Athletes on the road

Life on the road both blessing, curse for SPU athletes

Brandon Bee and Daniel Newman

Falcons senior Jaeden Hooker joined Seattle Pacific University’s Volleyball team as a Freshman four years ago. Now, after 65 road matches and only four left to go, she is trying to make the most of the time she has left going on the road with the team.


“Every travel trip, it’s my last one, so I just try to put a lot more emphasis on it and try to enjoy it as much as I can,” she said.  


Arby Busey, head coach of the women’s soccer team, thinks that everyone enjoys road trips and a lot of planning goes into them by both the coaching staff and the athletic department. Food needs to be arranged, which is Busey’s least favorite part of the trip. 


“It is difficult to find food that will make 30 people happy,” Busey said.


The practices and games also need to be scheduled. Most of the planning around a certain trip depends on where the team’s opponent is located. If it is close enough to drive, the team can just bus there. If driving will take too long, then Busey and his staff need to book flights, and sometimes hotels, for the team.


If possible, Busey’s team tries to get to the destination the night before, so they can practice in the stadium where they will play. After that, they go out for a meal and have a meeting to discuss their opponent. On game day, the team has a pregame meal about four hours before the game starts and then gets ready to play the game.


For the volleyball team, the trips are a bit shorter, according to Senior Jaeden Hooker. Typically, the team will drive or fly up to the location, play the game and return home on the same day.  


Men’s soccer also makes most trips a one day event when possible: they arrive about two to three hours before the game and try to get back home on the same night. 


“Usually we get back pretty late, with games being at seven,” goalie Lars Helleren said. 


For these athletes, the atmosphere being on the road can be very different than being at home. There is an adjustment that needs to be made while traveling on the road. 


“Everyone has their own ‘routines’ for the day, and when you are on the road traveling those can be disrupted,” Busey said. 


At games, it can also be difficult to adapt to the culture of the city in which they are playing. Athletes find that it is hard to play on the road at times because of the different atmospheres and different fans. Playing at home also gives athletes energy to play versus opponents.


“Interbay — we are really blessed to have it because it is a big field, a nice turf,” Helleren said. “You just kind of have to mentally adapt, going to different places.”


However, Hooker somewhat prefers to play on the road, as she feels the team does better than playing at home. 


“Especially like at preseason tournaments… playing two or three volleyball games a day, and we’re just like in our groove alone, like doing something else and outside of our atmosphere is what we’re really good at,” she said.


One of the biggest challenges for student-athletes on the road is finding time to do homework and stay caught up in classes. It is something they have to be on top of from the very beginning of the quarter, making an effort to communicate to professors which days they will be gone. 


Working ahead and getting homework done early is something that Helleren and Hooker have found is helpful. But if homework still needs to be done, some still gets done while on a bus or plane. 


“There is usually ‘down’ time on the road and we’ll have our student-athletes use it to study,” Busey said. 


He also mentioned that most athletes are used to travelling from playing on club and high school teams, so they are also used to doing homework while travelling and managing time efficiently.


Being on road trips is not all about taking care of business, however. There are moments when players can rest and enjoy the sights of whatever city they are currently located. These athletes travel to many different places where there are new things to see and enjoy.  


Volleyball gets the added advantage of going to Alaska, as neither of the Alaska teams have soccer programs. 


“Alaska is most of our favorites because it is so different,” says Hooker. “The hotel we stay in is called the Captain Cook. It’s really huge and it’s a cabin kind of feel and it’s really interesting.” 


Helleren cited the trip to Western Washington University in Bellingham as his favorite. “It’s a great rivalry up there and it’s a short drive and we get back the same day,” he said. 


Along with having favorite places to go play, these players make many memories that last a lifetime. For Helleren, he remembers a trip to San Diego a year ago. He fondly remembers the drive from Point Loma Nazarene University to Azusa Pacific University. The team also had dinner at a teammate’s house and, by the end of the night, had thrown one of their teammates in the pool. 


Hooker enjoyed the trip to Hawaii two years ago. After winning a game, the team got to get Hawaiian snow cones and go snorkeling.


Helleren, a redshirt sophomore, is thankful for the opportunities that being an athlete has given him.


“We’re just truly blessed to be able to be given this opportunity to go on the road with some good guys and play the sport we love.”