The Basque-language daily Berria included an interesting report in its Sunday edition yesterday on three young Basques forging sports careers in the United States.
Jagoba Nabarte (Errenteria, Gipuzkoa, 1992) is a professional jai-alai player. In 2015 he received an offer to play at the Dania Jai-Alai fronton in Dania Beach, Florida, and in his own words, he didn’t have to think much about accepting because since the age of fifteen he’d had the goal of going to the US one day to play jai-alai: “On more than one occasion, someone who’d played in America showed up at one of my training sessions, and told me about how it was over there, and I was a little envious.” Although he was supposed to go to Florida in 2015, visa problems delayed the trip. He’d already quit his day job and wasn’t sure if he’d be able to fulfill his dream, and in the end, he had to wait until February this year to make the journey. He recently returned to the Basque Country after a six-month stay in Florida, but will shortly return to Dania Beach, where he finished in the upper half of the final classification table during his previous time there; not bad for a rookie pelotari. He observes that the courts are different in the US and the balls faster, two technical differences that he had to learn about quickly and the hard way. It goes without saying, too, that, as he notes, the bets are larger too in the US!
Uxoa Bertiz (Elizondo, Nafarroa, 1997) has been attending Drury University in Springfield, MO, on a soccer scholarship for the last three years and plays for the Drury Panthers. It has always been her dream to be a professional soccer player, and she did play for Real Sociedad in Donostia as well as the Basque national team. But as she says, she always thought she may go to the US one day: “Soccer in the United States has always attracted me.” Finding it hard to balance her passion for soccer with her studies back home, she applied to several US universities, where she knew the school system made it easier to continue her education while developing as a soccer player. Ultimately, Drury made her an offer and she traveled to Missouri to further her career: “For me, it was the best option, and I didn’t think twice.” She’s now studying computer engineering at Drury and has a busy schedule, getting up at 5 am every day for early morning training before attending class between 9 am and 3 pm, finishing up with more gym work in the afternoon. While it’s been tough to uproot from her family and friends and move thousands of miles away, she’s proud of what’s she’s achieved. And so she should be!
Eneritz Larrañaga (Azpeitia, Gipuzkoa, 1998) plays for the Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College women’s basketball team in Miami, Oklahoma. She’s been in Oklahoma since August 2016 and, as she herself says, while it was tough to make the transition at first, once she made some friends, that helped a lot. In her own words, the “most difficult thing has been adjusting to the US style of basketball, because it’s a lot more individual and physical.” She didn’t get a lot of game time during the first few months there, but has gradually adapted to the style of play. She’s also studying International Business, while training five days a week (starting at 6 am before class and then again in the evenings). And if that were not enough, she also works part time in a coffee shop. As she says, she really values getting to know lots of people from different countries but, naturally, she also misses her family and friends. Still, she’s happy to be getting a good education and achieve a good level of English, while also being able to play the sport she loves.
Read the full report (in Basque) here.