CENTER VALLEY, Pa. – Lorie Khalil, head coach of Penn State Lehigh Valley (PSU-LV), recently returned from a “unique” coaching experience in Portugal and Spain. Khalil was one of six coaches chosen to work with players from across the United States.
Khalil applied and was selected for this unique coaching opportunity through Student Athlete World USA, an organization that “combines the fun of representing the United States in athletic competition with international travel,” according to their website. Khalil said the application process was pretty straightforward – an application, a Zoom interview with Student Athlete World USA president Tim Ryerson, and a call saying she was hired for a trip to Portugal and Spain.
It was a challenge to bring together a team of players from across the country and create a sense of camaraderie in no time. “I only had five athletes – it was an U-19 team. I had two players from Texas, a player from Georgia who was actually born in Lehigh Valley, a player from California and a player from Maryland ”,
“We have never met before – we did some Zooms”,Khalil said. “TThe first time we met was at Newark Airport on the day we left. We had a scrum and training and then played at the Portugal Basketball Festival against three very good Portuguese teams.
Khalil had to familiarize himself with the European style of basketball before working with his new team. It was a learning experience for all.
“Basketball is such a retail game. It takes a long time to build a muscle memory system and all of those things for a successful team to happen, ”she said. “These girls tried – they set it all up. Their style of play is very different in Europe. They play with a 24-second stopwatch. After they dribble, they can take additional action. It’s very physical, a very different game. Seeing the international style of footwork was amazing. We couldn’t call for downtime at times. The foul line is bigger internationally. The three second call is also different. We went there playing a style; we had to adapt and play a totally different style. Khalil also left some Penn State spirit in Portugal: “I gave some Portuguese players our old PSU-LV jerseys, they were so excited and grateful about it. We also made a video of the players singing “We Are”. For us, going out there and putting the PSU and PSUAC on the international map was a bonus. “
When not playing, Khalil said that she and her band “go on and on.” “We got up at 7 am and went on excursions. It was a really well balanced experience. She said it was “really 10 of the best days of my life. I would highly recommend it to anyone.”
Some of the highlights of the trip included ziplining a river from Portugal to Spain, visiting the capital of Portugal, Lisbon, and visiting Seville, Spain. Khalil was in a group with 108 other people.
“I feel like I went out there without knowing a single soul and came back after meeting some of the most amazing people in all of the country,” she said. “The people are super nice. The country is beautiful. One thing was different – the food menus were in a different language. All the food was fresh. It is a truly magnificent country and culture.
COVID added another interesting aspect to the trip. Khalil said Portugal was about three months behind the United States with COVID vaccines and travel restrictions were still in place. “The older population has just received their first vaccines now. Things closed early. Masks were compulsory. We have all been tested three times – once before we left and twice during our stay, ”she said.
“Now that I’ve seen what international footwork is, I’m going to google it and search YouTube for international skills development videos,” she said. “Their footwork is incredible. Here in the United States, we are very caught off guard.”
“We see the same things all the time in our normal lives.” Khalil concluded. “To live is to see – to see how other people live their lives and how other cultures work is an amazing experience.