This past month has been one of the most hectic and exciting that I have had in recent times. I have sorted in a new direction in my life, made some good friends and caught up with some others I hadn't seen in a while.
I recently finished with work, and applied to go to uni. When I was in upper school I had my eyes set on being a High School Sports Teacher, mostly because of my love of sport and figured why not get paid to be in an industry I enjoy. Unfortunately after high school I needed a job, and through a friend I got into the glass industry which then turned into an apprenticeship. 5 years of early morning, back breaking work is over.
To gain entry to uni I had to sit a STAT test, or mature aged entry test. Or alternatively I had to have a Cert. 4 in a tertiary course. Unfortunately my apprenticeship only gave me a Cert. 3. So I sat the STAT test early on a Saturday morning, and I was well prepared as I had sat a prep course earlier that week so that i gave myself as much chance for success as possible. The course contained 1 part multi choice of 70 questions and 1 part essay writing where you had to write 2 essays in 1 hour. After 4 hours of brain exhausting testing I emerged from testing room feeling confident in parts of the test but unsure of other parts.
Straight after the test I headed up to Herb Graham to watch my favourite womens team play, the Western Stars. They had 4 games that weekend and I was only able to catch two of them. I was able to see the Grand Final rematch of Hills Hornets v Western Stars, where our girls reigned victorious. It is a great achievement for the girls as Hills are packed with players, and the Stars being a little undermanned pulled through with a great win in what was a close game. I was also able to watch the Stars take on the Dandenong Rangers, Stars had an easy win and wrapped up what turned out to be a great weekend. I am also lucky enough to travel with the Stars on their next road trip to Dandenong, I am really looking forward to it as I will be able to get more game experience and learn more from Australian Gliders Coach John T. My only hope is that the girls look after me.....
Later that night I went to play what turned out to be my last State League game, I'm not sure how long or if at all I will ever pull the shoes back on, as I am quite happy doing what I am doing now with the Perth Wheelcats.
Before I go on with my extensive schpeil on the Perth Wheelcats, I will quickly get back on track with my uni endeavours. So I sat the test and not sure how I felt about the result, which we would find out in 5 weeks time, around the same time uni applications were due. So I thought about it for a couple of days and applied for an 8 weeks course at the Institute of Fitness to get a Cert 4. in fitness. This would get me into uni, only down turn was that it was a little expensive and once joined up to the course could not pull out. So once the fees were payed and I was set to go, I recieved a letter from uni conratulating me on my acceptance to uni. So now I am unneccisarily sitting a course to become a Personal Trainer, as I got into uni by passing the STAT test. However I will use the qualification to work whilst I am at uni. I start the Personal Trainer course at the start of June and then begin uni at the start of August.
I have just recently returned from Dandenong where I assisted the Perth Wheelcats on their opening campaign for season 2009. It is a big year for the Cats as they chase down the record breaking 4 consecutive NWBL title. The Cats got off to a great season start by winning their first 2 games against the Dandenong Rangers. We beat the Rangers in game 1 91-72 in what was a well fought out game, Justin E had 22 points and Shaun N had 28, but what was impressive was the combined low pointer points of 18 between our new British Import Abdi J and female sensation Clare B. Game 2 saw the Cats win 99-68, where Shaun N ended up with a cool 47 points and Justin E had an impressive triple double. An impressive effort from all players, going all out in the final game of the weekend to stamp our authority early in the season. It was a great trip and a great experience, except for the annoying passenger behind me on the return trip *cough* Clare *cough*. Jokes....
The Cats play their first home game against the Wollongong Roller Hawks at Herb Graham on the 6th of June at 7pm. It will be a well awaited Grand Final rematch and what will turn out to be a great game. Hopefully I will see you at the Cage then..
Friday, April 10, 2009
Hello everybody, I know you have all been wondering "Where the bloody hell did Lee go?"... Truth is that I have been flat out busy and no real time to sit down and blog to my hearts content, and with this perfectly placed holiday I have found it a good opportunity to kick back and go for it. The past few months have had some real ups and equal downs. I will keep things general as I don't want to go too deep but I'm sure I will go deep into the parts that are important.
First of all I will get the downs out the way so we can finish on a good note. This past Tuesday marks the 6th week that my Dad, Carl, has been in hospital. Dad suffers from MS which in laymens term affects his muscle functions and can keep him relatively weak. There is no cure. Dad was diagnosed in 2001, but like a man continued to work his 12 hour a day job to support the family. Until 2003 when he was "let go" because he couldn't fulfill his duties. He reapplied for a supervisors role where he could use his knowledge of the trade rather than do anything physical. They rejected the application and posted on the lunch room wall that he had retired. Retired at 44? No one believed that and everyone new the truth.
Right now talking about this saddens me, but Dad and his life is something that I feel should be shared as not many people actually get to see Carl all to often. Dad was born in England in 59' and worked as a maintenance fitter for all of his working life. He would tell stories of lifting massive equipment and tools and how used to work long hours and walk miles to school and work, I'm sure you have all heard similar stories from your parents. Lucky for me, he met his beautiful wife Jane and after 4 kids the family is still going strong, despite the fall backs. But as Carl always said, "Always play the cards your dealt". Dad played rugby for Brentwood Rugby Club where he had a lot of friends, he was known as the "diplomat", as if there was ever a problem on field they would send him in. But his name was opposite in how he acted. I was lucky enough to watch Dad play, I don't remember but I was still there. I was also lucky enough to run around and play with my Dad as a youngster, and I feel more for my younger brothers at this point as they have never experienced that. I will leave this part of the blog at that, but Carl is on the mend and will hopefully be out soon.
