Fun Facts and Features from the World of Sport

A sporting example

• Posted in Gap Year • By JoeBaker

There’s no doubt about it – going on a sporting gap year is a big decision. It means spending a period away from home, playing and training in completely new conditions, against new types of opponents in a completely novel environment.

Yet, for many it is the seminal moment in their sporting careers. The point where they learnt new skills, gained new experiences and found out new things about themselves that they never realised existed. Playing sport abroad is a wonderful opportunity. Here are just a few examples of those who, at various stages of their careers, have made the most of it.

James Haskell

Although he’s currently fighting for his international place, James Haskell has been a monster of a player for Eddie Jones over the last couple of years. None more so than during England’s famous whitewash of Australia in their own back yard in 2016. He’s also been one of the most recognisable players in the Aviva Premiership following two stints at London Wasps. What many don’t realise is that perhaps the most crucial part of Haskell’s career didn’t take place in England, but in the land of the All Blacks – New Zealand. The imposing flanker had already taken the foreign plunge by playing in France and then Japan, yet it was in Dunedin, whilst playing for the Highlanders in the Super League, that he pushed himself to the next level. Becoming the first overseas international to be signed by the club, Haskell at the time cited his motivation to test himself against some of the best players in the world in a challenging environment, to experience a new culture and ultimately become a better player for England. The decision certainly paid off.

Andy Murray

As well as being the most naturally gifted British player to ever pick up a tennis racquet, Andy Murray’s rise to the top of the game was driven by an unwavering desire to keep improving. This involved him going at a young age to the Sanchez-Casal Academy in Spain. Even though clay is probably still his weakest surface, Murray’s formative years were nurtured on the red stuff in an atmosphere completely alien to what he had experienced back in Scotland. That Murray now has such a well-rounded game, as well as being so mentally strong in even the most physically and mentally stressful of situations, can in part be attributed to him spending so long practicing and playing outside of his comfort zone. Even now he spends his off-seasons not relaxing but pushing himself physically, technically and mentally in the heat of Miami. Despite reaching world Number 1, winning x3 Grand Slams and x2 Olympic Gold medals, Murray still acknowledges the need to keep pushing himself in different conditions.

Toni Duggan

Deciding to down tools and start playing the sport you love abroad is one thing, doing so when you’ve been so successful in your own home surroundings is even more impressive. The England international striker Toni Dugan has done exactly that. Back home, she’d won nearly everything with Manchester City, lifting the Women's Super League, FA Cup and Continental Cup. Yet she decided it was time for a change, time for something different to take her game to the next level. And so, she became only the second English footballer ever to sign for Spanish giants Barcelona, following the move Gary Lineker made in 1986. Despite scoring goals for fun in England, Duggan assessed her game and the areas she needed to improve and saw Catalonia as the perfect place to do it. As the only current England women’s player to be based abroad, the career of Toni Duggan is certainly one to keep an eye on.

Stuart Broad

If it wasn’t for Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad would be lauded as the greatest bowler of his generation. During an international Test match career that is currently 11 years old and counting, he has taken a remarkable 399 wickets in 114 matches, putting him second behind Anderson in England’s all-time list. An aggressive and reliable quick with several variations, Broad took his first steps towards stardom at 18 years of age, when he made the big decision to leave England for Australia. There he played for Hopper’s Crossing in Melbourne. It was in Australia that Broad’s coaches believe the gangly teenager matured and grew, physically and mentally, as a cricketer. He has described the experience as a ‘fight’ and completely different to what he had been used to back home. Down Under he increased his pace, learnt to swing the ball away and had the pressure of being the one international player in the team, with the expectation on his shoulders of being the one expected to take a crucial wicket or hit important runs, as he opened the bowling and the batting. Stuart Broad - made in England, developed in Australia.

Geva Mentor

Few players become true examples for their peers. Geva Mentor is one of them. She has made her name in England, having amassed 126 international appearances and two Commonwealth Games medals over an incredible 18-year international career that is still going. Yet, her impact has also been felt in Australia too, having had stints playing in the Australian National Netball League for Adelaide Thunderbirds, Melbourne Vixens and now as captain of Sunshine Coast Lightening. She’s already won a league championship and been named player of the year for her latest team. It’s not just the longevity that makes Mentor’s career so impressive, but her desire to take her game further by looking to learn and refine it so far away from home.

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