Tournaments & Trips Enhance the Student-Athlete Experience
You should never underestimate the power of a special team trip or a tournament when it comes to the student-athlete experience. If planned well, student-athletes will have time to bond together, get to know each other on a deeper and more personal level, enjoy the challenges that the competition provides and experience the sites, the history and the culture of their destination. This can be such a valuable experience and often provides life-long memories whether the outcome in their competition is positive or negative.
This winter season three of our teams planned excursions that combined memorable competition and memories that will last a lifetime. The wrestling team headed to Madison Square Garden in New York City for the Grapple at the Garden. Madison Square Garden is perhaps the most well know competition site in the world. Men’s ice hockey traveled to Lake Placid, New York for the Middlebury Invitational Tournament and played at the site of Team USA’s memorable Olympic triumph in 1980. The men’s basketball team participated in the Catholic University Invitational Tournament in Washington, D.C. and made time to experience the sites and history of the nation’s capital. In each case, there was growth, sheer joy from an incredible experience and a direct connection with history.
When the USM wrestling team arrived in New York City their first stop was the New York Athletic Club. The NYAC is the oldest athletic club in the country and has produced more NCAA, World Champions and Olympic Champions than any other club or organization in the country during its 150-year history. When Coach Joe Pistone and his team arrived they were greeted by a booming voice that said, “The Huskies are here”. That, alone, fired up the team as they were surrounded by some of the finest athletes in the world, all with a dream and working out to be the very best. After the Huskies concluded practice, there was great interest in USM’s national qualifier, Jon Deupree as a potential Olympic hopeful.
The following day, the Huskies arrived at Madison Square Garden with 22 other teams to take part in the Grapple at the Garden. USM opened the tournament against a tough team from Stevens Institute of Technology and lost a close decision. After the opening round of competition, all of the teams gathered in the tunnel to prepare for the opening ceremonies. The teams were introduced one-by-one and ran out of the tunnel with pyrotechnics shooting off and 10,000 people on their feet screaming and clapping; what an experience for each young man on that team in one of the world’s most famous sports venues.
The Huskies won their next match against Muhlenburg University. Following the competition, they took time to visit Rockefeller Center, the World Trade Center Monument and the Freedom Tower, the Empire State Building, Time Square and Broadway. For many of the Huskies, this was there first time in New York City but what a memory for all.
Ed Harding stepped in to guide the men’s hockey program at USM in early January. A former USM captain and member of the Husky Hall of Fame, Harding is no stranger to big-time hockey and major venues but this was a great start for him and the 2014-2015 Huskies. Harding first trip as head coach and first game on the bench would be at Lake Placid, home of the famous 1980 Miracle on Ice and the gold medal for Team USA. The team practiced and played in the 1980 rink and stayed at the Olympic Training Center.
The team bonded at the Olympic Training Center, as they ate all of their meals there, slept there and had team meeting in its historic confines. The Huskies lost to Hobart in game one but regrouped for their second day and second game. Before the game, Coach Harding and the Huskies four senior (Steven Gallo, Sam Guimond, Brad McGovern and Lorne Miller) took part in a clinic for 10-12 year old youngsters from New York. It was a great way to spend the morning for the seniors, giving back to the game they all love, and a good way for Coach Harding to work with and get to know his upper class leadership a little better. The Huskies won game two of the tournament, knocking off St. Michael’s College, and then took the long trip home through some tough weather conditions. It was a great experience.
Coach Karl Henrikson’s team spent the holiday break at Catholic University in Washington D.C. participating in the Cardinals Invitational Tournament. In addition to tough competition on the court, there were memories to help forge a great experience for all involved. While the team was in DC, they had opportunity to visit the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, Korean War Memorial and the World War II Memorial. They also visited the White House, where they took a team photo, witnessed the changing of the guard, went to the Washington Monument and spent time in Arlington National Cemetery. On the way home, the Huskies stopped off to visit the University of Maryland where they had a private tour of their football stadium. The experiences touched the lives of each member of the team on a personal level.
Participation in athletics provides the opportunity for students to grow, learn life-long lessons and develop relationships that can often last forever. It also provides experiences away from competition that compliment the learning and growth and spark interest in many other facets of life. These experiences and relationships can have a profound effect on each individual as they prepare for their life beyond their college experience. Thanks to each of our coaches for providing a quality experience for our student-athletes that will leave them with memories. Go Huskies!