Kingsland graduate Savanah Oeltjen, now a coach with the University of Wisconsin – Stout, talks to high school players during a break in the action when the group was in Brisbane, Australia, as part of a summer program. SUBMITTED PHOTO
Kingsland graduate Savanah Oeltjen, now a coach with the University of Wisconsin – Stout, talks to high school players during a break in the action when the group was in Brisbane, Australia, as part of a summer program. SUBMITTED PHOTO
UW-Stout Sports Information
Kingsland graduate Savanah Oeltjen is getting quite familiar with Australia.??
On her third trip to the Land Down Under, Oeltjen, a former all-conference performer with the University of Wisconsin - Stout women's basketball team and a current Blue Devil assistant coach, was a coach for International Sports Specialist, Inc., a program that this summer organized high school age players to play a series of games in the Brisbane, Australia, area.
ISSI also arranges travel opportunities for volleyball, football, swimming, wrestling, golf, track & field and cross-country all over the world. The branch of ISSI that Oeltjen traveled with is Down Under Sports.
Oeltjen is a native of Spring Valley and a 2003 graduate of Kingsland High School. She played for UW-Stout from 2003 to 2007 and holds the school record for most women's basketball games played at 117. Oeltjen was a first team all-Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) pick in 2007. Oeltjen will enter her third year as an assistant coach for UW-Stout.??
Previously, Oeltjen had made the trip as a coach for the same program last summer and, as a high school student in 2002, participated in the program as a player, all in Australia.? ?
"This is an amazing trip and I loved the opportunity it gave me as an athlete 12 years ago," Oeltjen said about her return trips. "I want these athletes to experience the best and what better opportunity than to go down under and experience from a great organization that has been around for 26 years."??
The players from Oeltjen's team were from Minnesota, North Dakota and California. The group ranged in age from going into their junior year of high school to first year of college. Players had to have earned all-conference honors in their home high school conferences and had to be nominated to play.? ?
The trip was from July 13 to 24, with nine days in Australia, plus an option to travel three days in Hawaii. Eight of the nine players on Oeltjen's team took advantage of the Hawaii option.
After a 15-hour flight from Los Angeles to Brisbane, the team drove to Surfer's Paradise, a suburb of Brisbane on the world-renown Australian Gold Coast. Brisbane is located on the east coast of Australia in the province of Queensland. The team held a practice that first day.? ?
"The first practice is always an interesting one with the jet lag and continuing to meet and learn each other's names," said Oeltjen.? ?
The following day (Wednesday), the team spent at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.? ?
"Here, we had a chance to feed kangaroos, hold a koala bear and see a lot of different Australian wildlife," Oeltjen said.? ?
It was then back to work with a practice following the return from the sanctuary, before an off day (Thursday) to allow the team to explore Australian culture with a number of different options.? ?
The off day was followed by three solid days of basketball and the team played 11 games over the weekend, playing two games on Friday, six games on Saturday and, because the team won their poll, played three on Sunday, finishing fourth in the field of 11 teams. The games were 15-minute halves, with a running clock.? ?
"Because we only had two practices before playing, we had to strategize our practice plan so everyone was on the same page once we leave the building," Oeltjen said. "You never know what kind of obstacles you are going to run into. I find it challenging, but fun. Our strategy was to keep it simple both offensively and defensively so the girls could easily connect and put their skills into good use."??
The team left on Monday and the majority of players finished their trip with a three-day stop in Hawaii. For Oeltjen, this was her fifth trip to Hawaii.
After experiencing the anomaly of the International Dateline in which they left Australia on Monday afternoon and landed in Hawaii on Monday morning ("Weird, I know, but at the same time I can say I got to live Monday, the 21st twice," said Oeltjen), she knew she wanted to do something different.? ?
"I decided to try surfing, and it was a success," Oeltjen said.? ?
"I had an amazing experience in Australia and Hawaii and am looking forward to years to come," Oeltjen said. "This is such a wonderful opportunity and experience for these athletes.? ?
"This is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity for these athletes to not only learn an Olympic style of play which is challenging, yet fun. It also allows these young athletes to meet new friends, explore and play against some tough competition."