On a higher note, I am lucky enough to be the Perth Wheelcats Assistant Coach this year. Which is WA's Wheelchair Basketball team, and not only do I get to work under the best coach in the business, Ben E, I get to work with some pretty awesome athletes that have achieved a lot. Every single person involved in the team/squad is a great person off the court and have a lot of experiences to share, and all of them are hard workers on the court (even if they do need a bit of a "push" to get them going). Coach Ben E recently took a trip over East for a training camp and some other things, which opened up the door for me to take over the reigns for 2 weeks. I was really excited at this new challenge and thought i did a resonably decent job. The journey as a wheelchair basketball coach has only just started and doors will open in the future and i plan to take every opportunity I can.
This year I made the decision to play no basketball what so ever. But if anyone knows me, they would know that this is impossible. I played in a Summer carnival called "Cockburn Carnival" with the U/23 age group. Our last game was to be against Cockburn late Sunday afternoon. Willetton v Cockburn, Eagles v Dockers, Australia v England etc. Basically this is always a game that must be won by either team at all cost. I went into this game thinking it would be my last outing for the Tigers, but to make this game that little more special I was playing with Nick R and against childhood rival Sheldon M. The game was awesome, I had 32 and we evetually drew the game after Nick R hit a three on the buzzer from my assist. As I took my shoes off at the end of the game and had masses of people coming up to me saying great game, I thought "How can this be it?". Well later that week I was at U/23 training and ready to play the year. But word must of got out that I was back and playing, and the next week SBL Coach Simon P asked me back to run with the senior squad. This is something I secretly hungered for and could not turn down. My first game back and we won, which was the teams first win for the season, although I take absolutley no credit at all as the boys deserved the win. I'm struggling to find form at the moment but I will pull through, I always do. It is also an honour to be wearing my childhood idol and recently retired Tiger's number 15, which belonged to the great Greg Regan.
Anyway, enough for now. I hope everyone has a great Easter and drives safetly.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Sorry all for the big time gap between the posts but believe me when i say this final installment of the Japanese epic adventure is well worth the wait. As you read through all parts of this journey you are probably thinking "what did the guys actually go to Japan for?". Allow me to explain that any shenanigans that occurred are purely unmotivated and unplanned, well most of them, and as anybody would know on going on a sporting tour that there is a fair bit of down time between the basketball, resting and eating. So we kept ourselves occupied and sane by entertaining ourselves. The usual suspects that include yours truly were the main culprits, but with some unlikely guests making some cameo appearances made this a joyous occasion. If i offend anyone with this piece, i apologize in advance, but i will try not to (quote) "sully" anyone's name on the internet for all to see (unquote), in the following. (Quote) Seriously!!! (Unquote).
First things first, as i believe i should explain the red ninja that keeps appearing in all my photos. I am not associates with this dangerous character but had the pleasure of watching some of his fine work. One night after bumping into a ninja gang at the hotel, all of who were wearing multicoloured mask (the red ninja being the most dangerous), i was forced too laugh at their ridiculous poses in the hall way. Now one thing you must know about ninjas is that if you can see them they aren't a real ninja, however these ones were, (and with my unique "spidey-sense" that i have developed after a school science experiment trip), i could tell that they were real ninjas and i was able to take a few snaps and post them on facebook.
Soon after i was feeling peckish so i decided to go on my nightly jaunt to the mall to collect some coke and pocky supplies. I was once again confronted by the red ninja and his green sidekick. I couldn't believe the shopping center security allowed the ninjas to roam free in the mall with their masks on. I thought they were in trouble for sure. I snuck up on the awesome red ninja while he was opening a door for some old people and heard him utter the phrase "ar-ri-ga-to for coming", but he said it in an Aussie accent, and with the obvious bi-lingual talents i knew this ninja was no ninja to mess with. I also overheard him explaining to people how he was a professional ninja and he served in Vietnam. Fears confirmed, this ninja was not one to mess with.
Suspicions were far from over as i followed the red and green ninja back to the hotel, i actually managed to get a video of what i am about to explain. You may remember me earlier telling you about the dancers in front of the windows, well here is the ending to that story. As i used my bat skills that i learnt while i was in Gotham City, i managed to slip my super spy camera to a member of the public to take a video of this silky smooth ninja in action. The red and green ninja looked like they were going to practice their moves in front of the window. What a treat, it was absolutely fantastic to see them in full flight. The green ninja let off an ancient ninja warrior dance, one so rare i had only ever seen up in a trip to Geraldton.
The red ninja was obviously a defined dancer and well trained in martial arts as he started with a move that i had only read in books, it resembled the running man, and the red ninja had mastered it. Next he intrigued us with the ancient one legged stalk dance, and then the grand finale, we were spectacled by the finishing move which looked bio mechanical. I can only describe it to you as the robot. They pulled it off well and definitely an experience that will never be forgotten. The red ninja was toned, charismatic and had a certain charm that reminded me of someone close to me. I didn't see the ninjas for the duration of the trip, as i am sure they had warrior duties to tend to. But if you know of where they can be found, get an autograph and e-bay it.
The last night of the trip as in any other, always brings the best stories to the table. The night started with a couple of speeches from the staff explaining the giant learning curve that we had just experienced during the week. It was also a sad time as we presented Hiroshi with a signed Wheelcats singlet, the pollen count must have been high this night as a lot of eyes started to water. We all moved to the dining area for the after tournament party, food was great, beer was plentiful and company was great. But the consumption of alcohol was the beginning of many problems for some, problems that lasted well into the next day.
As we headed up into our rooms after the party, we were faced with the decision of going up to the penthouse bar for a drink or staying in one of the rooms to continue the minor celebrations. We chose to stay in the rooms for now and try upstairs later. The party was almost marred by the inexplicable act of a cookie monster, or in our case a potato chip monster, disguised as a cross between Mr. Potatohead and Mario wearing pink undies on his head. But with wrongful accusations being flung around like a wet rag and apologies being accepted we finally got things underway.
