KNOX, Pa. – Sometimes sports are more than just sports.
Sometimes sports can be a gateway to something bigger, something the athletes, coaches, and their families have never experienced.
That was recently the case for 2021 Keystone graduate Emily Lauer, a soon-to-be junior on the Allegheny College women’s basketball team.
Lauer was invited to participate in a basketball trip to Brazil sponsored by USA Sports Tours and Events, a company run by long-time basketball coach Ron Smith who was the head coach at Northern Iowa while also being an assistant at Iowa State among other places.
“I was contacted in mid- to late-April,” Lauer said. “My coach (at Allegheny) looked into it, talked to other coaches who had kids do it, and found out it was a great experience and they recommended it. I realized pretty quickly it was something that was going to be cool for me.”
Lauer and eight other collegiate women’s players and nine men’s players from across the country went to Brazil between July 10 and July 19 and got a fully immersed experience.
“We played games, we did sightseeing, we put on youth clinics,” Lauer said. “We got to see a lot of their culture and learn a lot about the people in Brazil.”
According to Lauer, her biggest takeaway from the trip wasn’t really about basketball but about how people in the United States take for granted what they have while other parts of the world aren’t as fortunate.
“I am so glad I decided to go,” Lauer said. “I wasn’t 100% sold at first, but once I got there and saw what it was all about it really changed my perspective on how we live in the United States, what we have, what we take for granted. I am so blessed to get that experience. A lot of people don’t have that opportunity.”
Lauer said Brazil was nothing like what she has seen in the United States.
“It is nothing like the U.S.,” Lauer said. “It really changed my perspective. I don’t take things for granted. For them, a t-shirt means the world. For us, it is no big deal. That is something I won’t take for granted. Some places don’t have the supplies they need, and we just think it is normal for us.”
The reaction from the crowds when the team played games was also something Lauer cherished.
“For them, it was more about people being able to see USA basketball,” Lauer said. “It brings them together. They think we are super amazing coming from the U.S. They wanted autographs, pictures, stuff like that after the game. The interactions after the game were special. We had t-shirts and old jerseys we were trading. The language was a pretty big barrier, but you get through it by pointing and using your hands and stuff. Overall, it was pretty cool.”
According to Lauer, the trip is something she will also look back on with fond memories.
“It can be scary at first,” Lauer said of going to a different country. “But I would tell anyone to go and get the experience. It is so worth, so worth it. I will always look back and remember that trip, the people I met. I will always remember them. I am sure I gained a ton of (social media) followed just from Brazil.”
Lauer is going to be a junior at Allegheny where she is majoring in Biology with a minor in Economics on a Physician’s Assistant track that will see her go to graduate school.
On the basketball court, she was the leading scorer in the President’s Athletic Conference averaging 18.4 points per game as a sophomore for the 13-13 Gators after scoring 14.0 ppg as a freshman.
A first-team All-PAC performer this past winter, Lauer was a finalist for the 2023 Jostens Trophy, which recognizes the most outstanding men’s and women’s Division III basketball players of the year focusing on three major criteria: basketball ability, academic prowess, and service to one’s surrounding community. She was the first-ever Allegheny student-athlete chosen as a finalist for the award.
“I am so glad I went to Allegheny,” Lauer said. “We are s small team and are very close. We are very young, too. There is going to be a lot of growth happening even this year and next year. I think you are going to see some big improvements in our team.”