Tour of France a big win with women's basketball team

Team at the base of Sacre Coeur (Paris).
Team at the base of Sacre Coeur (Paris).

There’s nothing like an 11-day tour of some of the most spectacular sites in France, such as Normandy, Sacre-Coeur and the Champs d’Elysees, to further bond an already close team of athletes – especially when your coach is your tour guide.

Earlier this summer, Women’s Basketball Coach Becky Martin ’80, M.Ed.’81, led a group of 35, including 14 players, a graduate student and former player, five friends of the program and 14 parents and siblings on a whirlwind cultural adventure that included a couple of games but did not revolve around basketball. It was Martin’s fifth such trip, which she times every four years so that each of her players has a chance to experience it while they’re at McDaniel.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure in which they can play the game they love against international competition and have the opportunity to share the experience with their friends and family,” says Martin. “Yet the focus is primarily educational and cultural which allows the players to serve as ambassadors for McDaniel College and our country. I wanted them to experience and see everything.”

The tour commenced in northern France along the English Channel in the quaint village of Bayeux, where they saw the Bayeux tapestry, a 1,000-year-old work of art and historical document that depicts the Battle of Hastings. They took a full-day tour of the D-Day invasion of Normandy and visited both the American and German cemeteries. They visited Pointe du Hoc where 300 U.S. Army Rangers attacked the occupied cliffs and bunkers, Omaha Beach and Arromanches, the site where the allies constructed an artificial harbor for supply ships to dock to support the military.

Trading in shorts and sneakers for skirts and heels, players enjoy some fine dining on the Champs d’Elysees in Paris.

In Paris, they went to the top of the Eiffel Tower, hung out in the Latin Quarter, saw Notre Dame, Sacre-Coeur and Montmartre, visited the top of the Arc de Triomphe, took a boat ride on the Seine, toured the Louvre museum and Versailles, and dined at a fancy restaurant on the Champs d’Elysees. They also visited the town of Mulhouse along the German-Swiss border and played a basketball game there and another in Strasbourg. On their way to Strasbourg they toured the Alsace region. From there, they traveled south through Switzerland and Italy to the French Riviera city of Nice for some fun in the sun on the beautiful beaches there.

The schedule was a bit exhausting but worth the effort, said senior Ali Moreland, whose parents joined her on the trip.

“Being an athlete you realize you need to push through it, just like a long practice or a tough game,” Moreland said. “We would have regretted it if we didn’t fit everything in that we did because we wouldn’t have half the memories we have now.”

Enjoying the Promenade des Anglais at Nice on the French Rivera.

Martin’s 25-year friendship with French coaches Jacque and Christel Vernerey has added a personal dimension to the basketball games. Townspeople turn out to watch the contest, then host potluck dinners and exchange gifts with the team. One of the French players from years ago decided to become a student after visiting the College with Jacque back in the 1980s.

“Claire Thevenoux ’90 graduated from Western Maryland and played for our team. She was also Phi Beta Kappa, even with English being her second language,” Martin said.

From the Sept. 9, 2009 edition of News@McDaniel.