CHIÈVRES, Belgium –
During the last week of November, SHAPE was the place to be for basketball fans. From Nov. 26 to Dec. 1, 15 teams, comprised of active-duty military members of NATO nations, competed to win the 53rd Annual SHAPE International Basketball Tournament, or SHAPE IBT.
New to this year's tournament was the women's competition. The women's teams, which came from five countries in Europe and North America, were trying to be the first to win the SHAPE IBT for women. The Netherlands were one of the teams along with Belgium, Latvia, France and Great Britain.
"We trained for several years now because, we wanted to be a real Dutch team so we practiced a lot. We are very glad to be here," said Simone Van De Brug-Scheffer, center player and petty officer for the Dutch Navy.
On Monday, The Netherlands won the first game against Great Britain (60-39). Van De Brug-Scheffer was very happy to take part in the first female tournament at SHAPE, but it's not the first time that The Netherlands women's team participated in the event.
"In 2004, we did the opening game against the American team. That was the first time that women played here," said Van De Brug-Scheffer.
Fourteen years later, it was not just one game but a real tournament. "We want to grow as women within the [military] service. This is very important for us," Van De Brug-Scheffer said.
A SENSE OF CAMARADERIE
The SHAPE IBT men's tournament had representation from 10 countries. This year, the players came from Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, Great Britain, France, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, U.S. and SHAPE.
Last year, the U.S. team won the tournament after defeating France in the final game.
"We want to continue to have our pursuit of excellence," said Marine 1st Lt. Kevin Alter, a player in the U.S. team.
Although Alter hopes his team comes in first place again, he said that participating in the tournament is more than just winning games. "You can get perspectives of the different military services from each different country and how their jobs may be similar or different than how ours are. It's nice to see that sense of camaraderie in our military service. I really enjoy meeting and learning from [athletes from] the other countries," Alter said.
According to Christian Camus, physical training instructor and head coach of the Belgian team, camaraderie is very useful. "It's important to have it because we can meet all the other countries in the future, during humanitarian missions for example."
The U.S. team had a big win against Belgium for the first match. American players led 30-11 after the first quarter, and 53-25 at the half. The U.S. team continued to offer a big show in the third quarter (81-40) with some dunk attempts and won the game.
Of course all the teams want to win some games, but many players don't want to focus solely on that. "The most important thing for me is to have fun with my teammates," said Délano Van Trigt, a private in the Dutch Navy.
The last tournament games are scheduled Friday and Saturday. On Saturday, the final games will be held at 7 p.m. for the men's competition, and at 5 p.m. for the women's competition. For more information, go to SHAPE2Day.com. You can also watch a livestream of the games at AFN Benelux Facebook page at www.facebook.com/AFNBenelux.