If i learnt one thing from Japan it was when you hang around any of the Cats, either where a protection cup or watch your genital region. Things started off playful as they always do, a few harmless nut slaps here and there. But you just don't know what to expect, and how to react. I mean do you want the guilt on your mind that you physically beat someone who is part of a wheelchair sporting team. Well when it comes to Brant G, you just don't care, and after he grabbed a fist full of my future parenthood making potion sack it was on. Fists were flying to groinal regions, until a champion prevailed. A champion by the name of Lee.
But the champion made a mistake of calling a New South Welshman a Queenslander, i was dealt with harshly as i fell victim to a 6 man dog pile, and the total weight on that bed would have been in excess of half a tonne, at least. Next was Saki fever, (note: Saki tasted like everyone's cooking in an apartment block, that plus hot sick). I sipped mine until i finished as it is pure Japanese evil, but not as evil as the man serving it up, a man known by the local Japanese as Himsikogawa (means evil man with poisonous bottle). Two Cats fell victim to the old switcheroo, where the evil man in question (Ben E) served up Saki in innocent looking water bottles to victims clearly in need of water. Victim 1 - chugged then chucked, victim 2 - witnessed first victim being hosed, laughed, then got done by the same trick 15 minutes later. He drank, then unphased continued drinking.
Myself and a character that i will call "Sully" for this story for character conservation and preservation purposes, went up to the penthouse bar where the drinks were bloody expensive. Reasonably sauced i bought the first drink, i decided to teach the bartender a lesson. I made our own drinks and gave them names, a little Aussie experience for my little Japanese friend. Only read on if you will forever call the next drink a "Flaming Moe", i mean damn, that's taken. How bout, "Ninja Special", the Ninja Special is one part Jack, one part Kahlua and the rest cola. Smooth as, and for you North of the river bogans maybe you can try Baileys and Cougar (if you can afford it). The drinks set me back about $42 aus, rort. After this myself and Sully headed back down stairs.
Now, the story of "1616". This was the room where numerous men were seen coming from this room nightly, and given it was the team meeting room, i believe this is no excuse. I will not mention the name of the person who stayed in the room, as to protect the innocent character that this deceptive person displays. A couple of memorable moments followed which include finding a fan that had the words "Route Inn Hotel" on it, (funny name for a hotel), and some bastard wrote on in it "Room 1616 Rhiga Royal to" in front of it.. Bastards. Oh, and when i pushed this particular person into their room (not realising Brant G followed, it was pitch black), took my jeans and shirt off and walked out into the hallway as if i just had a "great time". Brant followed doing the same, so very convieniantly looked like i had done the hell bound deed, (quote) "Congratulations you just f^cked Brant" (unquote). Great...
Needless to say there where some sore heads by the end of the night and way into the next morning. We had to be up at 6am for a 9am flight home, but for the first time after a party and traveling home after, i was sober. Not surprising as the trip home took 23 hours back to Perth.
Well this marks the end of the Japanese Epic Adventure, hopefully you had fun reading as i had fun writing. Just ask yourself "Who is Harry Garto?" next time you ponder about true champions and keep an eye out for any red ninjas. Till next time my oriental followers..
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Now for a little more about what we actually there for, the basketball. As you know if you were reading before, we dropped our first game to British Colombia. After a team talk and a rest we were ready to take on the Japanese team Myagi Max, confidence was steady and everyone was ready for a great game. Now obviously the Japanese was the home side, and playing in a stadium roughly the same size as Challenge Stadium that was packed is a great experience. This was the first time we played Myagi Max, as we played them in the bronze medal match. Their whole game revolved around one player, Rio.
Rio was a high pointer that sat extremely high in his chair, when you think of someone sitting down you think of their legs being at 90 degree angle. But for some reason Rio was able to get away with his legs being on more like a 135 degree angle. It is the way that his chair is designed and manufactured, and he obviously had quite an advantage since he was already a big guy. But as your probably thinking, the higher you sit and the least amount of arse you have sitting in your chair you are gonna be real unstable, and Rio spent more time on the floor than a Mexican on tequila.
We played Myagi Max and ended up going down by a small margin, once again the guys did well. But its the small things that let teams down, and its not always the same thing, or even the same person, but as in any sport the tidiest team generally win. We played Myagi Max in the bronze match and ended up going down by around 20, once again it was just the small things that count the most. Things you don't even get a stat for. Rio was a monster, but really nothing that we couldn't of handled. But its hard when you don't box out and let him get a rebound underneath his own basket, and he is also a player that can shoot from outside.
Galatasaray from Turkey, was definitely the team with the biggest cheque book. They had an entourage of about 8 staff which included coaching staff, mechanics, camera crew and owners. Wheelchair basketball is played professionally in Europe, and thanks to international players all over the world that play in the league, it is a fantastic competition. Obviously with such a league comes a lot of money and sponsorship, and that brings in your big players. Justin E who is a Wheelcat, Australian gold medalist and paralympic MVP, played for Galatasaray, along with American Matt S and others from clubs in Europe. They were a force to be reckoned with. We only played Galatasaray once and they put out their 'B' grade combinations out against us, which we were a little disappointed with as we had a young side that needed exposure against the worlds best. After starting off well and showing some great talent, we ended up going down by 30. Galatasaray had depth, and when they take off one of their best another one comes on. But from our own perspective the team did a fantastic job considering we had a young and fairly inexperienced line-up.
The grand final saw Galatasaray take on British Colombia, and i was torn between going for fellow Wheelcat Justin E's team or the underdog. Well being an Australian, Western Force, Sydney Swan and Melbourne Storm supporter i decided to go for the underdog. What a great game it started to look like, British Colombia was up and playing well and the Turkisk coach (who resembles Yogi B Bear) was doing his nut. At one stage Patrick A from BC was cut up and went to fall forward and put two hands it to the back of Justin E, who fell out of his chair. This got things a little tense and caused a bit or argy bargy between both teams. Unfortunatley before halftime, Patrick A while on a fast break to the basket, was grabbed on the arm by Matt S from Galatasaray. Patrick flipped and spun out of his chair, landing awkwardly and ended up breaking his wrist. A tragic end to the competition for Patrick A and BC, as they went on to lose the grand final. As also this was going to be Patricks last tournament.
