The first installment of this series took a glimpse into the life of John Gilchrist and his fiancée (now wife) Mikaela Samuel. Part II features the lifestyle of Nicole and Daryl Greene, who for the past 6 years have been navigating the unique challenges that arise for couples and families when a spouse makes an income playing abroad. They also have the challenges of raising their 4-month old daughter while Daryl continues to play overseas.
Daryl played his college ball at Niagra University from 1998-2002 and received All-MAAC 1st Team honors in his senior season. Following a successful college career, Daryl made the jump overseas and has been playing there ever since. In his 9-year professional career, the 6 foot 1, 192-pound left handed combo guard has played for teams in Holland, Finland, and Poland. Last season, Daryl played only 9 games for ISS Sportino Inowroclawl in Poland due to coaching and front office changes that cut his season short. He has been home in Largo, Maryland working hard on his game and is ready to play again next season at a high level.
AA: Where and when did you meet Daryl?
Nicole: I met Daryl in May 2005 at my house. Mike Tyson was fighting on cable television and I ordered the fight and invited a bunch of people over. He came with his best friend whom I knew.
AA: How long have you been married?
Nicole: We’ve been married now for almost three years.
AA: What stage of his playing career was he in when you met?
Nicole: When we met, Daryl had just returned from Finland, where he had been playing. He was home for the summer. It was a GREAT summer!
AA: Do you live overseas all year or return during the off-season?
Nicole: Daryl and I actually “separate” during the season. He goes away to the team and I stay in the states. When we can, we visit. He returns to the U.S. during the off-season.
AA: How many years has Daryl been playing overseas? Do you travel overseas with him or do you stay in the U.S.?
Nicole: He’s been playing overseas for 9 years—since he graduated from college in 2002. I have traveled to visit, but never to stay.
AA: Even though you and Daryl have adjusted to your individual lifestyles, do you have the opportunity to get to know Daryl’s teammates/business partners abroad during the season?
Nicole: Daryl tells me all about his teammates! It’s very exciting to me because then I feel like I know everyone when I’ve never met them! So when I visit, I get introductions from Daryl like, “This is the guy who...” Daryl’s season with the Polish team, JKK Gornik Walbrzych, was the first time I was able to meet the entire team. The day I arrived in town, there was a bowling party. At the game, I met and made friends with his teammates' girlfriends and wives. And now, we stay connected through Facebook.
AA: Do you have children? How old are they? In what ways have they needed to adapt to the lifestyle, friends, school, etc. that Daryl’s professional schedule creates for the family?
Nicole: We have one daughter who is now 4 months. She hasn’t had to do much adapting, but she was 20 days old when she first met daddy. He was away in Poland during the season when she was born and it was VERY hard for him. It was hard for me too, but I was surrounded by family and close friends, so they helped me a lot. I sent him pictures and videos daily.
AA: Do you work? Can you and/or do you participate in this job while you are overseas?
Nicole: I work full-time as a Media Director at the church we attend. The church has a television broadcast on four television stations and I am responsible for the production and post production of the shows. It is a very demanding position and it cannot be completed overseas. This is the main reason why I stay in the states when it's time for his season. I really enjoy my job.
AA: What are some challenging issues you face with Daryl’s professional career taking him overseas to play?
Nicole: The biggest challenge is that many times we don’t know when he will have to leave. For example, the last two times he has left to go overseas, he was called one day and gone the next. It just happens so fast. But it’s not so hard because he was doing this when I met him, so I knew what I was getting into! So, I just cry my little tears when he leaves and then submerse myself in work since I don’t have him to hang out with after work!
AA: Have you noticed any beneficial changes that make life easier for families of overseas players when one spouse is working abroad and the other is at home?
Nicole: Two things I love about Daryl’s contracts is that a) they don’t require that he use any of the money he is making for living expenses and b) the teams always work out something to either allow him to come home mid-season, or to allow me to come and visit him. That is the most helpful because if we had to pay for two homes and cars in both locations, AND to buy plane tickets back and forth, playing overseas would not be very worthwhile.
AA: Did you play a sport growing up? If so, which sport and to what level of competition did you play and how has your athletic experience helped you understand Daryl’s career better?
Nicole: I played high school volleyball growing up and I coached high school volleyball while I was in college, so I understand his passion and his drive for basketball. Basketball was never a favorite sport for me. However, I can’t say that I had the same drive for volleyball. I’ve seen Daryl push himself to do things that almost seem humanly impossible. He’ll push himself through pain and fatigue. And I look at him and realize that the reason I couldn’t play volleyball in college was because I listened to my pain and fatigue and would quit. I admire him for that.
AA: What advice do you have for couples who are just beginning this professional journey lifestyle? Any advice regarding issues you feel are important for families to be aware of when making the transition?
Nicole: This journey is for a small group of families. Not everyone is capable of handling this type of situation. Being apart from one another so long can really create separation in a relationship and either person could feel like they have two different lives. You have to both be people who know that you’re married and confident that the other will not step outside of that marriage while you are apart from one another. We do everything within our power to make the other person feel secure. So, even though we’re in another country, we always know where the other person is. We are in constant contact by Skype, instant messenger, text messages, or cell phone. So, although we cannot see one another, we are never really apart. And when the time zones don’t permit us to be in contact, we focus on our work. And we do not entertain friendships with the opposite sex!
AA: What are the advantages, benefits, and rewards for you and your family that come with Daryl’s job as a professional athlete?
Nicole: Overall, playing basketball is Daryl’s dream, passion, and career. I would never ask him to give that up because I know how much he desires to do it. So, I have the extreme benefit of seeing (or hearing) him fulfilled when he’s playing. And that is worth all the time away!
On behalf of Access Athletes, we would like to thank Nicole Greene for taking time out of her busy schedule to participate in this interview. If you would like to contact me, you can visit my website www.susanzaro.com or email me.