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Far and Wide: Travelling for their sport

Travelling for competitions can take a significant toll on athletes. At UNB, each team has anywhere from as little as three or four to as many as 20 instances of travel. The various Varsity Reds teams go far and wide to compete for their school—but how does this affect their performance?

“There is surely no doubt that travel has a great [effect on] athlete performance mentally, emotionally and physically,” said men’s soccer player Kristian D’Amore.

Varsity Reds Men’s Soccer had a grueling trip during their 2017 playoff run. Over the course of two weeks, they competed in Cape Breton to gain their USport tournament bid, then flew across the country to Thompson Rivers University in British Columbia. In order for this trip to happen, the team had to drive to Cape Breton, drive back to Halifax, then fly through Toronto and Vancouver—only to land in Kamloops and play no more than 48 hours later. This trip meant for more than 20 hours of travelling between flights and busses, not including their delays and layovers. All of this said, the team feels as if their coaches prepare them well for these situations.

“We were the first team to arrive in Kamloops,” said D’Amore. “[Coach Miles Pinsent] wanted to make sure we had enough time to adapt to the time change, weather and muscle stiffness.”

Third-year Matt Boem agreed. “[The coach] schedules in team walks on extra-long trips to get our muscles ready and moving around from the moment we hop off the bus. In my opinion, in terms of routine and mental preparation, trips are more beneficial because during home game days we would often just sit around at home playing video games until it is time to leave for the field. The bus ride gives you time to prepare mentally.”

Boem and D’Amore felt as if their playoff run was different from other travel situations that they had been in.

“There is a special feeling collectively amongst the group when you are all-in come playoff time, “ said D’Amore. “I actually think our long trips to Cape Breton for AUS, then to B.C for nationals benefited us as a team. It was a time to build further team chemistry—both on and off the field—with your teammates that you have to put everything on the line for. Sure, driving eight hours for AUS then taking three flights to arrive at nationals took a toll on our bodies—but overall, I am of the belief that being together through all that made us stronger.”

This tune rings true for other teams as well. Team trips give more emphasis on the task at hand despite the physical implications.

“It’s a nice way to stop thinking about school and focus on your races,” said Bea Lougheed of UNB swimming. “But sometimes it’s hard to keep your muscles engaged—especially during long drives the morning of competition.”

Even though there are some mental benefits due to the necessitated team bonding of being on a bus for several hours, some athletes argue that the cons outweigh the pros.

“Same-day travel is hard because you have been sitting so long that it’s hard to get into a competitive mindset, which is a challenge we all have to overcome,” said second-year Emma Berton of UNB swimming.

The lack of home-field advantage while competing away also plays a role in athletes’ performance.

“You don’t have the comfort of your home gym or the support of your fans,” said women’s volleyball coach Jilliane Portelli. “I’ve noticed a positive difference in my players, in general, when their loved ones are in the stands.  The ball can move a little differently in different gyms—especially on the serve—so it takes a little bit of adjustment.”

Some athletes, however, like the challenge of competing in new places.

“It doesn’t bother me as far as competition goes; it’s a great way to be with the team and lets us compete in new places,” said first-year Jennifer Moore from UNB swimming.

Earlier this year, some UNB athletes had the opportunity to compete at the FISU games in Taiwan. In this case, many of the competitors had the chance to travel to a place that they had never been to before.

“With travel, it brings excitement to the individual attending these events,” said Marcus Lees, AUS multi-time All-Star. “I [had] not been to anywhere in Asia and this definitely made the trip feel more intriguing. During my time there I got to join a different culture, meet and live with Taiwanese people, and experience all of this with my Canadian brothers and coaching staff.”

In addition to the cultural experience, Lees was in awe of the competition itself.

“The venues were full size stadiums and each game held a very enthusiastic audience to boost our morale and performance,” said Lees. “The FISU event, hosted by Taiwan, supported elite level athletes with a professional environment; I could not have asked for more. These pros outweigh any con—such as adjusting to weather and temperature, jet-lag, and time differences.”

He also added that “travelling to perform in something you believe is great is one thing, but to add quality opposition, spectacular stadiums…This can alter one’s perspective to want to continue this lifestyle.”

Disclaimer: The author of this story is a member of the UNB swimming team.

Photos from Varsity Reds Communications


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