Traveling hoops coach lends his expertise to Bridgewater basketball camp

by Stacey Colwell

A professional basketball coach from France began his two-year trip of a lifetime in Lunenburg County this month.

"I just want to discover new places, meet people, improve my English and do new stuff," said Ben Fralon during an interview at a recent South Shore Surf basketball camp in Bridgewater. "But I don't know when or how - I really don't know - I'm just going to enjoy the trip."

He plans to use his two-year working visa finding places to travel across Canada via the web site Workaway, which matches people interested in cultural exchanges with employers offering room and board for a few hours work per day.

"What better way to start the next chapter of my life than with an adventure like this? I don't even know which direction I'll go."

It's something he's dreamed about for as long as he can remember.

"I once travelled across Japan with my backpack, but only for two months, and I've travelled a lot in Europe, but I've always wanted to come here," Fralon said.

"I've always been drawn by the wild animals and the open space and also I've met a lot of nice Canadians in France."

Fralon, 35, has coached basketball for about 20 years at virtually every age category and skill level, from beginners to a national championship team in 2006. Most recently, he was technical director of a club with 300 players.

Last year, he met South Shore Surf coach Eric Dolliver at a basketball camp in Slovenia. Afterwards, they stayed in touch, and he invited Fralon to kick off his cross-Canada trip at a the Surf's summer camp in Bridgewater.

"It's been fantastic having Ben at camp with our kids," said Dolliver.

"Ben has a great, fun-loving personality, but ... he demands strong physical effort while emphasizing high levels of mental concentration."

While not on the court, Fralon has visited Lunenburg, Bridgewater, Mahone Bay and the surrounding areas.

"People have welcomed me so kindly, and it's crazy, because they don't need to do it," he said.

"When they come speak to me, I can tell it's genuine - it's not a fake smile or fake interest - I think people here are true when they speak to you and smile, and that's so nice, because it's not easy when you arrive. It was tough to leave [home], but when you arrive in this type of environment, it's easy."

However, next comes what he expects to be the most challenging part of his trip: moving on.

"When you like people and you like a place, it'll be difficult to say goodbye and go to a new place and meet new friends and start again, then get ready to say goodbye again. That's going to be really difficult."

Fralon said many people with similar work visas and plans such as his wind up staying in Vancouver, Montreal or Toronto for the bulk of their trips.

"I don't want to come here to do that," he said. "I want to discover new places and I know if I like a place, I can always come back."

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