August 17, 2022 at 9:30am
Kendall Trump, Class of 2013

Big Blue women’s basketball takes summer trip to Italy

On the heels of a successful season, Millikin University’s women’s basketball team took on a new challenge: international travel. Led by head coach Olivia Lett, the team took a ten-day tour of Italy, filled with experiences dedicated to strengthening team bonds, improving communication and of course, competition. 

The 2021-2022 Big Blue women’s basketball team secured the regular season College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) title and advanced to the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Division III tournament. These accomplishments set the foundation for a strong team and an even stronger program, but Lett and her team were determined to improve in their upcoming season.

“Last season definitely set a new precedent for what we expect,” said incoming senior Miranda Fox.

“We really just want to hit the ground running, win the conference again and go even further in the tournament.” The team hoped that traveling and experiencing new places and cultures together would improve their communication, deepen their bonds and bring them closer as a winning team.

When Olivia Lett took over the women’s basketball team in March 2018, she was keen to add international travel to the program. After a season of competing in Spain for professional team Liga Femenina 2, Lett knew that the lessons she learned about living internationally could apply to her role as head coach.

“I just felt like everybody should experience a language barrier at some point in time," Lett remarked. 

"Experiencing another country is just a really great opportunity that sports can give you."

During their travels, the team, including graduating seniors, traversed Italy with stops in Rome, Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast. While the trip’s highlights included visiting famous sites such as the Spanish Steps, the Vatican and the Colosseum, as well as a day at the beach and a cooking class, Lett hoped her athletes would see their deeper bond as a key takeaway.

“In the summers, we aren’t typically as connected as a team. Having this trip created something that will be a buzz when we get back,” she commented.

While abroad, the Big Blue women’s basketball team took on two teams in gameplay and came away victorious in both matchups. Competing against teams from Roma and Sora, Millikin’s athletes overcame European rule differences, such as having eight seconds instead of 10 to get across mid-court. 

“Being able to connect with other people who don’t speak the same languages and seeing that basketball was a way to bring us together was really cool,” Fox, a graduate from Effingham (Ill.) High School, said. Following each game, Millilkin’s team exchanged gifts with each European team, celebrating the shared language of sports. 

By the end of the trip, the members of Millikin’s women’s basketball team were confident that the trip had not only improved their communication, but also brought them closer as teammates. “During the trip, we focused on team bonding and seeing the bigger picture of basketball,” Fox remarked.

“Sometimes, we get it in our minds that basketball comes first and it’s always about basketball and winning. For us, this trip was really about recognizing that life is bigger than basketball.”

Read a full account of the team’s trip to Italy.