A close look into an athlete’s travel weekend
By Colin Allen
Day One: Salem OR.
It’s 6 p.m. on a Thursday afternoon. The bus is sitting in front of the C.E. Jeffers Sports Complex. All the athletes are making sure they have their traveling gear and basketball shoes, known by the players as their “blues and shoes.” The woman and men’s basketball will be playing their final conference home games of the season against Southern Oregon University and Oregon Institute of Technology. Their weekend will consist of a long six hours of traveling to Ashland and Klamath Falls.
However, the players and coaches are all prepared. Most everyone has a pillow and/or a blanket to accompany them. They also make sure to have some form of technological entertainment. After the first few minutes of traveling and chatting, the excitement of the trip dies down and the Ipods and MP3 players come out. It’s heresy for an athlete to travel to an away game without owning one of these. The bus is a sea of headphones of different colors, shapes, and sizes.
For some, music is not enough to pass the time on the long drive. This is where the bus’s generator comes in. It allows the athletes to plug in various electronic devices. Typically every outlet along the rows of seats is occupied with some form of a charger. There are those that try to read class assigned books, but that doesn’t last long.
The hours pass as fast as they can for two teams stuck in a bus. If you are a coach or a player of seniority you get the privilege of two seats to yourself (sorry freshmen). For the others, they better like the person they’re stuck next to. Bonding takes place between those hours of traveling, especially if electronics die and chargers were forgotten.
Upon arriving at the hotel in Ashland, the routine is always the same: coaches off first, to get the rooms arranged, women’s team next and then the men’s. Chivalry is still practiced among these athletes. Rooms are assigned to each of the players who then proceed to do a zombie like walk all the way to their beds. All the players are notified when breakfast will be served and the time never seems to be late enough. The first day of the road trip is over.
Day Two: Ashland
The teams wake up for breakfast, and still seem to be zombies. Most players grab a bunch of food and head back to their rooms. Continental breakfasts are typically edible, especially if you are a team of traveling basketball players on long trips. Although, there are times when the sausages look and taste as if they’ve been cut out of someone’s old boot, most of the food is palatable.
Shuffling back to their rooms, the athletes all proceed to do the same thing. They resume their prone position on their beds and find the first college basketball game on a local TV station. They stay glued to their beds until shoot-around, which is typically held at noon or 1 p.m. Shoot-around is meant to get the players out of bed, and get them used to the court, rims, balls, and the gym’s atmosphere. It is a key element to getting the athletes’ blood flowing, and limbers them up for game time.
Afterwards, it is back to the hotel until the pregame meal. With gear in hand and bags all packed up, it is time for the routine of stopping by Subway a few hours before game time-the healthiest and cheapest option for the team.
The game: SOU vs. Corban
The women’s team is out on the court playing and the only fans in the stadium happen to be the men’s team. As the women battle it out, the men mentally focus themselves for their own game.
During the first game, the players have a good amount of energy. Long trips tend to zap some of that energy, but that is the nature of the game. Unfortunately for Corban, the men didn’t come out with all the energy they knew they could muster up. Starting off the game flat against SOU, the Warriors found themselves down 9 points at halftime.
Knowing they could play better, they entered the second half with a determination to harness more energy. However, the SOU Raiders were too hot from beyond the arc, this made catching up a difficult battle. The end result was a 17 point loss on the Warriors first road game of the weekend.
After the game, the players hopped on the bus to the nearest fast food restaurant. With a hasty meal, the teams are back on the road and headed to Klamath Falls for their next opponent.
Day three: Klamath Falls
If you ever wander what déjà vu feels like, ask an athlete who has traveled on away games. The nightly ritual is always the same. The mornings afterward are always the same, except the sausages are more edible. Then it is back to the beds that call out oh-so-temptingly. However, the players have the memory of the previous night’s loss burning in the back of their minds.
Shoot-around and pregame meal occurs in much the same fashion, only differing in gym and location.
The game: OIT vs. Corban
It is Senior Night for the Hustlin’ Owls down in Klamath Falls, which gives the warriors more motivation to win. Sadly, the warriors started off unenthusiastically, finding themselves in a 44 to 30 deficit at halftime. It was an all too common scenario. The team knew that they could come back from being down this many points. The struggle would be finding enough energy after fighting back, in order to gain a lead.
Corban had to find their way back within striking range. It took nearly the entire second half, but they made it. With less than a few minutes left in the game the Warriors had brought the 14 point deficit to only three points. However, it was not enough. Even having outscored OIT by 10 points in the second half, the men’s team still ended up losing 79 to 75. It was still a comeback fight to be proud of.
There and back again: well back again anyways…
After the loss against the Hustlin’ Owls, it was back to the bus for another long drive back. The drive always feels longer when the opposing team wins. The players avoided paying for another night at the hotel, by opting to make the four hour trip back home right after the game.
It usually only takes 30 minutes before athletes eyes start closing. The women typically snuggle with each other to endure the late hour and long drive, but the men prefer to just use their pillows. Some get desperate and use the floor in place of a bed, in order to stretch out.
In grade school you get Miss Frizzle to drive you back on her Magic School bus. In college that role is taken by master and commander Doug Pfeiler and the Warrior bus.
All of the teams that travel with him know that they are in good hands, for no one can maneuver such a massive vehicle as majestically and efficiently as Doug. He got the team back at 3:30 Sunday morning, just in time for bed. It is a guarantee that not many of the players or coaches woke up for church that morning.