The dynamic duo: Slovenian basketball internationals Hana and Sara Sambolić about leadership, passion and tenacity

Gepubliceerd op 28 februari 2024 om 13:00

Two sisters who have emerged as symbols of determination, talent and passion for the game: Hana and Sara Sambolić. For both sisters, basketball is not just a sport. It is a way of life. Despite pursuing different academic paths, Hana (left with number 9) studying medicine and Sara (right with number 6) delving into BI Technology, their devotion to the game remains unwavering. Their shared experiences on the court have fostered a deep bond, where understanding and teamwork thrive. Photos: FIBA Europe

A shared love for the game

From an early age, basketball ran through the veins of the Sambolić family. With their father who was a former basketball player, the sisters were introduced to the sport at an early age. Inspired by their family's love for athletics, Hana and Sara embarked on their basketball journey, each carving their amazing path within the game. Their love for basketball is explained quite easily by both girls. “The feeling of playing with teammates, and the way we understand each other, is amazing,” Hana explains. “I know my self-confidence is on its best when we did is as a team, when the seventh or eighth player in the team did great as well. Because of that feeling I love playing basketball!”

“Of course,” Sara says. “Who does not love to win? For me, basketball is all about the fact that with trust each other. We practice hard, and during game we show our hard work. That is amazing to me! I know from the beginning how playing basketball felt for me. Being there for fun has been amazing! That is how it started, and now, that kind of fun is in my life on a professional level of playing basketball. It is a lot more serious. It changed a lot since then, but for the best. It makes me also more concentrated, and I have more discipline.”

Leadership and adaptability

As their roles evolved within their respective teams, so did their leadership styles. Sara's transition into a team captain role brought newfound responsibilities, requiring her to think beyond individual performance and prioritize the team's collective success. Meanwhile, Hana's focus on defense and scoring prowess reflects her adaptability and commitment to continual improvement. “In the beginning, only goal was to score a basket, which was my main focus,” Hana says. “Through the years I wanted to be a threat in defense and getting better on a professional level. It is more a lot more serious, and you must work hard for all the results. We are pretty similar in our mindset, like to play until the end and never give up. On our position we are different in some kind of ways. Sara is trying to organize the team. She always says which type of offense we must run.”

Sara: “Hana is more like a scoring player and is a good one on one defender. She focuses on those kinds of things on the court. For me, this season is a little different, because I am also team captain of our senior team. I have to think for the whole team, and always try to be positive. I love it, really!”

The thrill of competition

That first moment you enter the center court and playing your first professional basketball game. It is not something you just do. “To be honest, I was scared,” Sara admits. “I did have such experience back then. We played in the under 16 team, and already went all the way up to the senior team. During the first year it was really hard. We only won five games. I had a tough time because of my mental health, but we went through it and talked with the team and coaches a lot of time. We didn’t give up and kept fighting hard.”

Hana: “We learned a lot during that time. We didn’t have older players to look up to, so it was on us at that time. Nevertheless, we made it through those times, and it is going pretty well!”

Being a Slovenian international

The first time that Hana and Sara were selected for the national team was in 2021. They played for the under 18 team of Slovenia. “It was a great experience,” Hana remembers. “You know you have to be good and competitive as well. We always thought that we were good, but it was time to proof it.”

Next year, in 2022, they have accomplished a lot of things. They won the championship at the under 18’s European Championship. “We had a really good coach,” Sara says. “We were also tired, but when we came to Bulgaria, the only thing that came up into are mind was to win. We felt so relieved when we won the finals!”

Another championship in 2023

With the under 20 team, Hana and Sara have made a lot of progression. After a difficult start, they managed to win the championship again. “Everything was new for us,” Hana explains. “We had a new coach, and we had a different team last summer. We haven’t play with them that much, and we also had our exams. We started our preparations for the national team in between those exams, which was incredibly stressful. So, we had zero expectations because of that.”

Sara: “Our coach had innovative ideas for our team. It was hard to adapt to that in the beginning. Some talented players became injured, so we didn’t have a lot of guard nor bigger players. During the game against The Netherlands, we had a lot of struggles. It was a problem to play against some bigger teams. The expectations weren’t that high, and we wanted to prove ourselves that we can make it. Our basketball association wants us to play in the A division. Because of that pressure, it gave us a lot of motivation.”

Hana: “If we didn’t lose against The Netherlands, then I think we didn’t make it to the finals. We talked about it so much and solve a lot of issues and conflicts. It is a prove that our country would not give up, never!”

In the dynamic world of basketball, Hana and Sara Sambolić are shining examples of what it means to chase your dreams with unwavering passion and determination. Their journey serves as an inspiration to all kinds of athletes everywhere, reminding us that with hard work, resilience, and a love for the game, anything is possible!

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