On most D1 campuses across the country, students have a certain image of how they imagine the life of a student athlete to be. Some of these images are expressed in phrases such as: “They have it made!” “I wish I had it that easy.” “What a walk in the park.” More times than not, it is inaccurate.
“We have to go games and miss classes while they’re in class, and we still have to catch up.” That’s just one of the many obstacles freshman guard Alexis Brown reeled off that she and her teammates go through while they travel across the Southeast to play Sun Belt basketball.
Since the Georgia Southern University women’s basketball team settled into conference play, they have become accustomed to playing games on every Thursday and Saturday. The girls know that when they have a road trip, they are usually leaving on Wednesday around noon.
Senior Alexis Sams says the first thing she does when the Wednesday to hit the road is approaching, is start packing two days in advance. Since the Eagles are playing two games, one on Thursday and one on Saturday, they are packing for four days. Sams also has to talk to her professors to figure out what classwork, exams, and notes she might miss for the rest of the week. In addition to figuring those things out, she has to turn in assignments and take tests early on some occasions.
The primary means of transportation for the team is charter bus. While they are on the bus, you could hear a variety of things. There could be silence from the players sleeping. There might be clicking of keys on computers or the flipping of pages when they are doing homework. But you will definitely hear singing and laughter from games of Uno, Phase 10, and Scattergories. “Sometimes the isle on the bus is a dance floor,” Sams said.
After a bit of productivity and down time on the bus, when the Eagles arrive to their destination, they are right back to working. After check-in at the hotel, they jump into watching film and then head to practice. Following practice, it’s time for dinner and lights out in their rooms is at 11 p.m. An hour before midnight might seem like an early time for college students to go to bed, but after switching time zones and a having a tough practice, senior Patrice Butler has no issue whatsoever.
The next morning is game day. Typically, the team wakes up early to get breakfast. This is despite the fact that their games don’t start until 7 p.m. Every minute is valuable to the team, so they are doing homework during any spare time between their tight schedule. Shortly after breakfast, the team departs from the hotel to go to the opposing team’s arena for shootaround. Popular things for the girls to do once they return from shootaround are take naps, relax, and knock out some homework.
Before the team realizes it, it’s 3 o’clock, time for their pre-game meal. Following the pre-game meal, playtime is officially over and the team is getting focused for tipoff. Players began going back to their rooms to get taped up and receive any treatment they need. The bus leaves for the arena about two hours before the game.
Once the game begins, there is no longer anything to worry about schedule-wise. The only thing the Eagles have to deal with is the road crowd. Playing away from your fans is a completely different experience than playing inside of Hanner Fieldhouse.
“It can be tough at times when things are getting said and yelled,” Sams admitted. What helps her keep her cool is “knowing that your teammates and coaches have your back, so you don’t have to worry about what someone in the stands in saying.”
Normally following the conclusion of the Thursday game, it’s not long after that the team is back on the road.
“Because of the practice times that [schools] can give us on Friday, we’re driving right after the game on Thursday night to the next venue,” head coach Kip Drown said.
On Friday morning, his team is at the Saturday opponent’s arena at about 10 a.m. for practice. If GS can’t hold practice in the morning, then they must resort to late Friday night. Coach Drown does not prefer to do that because tipoff is usually at 2 in the afternoon on the next day, which is a rather quick turnaround.
With a schedule this face-paced and jam-packed, there is no time to procrastinate on these road trips. Players have a designated study hall period on Friday because there is no major traveling to do. Coach Drown prefers to call them business trips.
“It’s not like were playing around and having fun. We have meetings, shootarounds, and study tables. It’s very low down time,” Drown said.
This lack of spare time prevents the team and staff from exploring the cities they visit. However, over Thanksgiving break in the fall, the team traveled to Indianapolis to face Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). Patrice Butler and Alexis Brown agreed in unison that Indianapolis was a great place to be in at that time of year.
“They have this yearly thing where they have lights and a Christmas tree downtown, and our hotel was literally right down the street. So we could just look out the window and see it,” Butler said.
Another favorite of Butler’s was having shrimp at Texas Roadhouse. The team’s experience at Copeland’s of New Orleans while on a two-game road trip in Louisiana in January did not go the same.
“We went to Copeland’s in Louisiana and a lot of people got sick. It was seafood, you know how New Orleans is,” Butler said while shaking her head with a chuckle. “I don’t know what was going on that day, but everybody’s food was not good, so no more Copeland’s.”
Midway through, asking Butler what she would miss the most about going on road trips, I heard, “aww.”
“Why’d you have to ask me that?” the senior responded, “But I’ll miss how everybody’s funny, we’re always entertaining each other.”
Despite all of the scheduling, planning, and hours spent on buses, senior point guard Alexis Sams said the only thing she will miss about going on the road with her teammates is arriving in Statesboro at 4 in the morning on Sundays.
After Sunday, the next week begins. The road trip is over. It’s time to hit the weight room.