More than a road trip
By Gerrard Diaz ’04
Preparing for a trip is one thing. Preparing for an overseas trip is something else.
Now try preparing an entire football or basketball team for an overseas trip.
That was the prospect before the Green Knights this summer – a summer that saw basketball competing in Italy and football opening its 2012 season in Ireland.
The basketball team played three exhibition games during a 10-day tour of Italy, which allowed the 15 players and five coaches to see the sights as well as earn three victories over local club teams.
“We tried telling the players 100 times that it was going to be a great experience, something you’ll remember for the rest of your life, but until you’re over there and see everything, I don’t think words do it justice,” says basketball coach Gary Grzesk.
NCAA rules allow teams to go overseas for exhibition games once every three years. Three years ago the basketball team went to Greece. According to Grzesk, three years is about how long it takes to raise the funds for the trips – with the team’s annual steak fry being the main fundraiser.
“The support from our parents and family every year has been tremendous with that,” Grzesk said. “The largest one is the steak fry. We’re able to raise a large amount of money in one night.”
Sights and sounds from the Ireland football game.
Football coach Jim Purtill didn’t have to worry about fundraising for his team’s upcoming trip to Dublin, Ireland, for the Global Ireland Football Tournament 2012.
“Typically, when you go on those exhibition tours, you do your own private fundraising,” Purtill says. “If we had to take it in that direction, I don’t think it would’ve happened.”
Instead, the college’s advancement office lined up donations to sponsor 81 spots for the trip.
“It was a great offer by the administration to take up that responsibility,” Purtill says. “Especially when you’re talking that many people, because it adds up to a big chunk of money.”
St. Norbert became involved with the trip when director of athletics Tim Bald approached John Carroll University about playing a game this season and learned that the school was looking for a team to play at the event in Dublin.
The tournament, built around a Navy versus Notre Dame game, was promoted throughout Europe as an opportunity to experience American football. Ten high schools also joined in the Aug. 31-Sept. 1 event. The John Carroll game was part of St. Norbert’s regular season schedule – only the second time in Division III history that a regular-season game was played overseas.
The basketball team only had to pack their uniforms for the trip – using practice uniforms so no game uniforms could be lost with luggage. Once overseas, the team bought extra things like wrapping tape, and the host teams provided balls.
For football, the gear story was a little more complicated. Each player was allowed to pack a 50-pound bag and two carry-ons. According to the players, that’s pretty typical for a road trip, but some gear – like the kicking net – didn’t make the trip. And the team had to deflate footballs for the Aug. 28 flight out of Chicago.
Both coaches say an overseas trip means worrying about a lot of little things. The basketball team, for example had to deal with international rules and a different court size. The football team had to deal with playing on a field designed for soccer and rugby.
Nov. 4, 2012