The Road Less Traveled: Team Road Trip Blends Sports and Studies
Playing eight NCAA Division I basketball games during a 19-day road trip is a test not many will attempt. But that’s just what Jamion Christian, head coach of the Mount St. Mary’s men’s basketball team did, leading his players on a more than 8,000 mile journey that allowed them to grow not only athletically, but academically and as a team as well.
Christian had the thought of expanding the shorter road trip originally scheduled, in part to test his team. The former Mount St. Mary’s captain doesn’t want his players to fear failure. He wants them to try, knowing they can fail and get back up. Playing nationally ranked teams such as West Virginia, Iowa State and Michigan would be the barometer he was looking for.
After some initial discussions with his team and a few faculty members and administrators on the benefits, drawbacks and logistics of such a trip, Christian rolled out the idea to the faculty. “The support from faculty was unbelievable,” he remarked. “I’ve never felt more supported by the university.”
As part of the preparation, team members met with professors to plan their coursework before they departed, and those meetings left the players feeling very encouraged. Tablets were even provided for each, enabling more efficient communication and flexible studying opportunities.
Christian also gives a lot of credit to Justine Miller, coordinator of basketball operations, men’s basketball, who helped him create a schedule and daily plan that set the tone for the trip.
“We started the day with a team breakfast, then a three-hour study hall. Basketball wasn’t first, study hall was,” the fifth-year coach comments, emphasizing the importance of academics.
The team would practice at night, which allowed them time during the afternoon to do additional work, testing or receive treatment.
Further proving the idea that academics are important at the Mount, Interim Provost, Jennie Hunter-Cevera, Ph.D., and Associate Provost, David McCarthy, Ph.D., travelled with the team as well. They administered tests, tutored students and even assisted in communicating with professors.
For the administrators, it was a chance for them to get to know the players, as well as see how much work goes into preparing for each game.
While he does say it was the most incredible experience he’s had at the Mount, when asked if he’s planning similar road trips with teams in future years, Christian replies with a laugh, “No, but it’s good to know we can.”
Christian knows that great teams will push until they don’t have anything left. When he looked at his players at the end of the journey, he knew they pushed themselves to the limits, not only on the court, but with academics as well.
“Playing in March...you have to do the little things right, and be able to block out the noise. We have a good team and I know they can do it with this experience.”
With these lessons learned, not only is Christian preparing his team for March, he’s preparing them for the rest of their lives.