The new season started with a photo. A photo that each of the basketball players who will play for Alba Berlin this year posted in the group chat. A photo that shows how they made their first attempts at the ball and where the career began that ultimately brought them all together to Berlin. This is intended to create a basis between new and old players in order to master the challenges that await the first division promoted from October.

Coach Cristo Cabrera’s team has lost five players this year, and the coach welcomed five new players at the start of training on Monday. With center player Maggie Mulligan, wing players Nina Rosemeyer and Tessa Stammberger, inside player Laina Snyder and playmaker Deeshyra Thomas, Alba has brought one thing above all to Berlin: experience. Almost all of them have already played in the first division and on the international stage.

The five newcomers know what it’s like to play in front of an audience in larger halls, know the physique of the higher divisions and have the sporting and mental know-how to survive in tight situations. “This experience will help us. We have now got what we would have been missing otherwise,” says captain Lena Gohlisch, who took her first basketball steps with the Alba-Minis and was therefore able to present herself in the yellow jersey on her “introduction photo”. With

Interim positions at TuS Lichterfelde and the Berlin Baskets, a professional year in France and her time at the first division club TK Hannover Luchse, the 28-year-old is also one of the more experienced leading players who know what the team in the first division expects. “Tactically the difference isn’t that big, but most of the players are much more athletic, stronger and faster. There is a completely different physicality and hardness. The younger ones among us will probably have to get used to that first,” says Gohlisch.

At the same time, she also knows that her team can take a lot with them from last season. In terms of sport, Alba wants to play fast again and defend aggressively and build on the existing strengths. The women have also learned that a suboptimal start can still lead to a successful goal and that self-confidence grows over time. Gohlisch hopes for that and for a homogeneous team structure again this year. “But from how I’ve gotten to know everyone so far, I have a good feeling about it. I think that fits quite well, so that we can quickly regain good team chemistry,” says the defensive player.

The success of the past season was also due to the coaching team. “I have the feeling that we have grown together over the last three years. Young players are given confidence. Nobody has to be afraid of making mistakes,” explains Gohlisch, emphasizing the good communication with those responsible. Because that’s also an aspect that the team worked on last season and that’s important because every player has different requirements. Only a few are full professionals, many are also completing an apprenticeship or working.

In addition to basketball, Gohlisch, for example, is a specialist in general medicine and therefore has to juggle day and night shifts, training and playing times as well as regeneration phases without reducing her performance. It’s the same for other players. “We talked a lot about it and our coach responded very well to us. That was a learning effect of the last few years. As the captain, it was my job to listen to the team to see who was doing and then report back,” reports Gohlisch. She and her teammates now use an app in which they enter their sleeping and training habits and also record their well-being so that coaching can be based on this and any problems can be addressed.

At the same time, it helps that the structures surrounding the training have been gradually professionalized. Men’s athletic trainers and physiotherapists are also available to women, and they now have access to the hall at all times. “You notice a development. The will to invest is there,” says Gohlisch, emphasizing that this willingness to invest is not just of a monetary nature. After all, it is not a matter of course that sports director Himar Ojeda travels to away games, that the club gradually expands the women’s department and increasingly supports the youth work with the girls.

Although Alba can now boast the largest girls’ and women’s program in the DBBL, there is still a lot of room for improvement in this area throughout Germany. In general, the structural substructure is missing, as Gohlisch explains, so that the conditions in France or Spain are still a long way off. “The recognition of the sport is completely different, but so is the promotion,” says Gohlisch, “the youth Bundesliga is a good start, but the leap from U18 to women is still big.”

In Germany, a regulated affiliation of sports boarding schools for girls to the clubs is hardly imaginable due to the financial challenges alone. This is made clear by the fact that players in the Bundesliga are often remunerated with compensation and vouchers and not with a fixed salary. At Alba, however, the first steps are being taken.

So far, the concept has worked, the club is the only club in Germany that can muster a first-class women’s and men’s team. For the first time in 15 years, first-class women’s basketball is being played in Berlin again. “I think this is a giant step for Berlin. Now the talents that are developed here have the prospect of being able to play at a high level and don’t have to leave the city at a young age,” says Gohlisch, who for her part still had to train with the boys because there was no girls’ team.

Now she’s being asked for jerseys and signatures by young girls and asked about the minis to talk about their careers and give tips. “Obviously that’s great for us too. Above all, you notice that something is emerging and that we are now role models and not just the men. I missed that back then,” says Gohlisch. And who knows, maybe some of the girls will take photos now that they can show their teammates in the first division at some point.