In basketball, it is not just the focus on the professionals and players. Engaged with club changes, injuries and other circumstances are also the families of the players. A special family is surely the family Veikalas, which feels particularly well in Germany. Our author was able to talk extensively with Stacey Veikalas, who, as a wife of the Göttingen Forward Benas Veikalas, is a kind of manager of everyday life in this family.
BBLProfis: You were born in California and lived in Denver for a very long time. If you think back from today’s point of view, how was your childhood in this place and do you miss Denver these days?
Stacey: Most of my childhood I spent in Denver and I have been great memories. It is a place where the panorama with many mountains offers great views, but also, for example, for skiing offers the best opportunities. As a child, I enjoyed the sunshine as well, because in Denver it is really sunny most of the time. Just this sun in combination with the connected mood, I miss quite a few days in Europe.
BBLProfis: After your school days you studied journalism. Have you ever worked in this environment? Does this training help you to operate your blogs nowadays?
Stacey: In addition to journalism, I also studied English and earned my Master’s degree to teach English. As a real journalist, I have not yet worked, but this training helps me naturally with my blogs and also with other projects, which I take over and carry out.
BBLProfis: From today’s point of view you can certainly imagine a life without basketball. But how did you come to this sport? When and where was your first contact with this sport?
Stacey: You’re right, from today’s point of view, there is no longer a life for me without basketball (Stacey laughs). And when I am honest, I do not see any end here. My son Vincent has inherited the basketball IQ of his father and also our Amber loves this sport. My affinity with basketball has not come from Benas. I had played basketball as a child and was also a member of the team at the University of North Carolina.
BBLProfis: What the fans are interested in – how did you meet Benas the first time and how did you find each other?
Stacey: This is really an interesting story. I met Benas in Denver. I drove in my convertible and suddenly Benas and his entire team jumped in front of my car. I slowed down in time and somehow ran after it all. We had dates, understood us very well and now we enjoy our life as a family. Of course, we have always had our challenges, but we have mastered them and have been together for more than 15 years. And I’m sure – there are many very beautiful years and decades to come.
BBLProfis: Doubtless, basketball has a great impact on your life. Your husband has already played in many countries. Benas was active not only in Germany, but also in the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Italy. Now, if you think of these countries, what was the best thing and did you have special memories in all places?
Stacey: Every country has made a special impression with us. Lithuania not only because it is Bena’s home, but also because people love basketball and live there. In the Czech Republic I had to cry at the end of game 7 in the playoffs, because I knew we would move and move on. Germany is one of the best countries for us. As an American, I always have a funny saying about the many rules in this country, but this makes life in Germany much easier. People do not have to worry about getting paid, or it is also taken care of by the club. This is exactly what makes Germany stand out – a great place for a family. Then we were still in Italy – for me a great country and a dream that came true. The food, the fashion and also the people on the spot were fantastic. But during our time in Italy, we also had difficult times to get through. Thus Bena’s mother died after a three-year struggle with cancer. But what I like most about all the countries – we have always been able to win friends for life.
BBLProfis: How is the place / country to leave when your husband Benas has signed a new contract with a new team?
Stacey: Quite honestly, it’s annoying! Not the fact that we’re moving is the problem, but rather the organization behind it. Take Germany as an example. You have to take care of mobile radio, cable TV and much more and to terminate the individual contracts within the deadlines, because you do not want to pay them of course, if you are no longer on the spot. In addition to this, the school is also part of the family. The international schools often have a deadline for enrolling or canceling in May, which was usually not possible for us because the negotiations with Benas were still going on. And as a foreigner, you always have to worry about logging off. It is also difficult because we sometimes only knew that Benas changed the club, but without knowing exactly where our journey would lead us. And here is my role to play. I am the manager of our family, so Benas can concentrate on his sport. It is also important to organize the relocation, because as a family we have not only a suitcase full of clothes with us. Therefore, we had to partly sell items before a move, or think about how we can create them from A to B. Meanwhile, we have become real relocation experts.
BBLProfis: You or you now have three children. How is it for your kids to change the schools and thus have to search for new connections?
Stacey: It is not easy for our children, of course. When we left Bonn, for example, it was very difficult for our guys, because they had found many good friends. But the hardest thing is certainly the farewell in itself. Sometimes we do not know whether we will go forever or see us again in a few months. This is part of the basketball business, but for children it is certainly no easy matter.
BBLProfis: Besides your role as a mother and a female player, you are also very active on the Internet. For example, you are running the Basketslifetravel.com blog. Are you doing any other jobs or projects? Does this distance to the basketball sometimes quite well?
Stacey: Right, I run the Basketslifetravel.com blog. I am writing about our experiences as a basketball family and about places we have visited. In the meantime, this blog has become something of a business for me because I deserve something. But I also deal with other things. So I write for magazines, more travel blogs and also as freelancers for companies. I am now also active in the finance sector for companies from the USA. Before I moved to Europe, I had a mortgage company and at the same time taught at the university and gave lectures. Now I help companies who need help. And yes – of course this distraction helps me. So I am not only a mother and a player, but I can always prove myself.
BBLProfis: Benas meanwhile in the middle of 30. Have you ever talked about a possible career end and considered how your life could look like?
Stacey: Of course we’re talking about it, even though Benas always claims to be 24 (Stacey laughs). My husband is just a basketball mad, who hopes that this trip will never come to an end. But we have already talked about possibilities. He could, for example, imagine to train kids or become a personal coach. Just like Benas and we decide – we’re both sure that basketball will remain a big part of our lives. But the most important question about us is where we want to live after Benas‘ career.
BBLProfis: We have already talked about your impressions about the different countries where Benas was active as a professional. What about the fans? What makes the German fans especially special and what could be better?
Stacey: Sorry Germany, but the best fans are in my opinion in Lithuania. Of course, I have to say that Benas does not divorce (Smile). But seriously – Lithuania is just crazy about basketball and you can feel it on the stands. The emotions go through with the fans on the ground, so that you as a player is also said a lot if your man does not have the best day. The emotions are also high in Italy, but Lithuanian fans are the best for me. There is also a great atmosphere in Germany. Although somewhat quieter, the fans are loyal to their teams. We were in Bonn for a long time and the support on the spot was great.
What could be better? Actually, it would be nice if the fans would remember more often that the players are just people and have a bad day. We should also be allowed to have a life outside the basketball, which unfortunately is not always respected.
BBLProfis: Let’s talk about Bonn. Your husband Benas was a long time professional at Telekom Baskets. Your daughter was born in Bonn. Is this city something like a European home for you or yourselves? What makes Bonn special for you?
Stacey: Bonn – a great city. Bonn had become a home for us as Benas played for the Telekom Baskets, and so we were all tears when we knew we had to move on. We still have so many good friends on the ground today that we would like to come back. And also the fans are great. You have never forgotten Benas and me. What makes for my husband and me this place so special is the fact that Amber was born there. It was a real miracle for us after the previous health problems and fortunately the medical care on site was just great. We are grateful for all that Bonn has given us and we will never forget this city.
Thank you for the interview Stacey. We wish you, Benas and your children, a lot of luck and success!