Road life poses challenges for athletes in college soccer

first_imgNine away matches, six road trips and thousands of miles traveled over the course of two-plus months.In the life of a Division 1 soccer athlete, leisure time during the season is basically a figment of imagination. Between practices, film reviews, training sessions and one-on-one meetings with the coaching staff, making ends meet can quickly turn into a seemingly impossible feat, and that’s not even including the weekly hours of schoolwork.As a fifth-year redshirt senior, goalkeeper Genevieve Richard is no stranger to the everyday grind of a college athlete. During the regular season, about half of weekends are spent on the road, requiring athletes to improvise their routines to ensure they get everything done. To give some perspective of a typical road trip for the team, Richard walked through what was likely this weekend’s Indiana routine.“We leave Thursday, we do seven hours of driving, we get to the hotel, maybe have a little meeting for 30 minutes or so to talk about the schedule. Then on Friday we wake up, eat and we stay in our rooms, basically,” Richard said. “Here and there we’ll have study hall. So you try to do your homework whenever you get three or four hours of free time.”In short, it’s not necessarily what you would call a vacation. No visits to theaters or detours at famous monuments. Eating, sleeping, doing homework, having meetings and playing the games are basically what the four-day stretch consists of.Instead of seeing it as a chore, however, redshirt senior Kodee Williams said the team does a good job of making the most out of the experiences, especially during the traveling portions. Being one of the more talkative players on the team, Williams jokingly admitted that while she’s not as productive as some of her other teammates on the bus, many of the players use it as an opportunity to catch up on schoolwork.When study breaks are inevitably needed, Williams said the team enjoys catching up on movies they haven’t seen as well as taking the opportunity to get to know teammates better. Whether you’re a freshman forward or senior defender, Canadian or American, the hours on the bus will eventually bring everyone together.“We try and keep it so it’s not like all the seniors in the back and the freshmen at the front, but when you’re used to sitting in a certain seat that’s kind of the way it goes. But when everyone’s not sleeping we are all mingling and having a good time,” Williams said.As for the academic workload, head coach Paula Wilkins organizes two study hall sessions each week to help establish some structure for the athletes. If work still needs to be done outside of the sessions, Richard said it becomes a personal matter of putting time aside when possible to finish everything up.Although that sounds obvious and relatively simple, the physical toll of the ongoing season makes leisure time even more valuable, and work-scheduling more of an easier-said-than-done proposition.“The hard thing is discipline. It’s hard to discipline yourself to go do your homework when you don’t really feel like it, and you’ve been running all week and you’re sitting in a hotel room in front of a TV or a computer,” Richard said. “It’s really down to the individual to have the discipline to get out there, go to the lobby, go to the business center in the hotel room and get your work done.”With the Big Ten being one of the most competitive conferences in women’s soccer, Wilkins noted that each venue brings its own unique challenge when visiting. Whether it’s the notorious “fan fests” of Illinois or the close-to-the-field atmosphere of Indiana, Wilkins said the circumstances of each Big Ten matchup require a mental edge in preparation.“One of the biggest things I tell them is they have to take the name off the jersey, and just play the game and focus on what we can do with our performance, and that’s really important,” Wilkins said. “I think that every Big Ten Game is a championship game, because every team in the Big Ten is talented and brings a different component, and we have to be at our best, especially on the road.”The Badgers’ players certainly took the name off the jersey this past weekend against Indiana and Purdue on the road, grinding out 1-0 wins against each team Friday and Sunday, respectively.For a home team that has given up just one goal in comparison to 14 scored this season, the McClimon Complex is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with in the Big Ten. For Wilkins and her team, the home dominance has been all about pride and support from the fans.“I always think there are two things, I say that you want to defend your home, and the second thing is you want to give your fans a show,” Wilkins said. “The people who come out and support you, you want to provide to them and show them your best effort possible and I think that’s really important. It’s been a conversation that we have and I think they just enjoy playing at McClimon.”last_img

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