The International Language Of Basketball

01 April 2006

You won't find her name anywhere on BC Volgaburmash Samara's roster.

Yet Irina Zverintseva plays a significant role in the club's success.

On a roster that includes five nationalities and a coach that speaks Russian and a little French, Zverintseva provides translation to players as part of her responsibilities as manager of external relations.

It is not by coincidence that non-Russian speakers Amaya Valdemoro of Spain, Ann Wauters of Belgium, Emma Randall of Australia and Edwige Lawson and Nathalie Lesdema of France all sit on one side of the bench as coach Igor Grudin yells out instructions.

Amaya Valdemoro (VBM-SGAU Samara)
Amaya Valdemoro is one of five nationalities represented on VBM-SGAU Samara´s roster
Behind the non-Russian players part of the bench, Zverintseva translates everything to English for coach Grudin, only in a voice that is much softer.

The 23-year old has been with Samara for three years and sites translating the intricacies of basketball as her biggest challenge.

"When I first arrived I didn't understand basketball and it was very difficult to translate, but after three years, I do now," she said.

Zverintseva down plays her importance to the team in providing vital communication and understanding for such a diverse group.

"I´m used to taking care of the players and I enjoy it," she said.

"I love languages and communication and I am happy to be a part of this team."

The language dilemma also plays a prominent role on Gambrinus and Lietuvos Telekomas' teams.

One would think that American DeLisha Milton of Gambrinus is at a disadvantage when it comes to understanding coach Jan Bobrovsky's instructions.

But Milton, who leads her team in scoring, doesn't see it as that big of a problem.

"We have a luxury here because several of the players here speak English really well," said Milton.

"It can be difficult at times, but either my teammates explain to me what to do. When they don't I can usually figure everything out."

Milton's international career has also included stops in Italy, Spain, Russia and Korea. At each destination, she has learned enough of the basics of the language to get by, although Korean was certainly her biggest challenge.

In one way, perhaps the language barrier works to a player's advantage.

In the course of a season, there are times a coach will "get on a player" through animated discussion usually intended to motivate the player.

Milton, due to the language barrier, is shielded from any potential detrimental feedback.

"Coach will sometimes yell at me and I am just wondering what he's saying," said Milton.

"Usually one of my players will come over and give me the edited version."

For American Katie Douglas of Lietuvos Telekomas, the biggest difficult in her transition to Lithuania has been the language barrier, although it certainly hasn't hindered her play as the sharpshooter is averaging a EuroLeague Women best 20.7 points per game.

"Sometimes it is very frustrating, but I just try to adjust and make the best of it," said Douglas.

It´s just one of those things."

When communicating with her teammates, few who speak English, Douglas has to rely on her acting ability.

"I play a lot of charades," she said.

But as most foreign players can attest to, the language of basketball is at times universal.

"When coach gets the clip board out and starts diagramming plays and using X and O's I can usually understand what he wants."

"Basketball is an international language," Douglas said.

Follow Us On Twitter

Like Us On Facebook