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Basketball Tour report by Donya S, Year 11

From 11th to 14th December 2022, our Mill Hill School and Mill Hill International Basketball Tour took place. Pupils visited the Basque Region of Spain and had a fantastic time. Christopher (Lower Sixth, Winfield) and Donya (Year 11, Collinson) have written a round-up of the trip – keep on reading to find out about their adventures!

Our trip started at Mill Hill School at 4:30 am on Sunday, which was a good indicator that Mr. Baleato Mansilla (Head of Basketball) would make every moment of the trip count! We flew to Biarritz and then transferred to our lovely hotel in San Sebastian to recharge before travelling to Bilbao for the afternoon.

We first had some time to explore the Guggenheim Museum. Mr Raatz and Mr Baleato Mansilla had briefed us on the significance of the museum to the city and the art world, but seeing the building ‘in the flesh’ was a wonderful experience. The artwork was fascinating, and the architecture of the building truly mesmerised all of us. The building had beautiful curves, many distinct levels, staircases, and walkways.

Following a quick meal (McDonald’s does taste better in Spain!), we were introduced to the excitement of a professional basketball game in Europe’s top league. Bilbao Basket vs Obradoiro was the highlight of the day. It was incredible to watch a professional match in action and witness the player’s skills and talents first-hand. Bilbao only lost in the final few seconds, so it was a tense affair which excited the crowd!

After a lovely breakfast at the hotel on Monday, it was our turn to emulate the Bilbao Basket players. For the next two days, we were coached and warmly welcomed by the community of Club Atlético and two professional coaches. One of the coaches used to be a top-division player with San Sebastian and worked with us in some fantastic practice sessions. During the session, we learned our fellow teammates’ strengths and weaknesses and improved them by helping each other. This was a wonderful experience for everyone as it gave us skills and techniques we could use during match play. Tired from a two-hour training session, we returned to the hotel for lunch and our pre-match routine. Full of confidence and fired up, we were keen to apply what we had learned against the youth team of Club Atlético San Sebastian. We played well and it was a fast-paced game. Mr Baleato Mansilla and Mr Raatz were incredibly happy with our team play, as we all scored and even had a few spectacular blocks! In the evening, we reminisced about the day over our takeaway meal at the hotel.

On Tuesday, we revisited the scene of the previous night’s triumph (we did lose against a better team, but the victory was the quality of our own performances) for another practice session with our wonderful coaches. In the afternoon, we had some time to explore the old town of San Sebastian. Fortunately, it was not raining so we visited the beach and went shopping before going to a fantastic Aquarium.

Soon it was time to prepare for our final match against San Sebastian Club. Before the game, we were feeling very determined because we played brilliantly during training and the match the day before. During the game, we played exceptionally well and won the match. After a long day, the team travelled back to the hotel where ate and enjoyed our evening. The day’s highlight had to be the match as after the game we celebrated our victory which was very deserved!

On Wednesday, we had some more time to explore the old town, purchase souvenirs and visit the Spanish McDonald’s! We were happy but exhausted and ready to travel to Biarritz for our flight home. Or so we thought. After a brief stop-over to explore Bayonne’s Christmas market, we arrived at the airport. Unfortunately, the flight got cancelled and the journey took another 24 hours via Santander, some 240 miles back into Spain. However, there was a great atmosphere among the team, so the time soon passed. The trip was an enormous success, and everyone enjoyed the activities. It was wonderful to spend time with our team and the trip has taught everyone how to play together as a team against different opponents.

Thank you to Mr Baleato Mansilla and Mr Raatz for organising the trip and making it an unforgettable experience. Thank you also to Stewart Lock who accompanied us during our time in San Sebastian and who was always friendly and helpful.