Patrick A for me is a fantastic athlete role model. He was the type of player who did his job and did it well, he also went beyond to help out others where needed. Patrick also never seemed to let everyone know how good he was either, i believe a true champion is a silent achiever. I read an article by Mark Taylor, is an Alpha magazine that i picked up at Perth Airport on the way over. The article spoke about Mark and how he handled sledging and what he did to combat it. He went onto say that he never sledged but as an opening batsmen he copped a lot of it, and what he liked to do to combat it was dig deep and embarrass the opposition by playing well. Letting your actions speak louder than words. The Wheelcats base their team etiquette on not talking back, sledging or talking out of line during the game. It looks like we could have a whole bunch of silent achievers at the Wheelcats.
Well hold on for the next installment as i take you through a few shenanigans of this epic Japanese adventure.
Well this part 4 of my Japanese story and by now i'm guessing you are thinking why is the name of the stories "My name is Garto, Harry Garto"? Before i just tell you i should point out the fact that i hate it when Australians go overseas, mainly America, only for a little while and they come back with yank accents. Its funny because it doesn't matter if they go to different part of the states they all come back sounding the same, or what they think an American should sound like. Its embarrassing i think, and i know some may disagree. But i know people that have lived in America for years and still managed to keep the aussie accent. People like Ben H and Greg R, i mean they lived year for 5 years and longer and still come back sounding the same. I mean if i went to America i would lay the aussie accent on thick and be saying "G'day" as much as i could.
A got little side tracked then, i know. But, what you have to realise in Japan is that when you say some Japanese words you have to speak with the correct elecution or basically say it in a Japanese accent. The word for thankyou in Japanese is ar-ri-ga-to. Say it now to yourself in a Japanese accent, yeah thats how your suppose to say it, and i had this conversation with Ben E one night when we went to the markets for supplies. Do you have to say Japanese words with the right accent for it to be understandable? I decided to put this to the test. We got to the checkout and i got my pocky and coke scanned, payed my money and and as i got the reciept i let out the biggest "ar-ri-ga-to" in a nice big aussie accent. After i said this, the group i was with started laughing and we all began saying it. Then we realised that it sounded like Harry Garto, so now for the rest of the week when we needed to say thankyou we just said "Harry Garto".
This next section could be called sabotage, as the most unteamlike act was set upon yours truely one night. Early on in the week Ben E said to me that i should get the entire team to dress in kimonos to dinner one night so that we could emerse ourselves in the Japanese culture. Before we went to Japan i posted a picture of Ben E on the Wheelcats page of the facebook group. It was from when he used to play for Willetton when he was 19 years old. Unfortunatley my dearest mother decided to help Ben retaliate by giving him a picture from a basketball game i played when i was 16, the picture showed me wearing Wanneroo Wolves and bearing the whitest skin you had ever seen. I think one person even likened me to Napolean Dynamite. Mum, we have unfinished business. But i thought if Ben was going to use my mum against me i thought it was only fair that i use his dad, Len, against him. I emailed Lenny and said we were putting a surprise together for Ben and asked him for some photos of his childhood. Lenny came through with some great pictures with Ben at 14/15 sporting the best short shorts i had ever seen. I decided to post one and see how we go.
So back to Japan, and one night i had "oraganized" (or nicked, depending on where you come from) a whole heap of kimonos (basically bathrobes) and handed them out to the team to wear to dinner that night. I was running a little late to dinner and i was frantically trying to change in to my kimono to make dinner on time, god forbid if the manager is late. My room mate, Sticky still hadn't got changed and he went into the bathroom and told me to go on without him. I thought fair enough as he was feeling a little ill from that day, so i started to make my way downstairs. Half way down the elevator and i realised that i hadn't seen anybody else on the way to dinner, as i had on previos nights. My stomach all of a sudden twisted and got the awful thought that i was getting stitched up. The master had become the victim. I walked down the main hallway and had a lot of Japanese people snickering at me, (it was a 5 star hotel that we stayed in) and they were all dressed in formal clothes. So i swallowed my pride and walked into the restaurant only to discover that the entire team was dressed in normal clothes. PUNK'D. Ofcourse everyone was laughing, i had a giggle and thought bugger it, im here, i dont care what im dressed like, im gonna eat. So i grabbed a plate and began to load up from the buffet, until a waiter came up to me and told me that i had to leave as bathrobes were only for the bedrooms. As i threw down my plate and stormed out, the laughs subdued as people thought i was really pissed. Apparently Ben E at this stage was worrying about what my reaction was going to be when i returned, if i did return at all. On the way back up to my room i passed Sticky who was in hysterics laughing at me, i sayed a few passing words, got up to my room, got changed and came back down. When everyone had realised that i was fine we all started to have a giggle about what had just happened. I called a truce with Ben, and decided that enough was enough. Except for every single other Cat that could't have slipped me a helpful hint. Mark my words when i say that when i strike back, i strike back harder and faster. But i will just bide my time for now...
