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For Ali Forde, Playing in Germany was Transformative Experience

  • Written by Derek Johnson
Ali Forde laughs when thinking back to her Woodinville days. She was ultra competitive and any failure on the court was galling. (Especially for a team with a shot at the 2012 State Title).
 
Coach Scott Bullock would call time out and gather his players on the sideline. Forde rarely bit her tongue.      
 
“I was kind of a butthead when we’d come to the bench,” Forde said. “Scott would tell us something and I would say `No! It’s completely different out there!’ I was stubborn.”
 
IMG 3539Ali Forde (center) celebrating Oktoberfest in Germany in 2016 (Courtesy photo) But those days were meaningful.
 
“My best friends were all on the team,” Forde said. “Scott was awesome. He helped me through some hard times and the ups and downs of being recruited.”
 
At 6’2” tall, Forde went on to play basketball and volleyball at Idaho from 2012-2016. (Her brother Maxx played football there, and today is a defensive tackle for the CFL’s BC Lions.)
 
Coming out of college, Ali Forde went undrafted by the WNBA. But she signed with an agent, and soon was told that a German team was interested.   
 
They were called the TuS Bad Aibling Fireballs.
 
“Their name was hilarious,” Forde said. “The Fireballs sounds like a team I would’ve played against in fourth grade.”
 
At twenty-two years of age, Forde was on a flight bound for Europe. Her first time there. She soon met her new coaches and teammates. As the 2016-17 season approached, it was a brave new world for a kid from Woodinville.  
 
“Sarcasm was kind of a funny thing,” Forde said. “It’s hard to adapt to people and learn if they’re sarcastic. My roommate was from France, and the French are always sarcastic. So she would laugh at my jokes. But my German teammates would look at me like, `Are you crazy?’”
 
As practices got underway, Forde scrapped with teammates. Her rough-and tumble American style rubbed people the wrong way.   
 
“Practices were conducted in English,” she said with a laugh. “But when someone thought I was screwing up, they would switch to German. I would have no idea what they were saying -- but I knew they were talking about me!”
 
DSC 2192Ali Forde (center) earlier this month at the Tacoma Dome (Photo by Derek Johnson) As the season got underway, Forde was in for a rude awakening. If she thought Kingco referees were bad, she hadn’t seen anything yet.
 
She fouled out of her first five games.  
 
“I feel like they were thinking the American doesn’t know how we play here, so let’s call a foul!” she said.
 
But as time went on, Forde adapted and also enjoyed the camaraderie.   
 
“On the court we got after it, but off the court everyone loved each other,” she said. “But it was funny because I was the only single person on my team. So I did a lot on my own because everyone was hanging out with their boyfriend or girlfriend.”
 
On her days off, Forde and her French roommate went to the mountains several times. Her most vivid memories came from there. 
 
“I took a train up the mountain,” she said. “They had a Christmas market, with booths selling hot cocoa. Christmas lights everywhere and all this great food. Musicians were playing violins and guitars and cellos. I can’t even describe the vibe. The sun was setting and it was the most amazing thing in the entire world. Looking out and seeing only mountains and the city below. I loved the culture a lot.”
 
The Fireballs finished their season with a 12-13 record. Forde averaged 10 points and 6 rebounds a game. For a combination of reasons, she decided to return home. 
 
Back in Woodinville, she began working in real estate, and was hired as the girls JV coach at Woodinville. In her first season, she guided the Lady Falcons to an 18-1 record. She also served as an assistant coach on the varsity squad that finished second at State.
For the 23-year old former “butthead”, coaching was an eye-opener. 
 
“At the beginning of the season, the girls would come on to the bench,” Forde said. “I was like, `Oh my gosh, I have no idea what I want to tell them!’ While they’re running up-and-down the court you’re watching them. It might be hard to distinguish everything that’s going on. I think it takes a few games of coaching to be able to discern the aspects of the game that could be improved.”
 
She now sees varsity coach Scott Bullock in a new light. 
 
“Now that I’m coaching alongside of him, I really respect him,” Forde said. “I’m able to see the things he sees in the game that maybe the people on the court aren’t noticing. I totally agree with everything he does and he’s a great coach. I was more stubborn in high school but now that I’m coaching I can appreciate what he brings to the game.”
 
Forde smiles went talking about her JV girls. 
 
“It’s cool to get to know the players not just as basketball players but as human beings,” she said. “They share their lives with you. And it’s something special for someone to share their life with you when you’re just their coach. I like that part. I’ve had so many great coaches in my life that were mentors to me that I would like to serve in that role in other people’s lives.”
 

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