Words: Mor Menashe #8, Lakehead University Thunderwolves, Thunder Bay, Ontario
Images: Paul Hendren
My name is Mor Menashe and I’m from Ein Carmel, a small town in Israel with a population of only 900 people. I began playing basketball at the age of 7, on a team coached by my father. For three years I played for my father and he taught me the most about the game of basketball.
In Israel young men and women are required to complete three years of mandatory service in the Israeli Army upon graduating high school. Israel is much different from Canada, here there is an opportunity to pursue an academic degree at a post secondary school while also competing athletically whereas back home that option doesn’t exist. After I completed my services, I wanted to study and play abroad. I learned about what was then known as the CIS or Canadian Interuniversity Sport, now re-branded as U-Sports, and it was appealing as it offered the perfect package of overseas basketball and an academic dream.
Admittedly, I didn’t know much about Canada, other than it was cold, or about Canadian basketball and I never imagined playing here, even in my wildest dreams. The idea was first presented to me by another Israeli, Yinon Rietty. The CIS presented an intriguing mix of European (pick and roll and ball movement) and American style basketball (athleticism, size and overall talent) that would challenge me to improve. The league has some terrific facilities to go along with a number of excellent coaches who prepare diligently, which has helped me grow as a player and continue to learn the game.
Flash forward to December 2017, I’m in my fourth year of the International Business, Honours of Commerce program at Lakehead University, in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Lakehead has provided me with an interesting, enriching and rewarding academic pursuit. As a whole, Canada is an amazing country, multicultural and with generous, caring and open-minded citizens. The challenges of being an international student-athlete, from the Middle East no less, have been difficult at times.
There is no better place than to begin with a harsh Thunder Bay winter. Israel’s weather is typically an average of 13 degrees in the winter to about 32 in the summer. Compare that to the whipping winds of North Western Ontario and the bone-chilling cold that accompanies it, it’s safe to say that the winter can wear me down and take a toll on my energy both physically and mentally.
Israel to Thunder Bay is an estimated 9,431 kilometers, crossing the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Returning to school after summer break can be an adventure, it’s a 14 hour long flight. The distance from family and friends can certainly be challenging, especially during the holidays or after a long week of class and practice. I cherish the time spent with my parents, siblings and extended family, more now than ever being across the world. Being away from my family has taught me a number of things though, like how to be fully independent but also to be comfortable in seeking out help when I need it. Fortunately for me the community in Thunder Bay has welcomed me with open arms and always made me feel at home. The fans pack the Thunder Dome, making it an awesome place to play, and off the court offer a helping hand whenever they can. The community atmosphere has made being away from home less difficult than I anticipated.
Language can be a real barrier for international student’s and my story is no different. In my first two years at Lakehead I had to work really hard and be disciplined to suceed academically. Lakehead University's Business Faculty, the International Office and the Athletic Department all went above and beyond to make sure that I received the academic assistance that I needed, especially with the demanding travel that goes along with being a student-athlete. I probably broke the record for the number of tutoring hours my first semester at Lakehead, but it was an obstacle that I had to overcome- much like on the court- athletics and academics teach many of the same lessons.
Going overseas to get an education, compete at the university level athletically is something that few of my friends have ever managed to do, and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity I have received.
By May I will have received my degree, a basketball experience that I will forever remember as well as a number of friendships that have been created. All the challenges that have presented themselves over my time in Canada have helped me grow and gain valuable insight for the future.
I hope to play professional basketball upon graduation, a new destination and a new challenge. But basketball isn’t all I want to accomplish. In the future I hope to create a non-profit foundation in one of the many areas that I’m passionate about.