will add additional service charges. Airport banks in Europe pay excellent rates, and will usually be open when your flight lands.
- Since in most countries your are charged a transaction fee each time you exchange money, the best rule of thumb is to limit your number of transactions.
- Your goal should be to cover your expenses without running out of money, and without having much leftover foreign currency. (Don't forget, many exchange agencies will not convert coins.)
- ATM’s are readily available in most of our International Basketball Travel destinations and are a good source to get cash
- Protect your valuables! A money belt or neck pouch is a good idea, especially for novice travelers like youngsters. But no matter what type of bag your players use, they should never wear it out in plain sight.
4. PERMISSION TO TRAVEL FORMS AND RELEASES (top)
Mionors traveling without a parent/legal guardian should have a release form for permission to travel abroad without a parent/legal guardian. Please contact us to get these forms so you can have your players and their paretns/legal guardian(s) fill out these forms.
5. PASSPORTS AND VISAS (top)
- VERY IMPORTANT: Most countries now require travelers to have a passport that is valid more than 90 days after your trip return date. If your passport expires within 90 days of your trip return date you should apply for a new one ASAP.
- For passport information and procedures to apply for a passport please visit:
- US Passport website: http://travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html
- Everyone traveling in your group must have a valid passport from their country of citizenship. United States passport applications are available at U.S. clerical courts and local passport offices. Application for a passport must be done in person. The following documents are necessary:
- Evidence of citizenship by certified copy of the applicant's birth or naturalization certificate. Certified copies of birth certificates are available through offices in the capital of the state of birth (exact addresses are available at all passport application sites).
- Current identification including physical description or photograph and signature, such as a driver's license or student identification card.
- Two recent 2x2 inch identical color photographs, full face on a plain background. The applicant must be in street clothes, without dark glasses.
- A personal check, money order or certified check (payable to "Passport Office") in the amount of approx. $85 for a minor (passport valid for 5 years) or approx. $100 for an adult (passport valid for 10 years). Please check the website or your local Passport Office for the most up to date fees.
- The passport will be mailed to the applicant. Processing of the application takes a minimum of four to six weeks; spring is a particularly busy time. Therefore, it is important to apply as soon as possible, especially if the applicant needs to obtain a certified copy of the birth certificate.
6. FLIGHT TRAVEL SUGGESTIONS (top)
- All the Overseas Airlines strongly advise that all groups departing Internationally from North America arrive at the airport at least three hours before departure time.
- Your group will not have pre-assigned seats for your flight to Europe or South America. This is why it is important for your group to arrive early at the airport and check-in together.
- When you arrive together you will have your tickets arranged by the Airlines Ticket reservation employee. This will give your group a greater chance of everyone being seated together or at least very close in groups in the plane.
- If you have a special request, for example that a mother and daughter wants to sit together make this known at the reservation desk when checking in. In most cases they will honor all requests when possible.
- It is very important that the bags that are going under the plane will be well marked with:
City State zip or telephone number
- A special mark of your own so that you will be able to recognize you own bag or suitcase right away.
- Remove any carry straps from the bags and place them inside the bags to prevent them from being caught on the many conveyor belts throughout the airports.
- All carry on bags must meet the special requirements for bags; they cannot exceed 46 total inches. This can be figured by measuring the bags height, width and length of the bag. This total cannot exceed 46 inches. If the bag is over these requirements it is possible that the airline will not allow it to be carried onto the plane. Also be sure to follow TSA’s 3-1-1 for carry-ons = 3.4 ounce (100ml) bottle or less (by volume) ; 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag; 1 bag per passenger placed in screening bin.
- Premier International Tours advises that each player should carry on the following items:
- Player’s uniforms
- Player’s sport shoes
- Camera (and film if necessary)
- MP3 Player/Discman or personal music listening equipment
- Snacks (most shops abroad are not open during the evenings)
- Please understand that these are suggestions and by no means do we state they are mandatory. These are just points that over the years we have found to be helpful to groups traveling on an International Basketbal lTour.
Fighting Jet Lag
- Traveling through time zones affects individuals both physically and mentally, and adapting well can make the difference between an easy start to a trip and a difficult one.
- You can help fight jet lag by:
- Setting your watch to your destination's time zone as soon as you board the plane.
- Increasing fluid intake. Humidity in jet cabins is low, so prevent dehydration by drinking lots of fluids. Water and fruit juices are best; avoid alcohol, soda, coffee and tea.
- Exercising on the plane. Mild isometric exercises can relieve stiffness and boredom, and alleviate fatigue.
- Adjusting your sleeping patterns. If you will arrive in the morning, sleep as much as possible on the plane. If you are arriving in the evening, avoid napping.
7. ACCOMMODATIONS AND FOOD (top)
- You will no doubt find a variety of accommodations abroad. But wherever you stay, remember that you are guests; Foreign accommodations may vary slightly from similar accommodations in North America. The key to enjoyment is flexibility.
- Youth hostels:
- A youth hostel is not a hotel or sports center. Often, participants will be accommodated in more bedded rooms with bunk beds. Guests are expected to perform certain chores (for example, making beds and cleaning dormitories) by themselves. Guests are also expected to clear tables and pack their own lunches. Be certain to observe closing time rules.
- Sport center:
- A sport center, as mentioned in the previous section, is a unique experience. Since your group will undoubtedly share the facility with other teams, possibly including other sports, you should welcome the chance to get to know other types of athletes from different countries. But be sensitive to their needs, including bedtimes.
