Decker, Heinen headed to Australia
Baker University women's basketball coach Susan Decker was chosen to lead a select team of area basketball players to Australia from May 10-22.
"Initially I was excited about the opportunity, and then kind of had some speculation about it," Decker said. "I think it's a great honor to be asked to do something like that."
The team will be made up mostly of Heart of America Athletic players, including Baker freshman Allie Heinen, with the only non-HAAC player coming from Washburn University.
Heinen said she loves the opportunity to go on the trip.
"I was really excited, because I have always wanted to go to Australia," Heinen said. "It was pretty cool that I got asked."
Decker was selected for the opportunity through Athletes International USA, an organization based in Olathe.
Decker said she wasn't the first HAAC coach asked to go, because she said the Evangel University coach was first asked. But Decker still wasn't quite sure why she was selected, but had a good idea why.
"I think they made some phone calls to other coaches around our conference and my name came up several times," Decker said.
There are a couple drawbacks to the trip for Decker and Heinen. One of those is time for the team to practice together.
Decker said the team is trying to organize a practice this weekend and next, and will definitely practice on May 9, the day before it leaves.
A second drawback is the games will be held during Baker's finals week.
Heinen said she has had to adjust her finals schedule.
"I have to take my finals a week or two earlier, so I had to e-mail all my professors and get it scheduled," Heinen said.
The final drawback for Decker is the plane flight to Australia.
"That is probably the one disadvantage," Decker said. "I think from Los Angeles it's 17 hours. That will probably be the worst part of the trip."
The team will be participating in the Arafura Games, held in the city of Darwin on the northern shores of Australia.
The Arafura Games began in 1991 as the Arafura Sports Festival with 1,500 participants from seven countries competing in 13 sports. Held every two years, the event drew more than 3,100 athletes representing 25 nations with competition in 29 sports in 2001.
The games are endorsed by the Australian Olympic Committee and the Australian Institute of Sport and are conducted by the Northern Territory Government, according to information provided to coaches.
Decker's select team is guaranteed three games, with a possibility of as many as six games should it make the gold-medal round of the tournament. Between games, the team will have a chance to take tours of such sights as a wildlife sanctuary and a beach-side sunset market.
"The package that is put together includes some of that," Decker said of site-seeing. "They kind of have a lot of that already planned. Everybody I have talked to said it was a really organized and great trip."
Baker University Athletic Director Dan Harris believes the trip is about much more than basketball.
"I think it's an absolutely outstanding opportunity," Harris said. "The great thing is it represents our conference first. The great experience with this has very little to do with basketball. It's a new country and culture that probably nobody in this group has been to before. I think they will have the time of their lives."