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The Road Traveled

By Aaron Brown


PLAINFIELD, 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 a player:


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 at Sectionals!


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 Homewood-Flossmoor.


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.


Send any comments to








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