One thing that springs to mind at the moment is the breakfast and lunch food. Breakfast was great each morning for me, once again it was buffet style. They served eggs in every form, bacon, sausage (very convienient for our muslim opposition), waffles, fruit and french fries. Yes, i said french fries. Now, the Japanese as you could imagine eat rice, fish etc for all their meals including breakfast. So i really felt as though the Japanese didn't have much of a concept on when certain foods are eaten in western culture, rather than all the time in their culture. Nice try but i reckon it was a nice change to have french fries for breakfast, as you can't usually get them till after 10:30am at McDonalds. Now for lunch, everyday we were given lunch in a cardboard box, it was all cold. It ranged from sandwiches, cold spaghetti, mushed meat in tacos and a strange little sausage on a chicken bone. A few questions came to mind with the sausage bone, 1- how did they get the chicken bone in the sausage? 2- how did they get the original chicken off the bone? I personally hope no one had consumed it off the bone then it gets passed on to have a second purpose in life. None the less it was bloody tasty. Also the box that the lunch came in had an inspirational card inside with a different message each day. I can't remember what they said at the moment but i do remember that they were full of spelling mistakes and sentences that just don't make sense. A little dorky, but its just the small things that put a smile on your face each day.
We are slowly making our way through this epic story, but if your still reading that means im keeping you interested. So i hope you keep reading. Until next time...
Friday, January 16, 2009
On the night of Day 2, being the manager, i had to attend a managers meeting. This was where we all decided what colour singlets we were to wear against every team, organize bus times and and ask any other questions we had. There was a spare seat at the table for each manager to bring someone else, ie. ass coach, captain etc. Lets just say i went on my own after asking everybody in the team to come with me. I wasn't alone however because each manager was assigned a translator for the week to help with the language barrier. Lucky me, i pulled the short straw of getting a translator that didn't speak much English, worst still this meeting was going to be held entirely in Japanese. I slowly managed to make my way through as the meeting dragged on. A pet hate of mine in general is when people speak a different language in front of me in Australia, although there is nothing much you can do because i was in japan. However a couple of times there must have been a joke because everyone started laughing, everyone except for me. When i asked the translator what was so funny she said don't worry. Pissed off to the max at this stage.
I'm not very much into meetings or conferences unless i am a presenter. As anybody would know that if you are a fairly active person and your body is at rest for too long, your body just thinks its bed time. A lot of people have seen me fall asleep in these sorts of things. Most memorable would have been in Ballarat at the U/23 camp where myself and Craig B propped ourselves against each other during a nutrition talk and fell asleep. A little embarrassing but we had just got off a plane and then driven for a couple of hours. But in the meeting in japan i made it my mission to stay awake, by drinking cold water, holding the ice in my hand and even stabbing myself with a biro in the hand. I did stay awake and i was proud of myself.
Also this night i met my room mate who had just arrived from Queensland, (just a joke it was nsw, but the same with the Nang joke, i pressed on the entire week). His name was Brett S, but for the blog i will use his nickname Sticky. He seemed like a reasonably normalish person, so all that i worried about earlier had gone out the window. Didn't get to know him much as before we knew it, it was dinner time. After dinner each night it was my role to go through what we were to do the next day. Included things like awake and meal times, bus times and any other event that we had to be at. It was a good thing to do as it kept me busy and thinking.
Also this night another player for our team arrived, it was Hiroshi. Hiroshi was a Japanese player that had played for the Wheelcats in the past in both the national league and in the KCC. I just thought it was handy having someone in the team that could translate for me and help us all out with the Japanese culture. A few days in with Hiroshi being there, and talking to some of the other players i learnt a little more about Hiroshi. He is a Japanese legend, they have made documentaries on him and how he paved the way for how low pointers play not only in japan but through out the world. Also being 42 and still playing basketball was outstanding. I also learnt that this was going to be Hiroshi's last tournament ever. Just watching Hiroshi play throughout the week was great, he is not only someone who can set up a score for someone else but can also pop a basket consistently for himself. Also just the impact he had on the public in general, he is a celebrity. People were always coming up to him and shaking his hand. It was an honour for me to be part of the same team as him.
Day 3 was a tense one, first game for the tournament. It was against 3 time gold paralympian Patrick A and his British Colombian team from Canada. It was to be a tough game but confidence was high and we had done all that we could to prepare. At this stage i want to point out that the majority of our senior playing group were in Europe playing in the professional league and one was playing in the Turkish team galatasaray. However the group that we had, although young and reasonably inexperienced did us all proud as they never stopped pushing and played their hearts out. Previously to playing British Colombia we played a match against a local Japanese club team, we had nothing to prove. Everyone got a really good run and we won. I wont go into the basketball side of things too much, but throughout the week all the guys did really well and i am proud to be counted in the same team as them.
We went down to British Colombia, after being down at halftime by a small margin, they pulled away in the second half to win by 18. Brant G and Sticky did a great job bringing our score along throughout the game and everyone did a reasonable job in defence. Patrick A sits high in his chair and has monster long arms, so every rebound in his vicinity is his, and he can also knockdown a 3 if need be. I will speak a little more about Patrick a little later on and what a role model athlete he is. But a highlight for us during the game was when Nang (who is a low pointer and therefore sits low in his chair) managed to get behind Patrick at one stage and as he bought the ball above his head to shoot, Nang reached up and stole the ball. Patrick turned around in amazement and looked at our bench as if to say "i didn't just get blocked by the smallest guy on the court". He was laughing and we had a bit of a chuckle back.
Before i wrap up this part of the blog i will just quickly run you through what i mean by low pointers, mids, and high pointers. As im sure some of you are thinking what the hell are you talking about. In wheelchair basketball you are allowed to have a maximum of 14 points worth of players on the court at any one stage, and each player is worth a certain amount of points. The amount of points a player is worth is based on their range of mobility. Most amputees are worth 4 or 4.5 points. Other disabilities include spina bifida, cp and car accident victims, these are the most common in wheelchair basketball. The less range of mobility you have in your wheelchair the less points you are worth, hence low pointer. I'm sure you can figure the rest out for yourself, but as i said before wheelchair basketball is very inclusive as obviously you cant run all your high pointers at once.
