Oct. 15, 2009
This is my 21st year as a Head Coach and still there are so many great challenges for me. One of the most difficult things in playing in the Big East is to navigate through these difficult road trips. All the opponents are challenging, but when you take your team on the road it is, even tougher.
This league offers many challenges - match field conditions, do they even have a practice field? Can you get on it? Travel, climate adjustment and then ultimately your opponents' style of play. Last week we flew to Pittsburgh, then bussed 90 minutes to Morgantown, West Virginia for a key Big East match. Once we arrived at the hotel there we dealt with the ongoing problems when staying at a hotel - how much rest is enough - and when do players get stale. What works for one program may or may not work for another. Do you train at home, or if your host is gracious enough to provide you with a field at a reasonable time, do you train at the campus of your opponent?
Road trips can often offer challenging officiating, fans and facilities. How do your players handle it, does it motivate them?
We have found that being on the road this year has really bonded our group. Players have spent a lot of time together on the road and have become close. We have had to deal with different types of adversity on the road and it has helped us grow. Having said all that, it is still extremely challenging in our league because of all the points I listed earlier. Our league is very competitive and going away from home can be a challenging proposition. Players can prosper from road matches or they can allow it to eat them up.
I like it when other leagues talk about our league. No one really understands what it is like to play a tough match in City A on Friday night and then play a tough match in City B, 5 hours away, 36 hours later. This is a very difficult, almost impossible setting, and our teams are asked to do this 2 weekends a year. I know that these weekends toughen up our teams, but I think often other people, in other leagues fail to understand the tremendous difficulty that this set up causes. However, in the end it prepares our teams for the bigger matches we face later on.
The road can do a great job of challenging you and preparing you, if you let it.