By Aaron Brown
IL -- I received a late night e-mail
earlier this season from a head coach after her team’s game
against Mother McAuley, which plays home games at Brother Rice High School
in Chicago. Their team bus had broken down and they were delayed in getting
back to their school until after 10:00pm. I started thinking about how
difficult that would be for athletes and coaches that are also students and
teachers during the day and how they would have to be up early in the
morning for the next day of classes. Which made me then think about some of
the sacrifices that players and coaches alike have to make in order to play
this great sport of water polo.
If I remember back in high school, the situation would work like this for
It’s after 10:00pm and you arrive at school. Either you drive home
yourself or a parent picks you up around that time. You are starving after
not eating a normal dinner, tired from a physical game, and basically
drained from going to school during the day and playing a game at night
with some travel on a school bus in between. You have a good deal of homework that may or
may not get completed later that night, you’ve missed your favorite
television show, and you are behind on checking your e-mail, Facebook, and
Twitter accounts. Aside from that, you have to set your alarm for 6:00am
in order to get back to school to repeat the daily grind of attending
classes, taking notes, finishing homework, and listening to lectures.
The situation of a bus breaking down is hopefully a rare occurrence,
although I am sure there are plenty of other stories from the road that
have affected a team in the recent past. I remember a story about the
Homewood-Flossmoor girls’ team before sectionals last year, where their
bus had not shown up to get them to a playoff game at Lincoln-Way Central. Head
boys’ coach Tim Caldwell volunteered to drive the starters to the game in
an SUV so they could warm-up and avoid a forfeit, while the head girls’
coach, Pat Duignan, would stay with the rest of the team and take the
late-arriving bus to hopefully arrive in time for the game. The bus
eventually showed up, but not in time to make it for the start of the
game, so Caldwell had to coach for most of the first quarter. And this was
If I recall correctly, there was also a situation a few years ago at the
Fenwick Tournament where Brother Rice was delayed in getting to their game
because their minibus got crashed into on a side street outside of
Fenwick. Having to play a full game after the pressure-filled situations
must be difficult, especially in what could be seen as a traumatic event.
It also makes me think that some of the previously listed situations are more common
than I realized.
I started thinking about potential games between McHenry and Bradley, Lake
Forest and Lincoln-Way West and so on; schools that are about as far apart as
possible. If my memory serves me right, McHenry coach Craig Fowles
has mentioned how difficult it has been in the past to get a full schedule
of games because the journey to their city is quite a long trip for many
schools. Schools like Mundelein and Vernon Hills aren’t exactly a quick
trip either if the visiting opponent is coming from Sandburg or
Speaking of H-F, Caldwell mentioned that he would be willing to challenge
any team to a mileage battle over a four-day period. In one week, the
Vikings’ played at St Charles North (Wednesday), McHenry (Thursday), and
New Trier (both Friday and Saturday). Using Mapquest, the final numbers turn out
to approximately 500 miles of travel and nearly 11 hours total on a school
bus. Add that to three full days of school and five total games of water
polo and you might be hoping for a vacation. Instead, you get Sunday off
and repeat the process the next week for a total of nearly three months
during the high school season.
Anyone care to challenge 500 miles in four days during a school week?
Spring Break trips don’t count, although that might be an article
in itself for teams like Fenwick, Loyola, or St Viator, as those are some
of the recent teams to travel to Florida in the past few years (the girls
team from St Viator was just there a few weeks ago).
This article has made me think about the many sacrifices that everyone
makes to be involved with such a great sport, from players to coaches to
parents and so on. Going on the road and traveling is just one of those
sacrifices, but as you read above, it can be a major one.
I would like to hear from you about some of the tales from the road that
you have encountered either as a player or a coach.