I feel as though this has been a long enough blog so watch this space for more Japanese excitement.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Well, well. Where was i, ah yes, just left the school. The trip home from the school was great. John T and myself caught a cab together and the scenic view on the way back was breath taking. Imagine sky high mountains filled with trees capped in snow, every house had a vegie patch in the back yard, a vegie patch probably as big as the house growing all sorts of vegetables from cabbage, choi, leeks etc. John T was really keen on finding where we could get some fresh fruit as he, as i believe is trying a new healthy streak. We drove through a small market place, comparison wise would be freo markets ten fold, and once again the japanese dont muck around. You can get anything and there is plenty of it. Helpful hint: dont barter with the japanese, its not bali and they dont like it. After John T got some fruit and i some how managed to get my hands on more pocky and coke we were off. Let me just take this opportunity to tell you that you can get almost anything from vending machines in japan, and there is one on every corner of every street. Now, you can get your regular pepsi and pepsi tasting coke, but you can also get hot coffee and underwear. Just in case you have an accident or just feel like a fresh set. Lovely innit?
Be prepared as i am now going to speak on the phenomenon that was photo of the day. Barty and myself were given the job of coming up with a topic of the day where all the players would have to take pictures of that topic but also have a Cat in the photos too. We were walking around the market place trying to think of a good topic for the first day. So we looked around and thought that we would start it easy, we decided to make the topic on what there was a vast amount of in the market place. Day 1 topic - "Funny looking old ladies with hats". A great first topic and in good fashion myself and Barty won the photo of the day. Check out all the photo of the day pictures on the Wheelcats page on facebook. Day 2 and the topics started to get a little crazier and we decided to go with "Man or Woman?". Same rules apply, wheelcat must pose and obviously as the topic suggest find someone who your not quiet sure is packing sausage or not. We all got out and gave this one a go, but everyone was beaten hands down and shocked in horror by Ben E's entry on what looked like a man pulling off a mangina. Nobody is sure who was posing as im sure no one wants to know. Day 3 was "Freak", a little tired after the days play, there weren't a great deal of entries. But Clare B entered a photo of team mate Kim R and we said that was a winner much to the disappointment of Kim. Day 4 and my favorite topic was up, "Look alikes". It was a great case of put your egos away but get out your stick to bash others. Fortunately i figured if i took the piss out of myself others wouldn't bother, great move as my picture of Ben E and myself posing as the muppets Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker won the photo of the day. But other great entries were Benny W as Ron Jeremy, Adam D as Guy Smilie, John T as Mario and Mr Potatohead and Kim R as a Beatle. If you dont do anything else tonight check them all out on facebook. Hilarious.
Back to day 2 and after we got all the school shennanigans out of the way it was soon time for the team training session at the gym. This was going to be the first time at this gym for us and some of the guys were hungry to hit the court, including myself. Something you need to know about me, i get bored very quickly, if i get bored i will do either one of two things, sleep or get up to severe mischief. Just ask anybody i have ever been on tour with such as Robyn M or Marcus L. So training went for 2 hours and we were going to split the session into two parts. Part 1 consisted of the Cats running through some drills and then going through their plays. For those who dont know wheelchair basketball, in laymen terms, is the smaller players setting screens for the bigger players to get as close to the basket as possible. Wheelchair basketball is a very inclusive sport where everyone has a role, and even if they dont score they have set someone up to do so. I believe a coach must base a play that they want to run around the players and their abilities, too many coaches watch others and just see a play being run by a good team and envision their team running it well. Big mistake, but Ben E does it well. He has got different plays for different combinations of players he has on the court. But it does also help having the depth of players that the Cats have. The second part of the training session was the captains run, where our elected captain for the tournament Sam C ran the last hour. What a greatly run hour it was as well, Sam and the players pushed hard and ran some really good drills. I have said this before, but there is nothing more satisfying to a coach than seeing the skills and work ethic that they have taught over years being put into practice. Thats why I coach.
The difference between coaching able bodied basketball and wheelchair basketball for me is the amount that the players care, how intense they are and how much they listen. For some reason most able bodied players try hard to make a team then as soon as they do they slack off and muck around. The wheelchair athletes however never stop pushing, never stop going for the next level, but i dont understand why. Is it because able bodied kids know like i do that the top level is unreachable? I was never like that, i thank god for every moment he gives me in basketball ooh rah. Or is it because the wheelchair athletes know that the next level is very reachable, or they are grateful for what they can achieve? Im not sure, all i know is that if you want to survive in one of my teams you will be pushing yourself all the time, no matter what. Or i will show you the door, i dont care how good you are. No one is bigger than the team. No one.
After training we had a half court shoot out, deal was that everyone kicked in 100 yen ($2 aus), and the first person to hit it won the lot. Clare B, Nang and myself air balled our first shot, compared to Sam C and Adam D almost took out the windows. Round 2 didnt see it get much better, until Ben E won and took away 1400 yen ($28 aus). Adam took him for double or nothing but missed. I was surprised with my 2 air balls as i beat Brant at a half court shoot out earlier that morning at the school. Although i did it with a size 6 on a smaller court.
Im going to have to let you go here as i am getting tired and almost broke my back at work today. Im about to watch robocop and have a big glass of cider, dont take the piss im irish, im allowed to have cider. Stay tuned for more later.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Japan was a fantastic experience and thoroughly enjoyed it and can't wait for another opportunity like that. I was asked to go to Japan with the Perth Wheelcats to compete in the Kitakyushu Champions Cup (KCC). KCC is a tournament where the best club teams in the world come together and compete for a World Club Champs title. It is held in the city of Kitakyushu which is an industrial city located in Japan's south. The teams that competed were Galatasaray from Turkey (representing Europe), British Colombia from Canada (representing USA/Canada), Myagi Max from Japan and ofcourse the reigning champs Perth Wheelcats. My official role was team manager, which was something I hadn't really done before. But I learnt so much as a coach as this was going to be the first time that I was going to sit not only on the bench of a wheelchair basketball game but on the bench with the current Paralympic Gold Medal coach Ben E, as well as now national womens coach John T. A lot was to be learnt and I knew it.