- Some hotels abroad do not have individual bathrooms; they also may lack amenities many Americans are used to, such as air conditioning or ice machines. Seasoned travelers know how to get the most out of a trip by "going with the flow," and adapting to local customs and ways. Enjoy your hotel stay, and impress upon your athletes that they should learn to appreciate, rather than complain about any differences they notice.
- Although most food will be familiar to North Americans, some may be prepared differently. You may be surprised to find that European and South American breakfasts are "light"; lunches are often larger than in the U.S. and Canada, and dinner portions may be somewhat smaller. Water is not served routinely with meals, but may be available upon request. Ice is rare; soft drinks are often served at room temperature. Experience has shown that travelers who are adventurous with food have the best meals. Encourage your youngsters to try different dishes -- and set a good example by doing so yourself.
- Athletes who are "picky" eaters may be encouraged to buy food themselves, at local stores. This helps them see another side of the basketball travel destination you are visiting, while avoiding the trap of trying to find familiar fast food outlets all over the continent.
8. DEALING WITH LOCALS YOU WILL MEET (top)
You will meet many wonderful people on your international basketball tour, and your experiences with them will make for a memorable stay. Some of those people will be:
A. BUS DRIVERS (top)
- Premier International Tours uses motor coaches that are clean and comfortable. Bus drivers take a high degree of pride in their buses, as well as in the group they are transporting. Please reciprocate, by helping your driver keep his bus clean.
- Drivers are bound by regulations governing driving hours. This means, for example, that a 45-minute break must be taken every three hours.
- There are also limitations with regards to the use of the coach for local transport, especially on the transfer days (one destination to the other destination). Generally speaking, a driver can only work for a maximum of eight hours a day. Working hours commence when the coach is first driven in the morning irrespective of the amount of driving which is done afterwards. In general a driver will not be allowed to drive on the day before and after a journey through the night.
- A good relationship between you and your driver can add immeasurably to the success of your group's tour. Please help your players and chaperons understand that your bus driver is a professional, who deserves the utmost respect. If your relationship with your bus driver has been pleasant, it is fine to show your appreciation with a small tip (approximately $5 per person per week). If you are dissatisfied with your driver, please let us know.
- You can only bring one suite case per person and a bag which fits underneath your seat. This because of the limited space to store your luggage.
B. PREMIER INTERNATIONAL TOURS REPRESENTATIVES (top)
- Premier International Tours representatives will assist you throughout your stay, at each destination. At most tournaments there will be a Premier International Tours or Euro-Sportring information center, where a local Premier International tours or Euro-Sportring representative and assistants will provide information and render aid.
- While these multi-lingual representatives have plenty of experience dealing with basketball groups, do not be upset or angry if they do not attempt to solve requests or problems in an "American way". Sometimes they might misunderstand the nature of your request, or misinterpret a nuance; at other times a solution that might seem natural in the U.S. or Canada is unheard of, or impossible to achieve abroad. Part of the success of your trip will come from your ability as a group leader to communicate clearly and honestly with Premier International Tours representatives -- and to relay those communications back quickly and directly to your group members.
C. TOURNAMENT PERSONNEL (top)
- You may find tournament personnel who speak limited English. Their event, after all, involves a number of different nationalities, and Americans are simply one of many.
- Look on this not as an obstacle, but as a challenge. Communicate slowly and carefully, keeping in mind that International basketball teams and tournaments may be a bit different from the ones you are used to.
D. OPPOSING COACHES AND PLAYERS (top)
- Basketball is a universal language, so even if you cannot use words to communicate with opposing coaches and players, you can use your sport to build bridges across the ocean.
- Europeans and South Americans are very interested in American and Canadian basketball, yet may hold misconceptions about the level of play. Therefore you and your players should be aware that you are representing "United States or Canada Basketball"; they will judge the entire country on how well or poorly you play, perform and act.
- You can go a long way toward presenting a positive image of North American basketball by realizing that International basketball coaches do very little coaching from the sidelines. They are frequently puzzled by Americans who pace up and down, shouting instructions. The role of a youth coach is less "important" abroad than in the U.S. or Canada, and International coaches often give their players a great deal of leeway on the court.
E. OWNERS OF ACCMMODATIONS (top)
- Many of the hotel or hostel accommodations Premier International Tours uses are smaller, family-owned accommodations and therefore many times your group will come in contact with the owners of these accommodations. Your group should be respectful of the fact that these are the owners of the accommodations who care greatly about their "home" and they do not tolerate mis-behavior. If your group encounters a problem with any of these people your group should address this with the Premier International Tours representative at the destination.
10. IF PROBLEMS ARISE (top)
- Premier International Tours stands ready to help you whenever a minor snag -- or an occasional larger glitch -- occurs. The key to success is how creative, adaptable and unflappable you as a group leader, and your fellow chaperons, can be in the face of unforeseen circumstances.
- You, as group leader, should not be the only person with lists. Copies of everything (itinerary, contact names, etc.) should be distributed among all the adults.
- You should carry a contingency fund of $ 75.00 - $ 100.00 per person. This can be used for unexpected expenses -- and if there's money left over at the end, you can throw a great "free" dinner for everyone.
- Never let a player keep his/her ticket or passport any longer than necessary. In hotels, place them in a safe deposit box. Keep photocopies of all passports. If you lose a passport, contact the nearest U.S. consulate or embassy, where you can obtain a 90-day replacement within 24 hours.
Please if you have further questions or need more insight then contact your Premier International Basketball Tour agent.