After 22 hours in transit from Perth to Kitakyushu we all were absolutely buggered as the sleep for some on the plane was bad or as in my case non-existent. I spent the flight watching Entourage, The Black Knight and playing Super Mario (old school). We checked our gear in and decided to go for a look around the city. Problem number 1, Nick R loses his wheel bag, solution = open your eyes, its in the lobby. So first thing was first, STARBUCKS. After a tall vanilla frappecino that tried to go through me like a fat kid on a water slide, we headed to the mall. A 9 story mall, eat your heart out Westfield Carousel. There was absolutely every single shop you could possible want, but after the shocking airplane food I thought a good feed was in order. Barty, Benny W and i decided to head to the food court where it was packed with food stalls. You know in our food malls where there are like 50 burger take out stalls and 1 asian stall, TOTAL opposite. My mind was pretty closed as I have heard the Japanese don't really care if they kill the animal they are cooking before you get it. So i man'd up and went to a stall and pointed at the most appetizing looking dish. As it was served to me on a boiling hot iron plate, the chef cracked an egg on the plate that cooked in front of me and I was on my way. It ended up being a steak and vegies that i ordered, not terribly japanese i know but i ate it with chopsticks so mission accomplished.
After the shops we headed back to the hotel for a bit of a rest before dinner. At this stage i was staying by myself as the person i was rooming with was coming in a couple of days time, i was a little worried as i never met this guy, but as i have been told before people are usually worried about rooming with me because i am a tall freaky looking white boy covered in tatoos. Anyway i decided to watch some japanese tv, bad idea. 16 channels of tv, 15 of which were all in japanese and one was CNN (a constant news channel) before you knew it i was asleep.
Dinner time saw eating in the hotels restaraunt, the food was set out buffet style and everything was labelled in japanese. Enter "Nang your Japanese Joke". Nang is one of the Wheelcats who is Vietnamese, but constantly throughout the week i either asked him to translate or speak Japanese to people for me, started as a joke but Nang got a little annoyed toward the end of the week. Sorry Nang. Anyway the buffet was full on noodles, chicken and fish dishes, rice, everything. My mind had opened up a little and the food was great, the only thing i would't eat was the raw meat they served (not my dish). After dinner we all investigated a 3ft tall chocolate fondue fountain served with little waffle things. It was great but yet better still was watching Barty with his first ever fondue experience. Not taking the piss but Barty has about as mush finesse as a rabid bulldog on cocaine. After all the chocolate was round the table and his face we left and decided to go and look at the city at night.
Due to the current economic crisis (as Benny W will tell you), for every aussie dollar we exchanged we roughly recieved about 40 cents. As if that wasn't bad enough everything is expensive anyway. Every night during the week after dinner we went out to the local mall to have a look around and stock up on supplies, which for me consisted of pocky and coke. Pocky is a thin bread stick coated in chocolate. Coke in japan either came in tin bottles or 500ml plastic bottles, and due to the lack copyright laws coke actually tasted exactly like pepsi and pepsi tasted like.... pepsi. On the way back to the hotel on the first night something caught my eye. In front on the shop front windows down one of the alleys was a mass of dancers who practice their moves and watch their reflection in the glass. They danced all sorts, hip hop, break dance etc. This gave me a wicked idea but that story will come up a little later on.
Day 2 saw us visiting a japanese primary school. The school was located on the outskirts of the city at the foot of mountain. Ichimaru Primary School was an absolute fantastic experience, and armed with a translator and plenty of excitement we took them head on. Roughly 100 11/12 year old students filled a gym ready for our demonstration. Things got under way with the Cats doing some simple drills which fascinated the kids as they had never seen people actually playing sport in wheelchairs. After that Nang (my japanese friend) hopped out of his chair and started walking around on his hands and started doing pushups. Kids were aroar with Brant G getting up on one wheel and balancing for a couple of minutes, yet nothing is funnier when Brant falls out. After that the Cats played a little 2 on 2, real competitive as always with plenty of baskets being missed but after a while the guys turned it on and the kids were cheering loud. Soon the kids joined in and played against the Cats which was great to watch, all the kids really love their sport and they all really seemed to get into it.
Soon after this it was the kids turn to entertain us. We sat back as the kids got out these little wooden toys. The wooden toy had a ball attached to it with a piece of string, and there were a few different places on the wooden toy you could land the ball. It is quite hard to explain so make sure you watch the videos of facebook under the Wheelcats page. All the kids lined up and first performed a mexican wave with everyone taking it in turns doing a trick, then the music came on and they were all doning the same trick to the tune of "If your happy and you know it", absolutley outstanding and we were all very impressed. We were all given one of the toys so if you want to see it let me know. Also congratulations to Adam and Brant who practiced and got pretty good.
Well it was time to go and the kids went into a frenzy with autograghs and shoot out competitions. We were signing the kids arms, heads, shoes, shirts everything. The kids couldn't understand some of our names that we signed, like when John T wrote John Ass. Coach, all the kids thought his name was John Ass, and they couldn't come to terms with the fact that my first name was Lee, which they pronouced Ree. So John helped me out and wrote Jet before my name and I became known as Jet Ree. Fantastic.
Anyway, that is part 1 of my japanese story. Alot more to come so watch this space.
I'm off now to flush a wall with Rego.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Well, I guess should make this first blog as interesting as possible as i may lose your interest and you may never read again. However I don't really care and is not a priority of mine. Sharing is also a challenge to me so hopefully I can use this as an outlet, which I prefer as I don't feel comfortable using eye contact when I talk.
First of all if you know me, your lucky. If you don't, get to know me, you will be lucky. As I am sure that in some way I have impacted your life, yet not affected it in anyway.
I will start this schpeel by talking about the year that was 2008, and what a big year it was. A lot more happened in this one year than has happened in a long time. 2008 started the same as almost every year, I was back in to work at my new job and trying to get fit for the new season of SBL. I like to keep reasonably fit as I believe that it will always help you in different aspects of life. Basketball has always been a massive part of my life. I have been playing since I was 10 and have slowly progressed through out the years to be the player I am today. Although in recent years I have found a passion for coaching as it gives me the opportunity to teach others what I know. Recently a new challenge has arisen that gave me a big decision to make for 2009. I was introduced to the community and sport of Wheelchair Basketball. The decision for me to make was do I continue playing basketball, as I am still young. Or do I pursue this new challenge in coaching wheelchair basketball?
The decision I made was to coach wheelchair basketball, and I believe this is a decision that I won't regret and will certainly never look back. The reason for my decision is as follows. Playing basketball gives you limited opportunity to make it big. The grade that I once played, called the SBL, is an amateur league. An amateur league where every team pays at least 2 American imports and Wildcats. An amateur league that leads up into the Wildcats who also get American imports, and rarely get local talent to play for them, and when they do they de-list them the next season. Basketball is a sport where you have to go abroad to make it big whether it be America or Europe. So tell me, do I pursue a sport that is played better in another country and and isn't offering much opportunity where I am now?
When I first was introduced to the wheelchair basketball community I was being interviewed for the WA Junior coaching role. I stepped out onto the court after, where all the athletes were on the court pushing around. I knew no one and had never seen the sport played before, yet I was excited to learn more as I knew this was more big break in coaching. Since starting a little over a year ago opportunity after opportunity has presented itself, and I haven't knocked one back yet.
Opportunities such as learning from not only the best coach in the world (Ben E), but also some of the greatest players in the world. Experiences can't be bought. Not only training my own junior state team, I was given the opportunity to go to an All Australian Camp where I got to see some of the best juniors in the country and also meet some of the best young personalities ever (Jeremy S, Jannick B and Aupy to an extent). But in the way of skill and athletes that I get along with, no better than the friends I have made right here in WA.
In late 2008 I was given the chance to join the world champion Perth Wheelcats to Japan for the World Club Champions Cup. This is definitely an experience that will never be forgotten. I came out of my shell a little with the older players and I made some really great friends. Japan was an amazing experience but will blog about it a little later on when I have nothing else to talk about. Japan was a stepping stone that will help me make further accomplishments later on, and I will never forget how I got my first break and will always help the wheelchair basketball community out and the individuals in it.
A lot of different and amusing experiences happened in 2008, and definitely 2 which come to mind would be the night out after the WSWA awards with my good mate Barty ( I will not ever go into detail unless I am extremely inebriated), and the Geraldton SBL trip with the Willetton Tigers and another real good mate Andrew D. This story I will go into just quickly. Outline, just beat Gerladton by 30 and very quickly after the game started drinking. We ended up at the Nitey where a couple of things happened that I can't remember. But the most important part is what happened when we left the club. Myself and 2 others I was staying with the night got back to our rooms at 4:30am (Grant F and Andrew D). Ps. Bus leaves at 6am. The rest of this story is a little shady as I am filled in over the next couple of days. Apparently we all get, and I reinforce "apparently", we all got naked and started dancing around with "mangina's". Also, "apparently" I took a photo of Andrew D and sent it to his now girlfriends mum. Big whoops and sorry Barb. But more embarrassingly was the fact that Grant F took a video with his phone and quickly leaked it to the basketball community and worse still my mum. Bigger whoops and sorry mum. Anyway, after dealing with the shit that I copped on the way back on the bus as well as the hangover, I developed a real bad case of the stares. Our American import Luke K (Uncle Kunkel) was sleeping a couple of rows in front of me and I was innocently staring, he woke up looked at me and said, "What the fuck are you staring at Notty", I replied with a slurred and creepy " You sleep so beautiful Luke", which creeped him out. Later in the trip back home I had sobered up a little, and Luke was now sleeping on the floor. While watching 27 Dresses (thanks to the girls team) Andrew D leans over to me and says "Look at Luke sleeping on the floor", as he has said this I have looked up and over at Luke, and Luke has obviously heard his name and looked back to meet eyes at what looked like I was staring at him. I will stop this story here as you can well imagine what a 7ft 250 pound American thought of me after this.
Luke K was a massive part of my basketball in 2008, along with going to training twice a week and getting smashed by him he always pushed me to my hardest and helped me become a smarter and stronger player. Week 11 of our season were starting to feel the pressure of start winning or not make finals. Before this game Luke made us huddle in the room, bow our heads while he made a pray. None of us are the religious sort, but something about what he was saying about us needing to come together and that we were all brothers made us lift and play awesome. We won that game and continued to pray before every game for the rest of the season, right to the grand final. We lost the grand final after a great fight. Drinks back at our stadium was a great release but the thought of Luke going home was gradually playing on all our minds. Mad Monday followed at Raffles Hotel ($11 a pint = rort), we drank and talked trash and had a great time. Until it was time to go, heavily sauced I was about to make the call to mum to come pick me up when Luke and his girlfriend Rachael offered me a lift home. In the carpark Luke said bye to the other guys, we jumped in the car and headed off. I can't remember what the conversation was on the way back but I will never forget when I got out the car and Luke started getting a bit watery in the eyes and gave me a huge bear hug. From there it was over, I started crying my eyes out as I knew this was the last time I was going to see him for a long time, and this guy was like a brother to me. He told me that I had a big heart and to keep doing what I'm doing.. You never forget people like that, people that you remember forever. Sounds gay I know and I was extremely drunk, but I cried myself to sleep that night.
I think this is enough for a first blog, I have plenty more to say but i'm missing the 20twenty and my fingers hurt.