Like Illinois State, Miami generally takes a foreign trip every four years. In fact, head coach Katie Meier began planning this year’s trip “as soon as we had such a blast on our last trip.” With a travel party of 45 people this year, including donors and players’ families, the logistics get even more complicated for the Hurricanes, but Meier said that inclusivity is part of Miami’s culture. “My program’s just like that,” she told High Post Hoops. “… [It’s about] sharing and welcoming and having, you know, friends and family around. … I grew up in a family of 10, and I just feel like it’s just the way to travel.”
The Hurricanes are using a travel agency to plan their trip to Italy, but Meier also has lots of experience planning and traveling internationally. She spent three years playing and coaching in Belgium after graduating from Duke, and the connections she made overseas have helped her both with recruiting and with planning tours. As an assistant coach at Tulane in the mid-1990s, she used those connections to plan an entire tour herself, including a homestay component in lieu of hotels. (She would have loved to arrange homestays for Miami’s foreign tours, too, but nowadays, she said, athletic departments won’t approve that because of liability concerns.) However, Meier called the travel agency “fantastic” and said that their ability to purchase tickets in advance enhances the educational portion of the trip in particular because the group can get into popular museums and historical sites without waiting in as long of lines.
Junior Kelsey Marshall expressed excitement about both the educational and athletic components of the trip. This will be her first time in Europe, and she is particularly excited to ride in a gondola in Venice. And although she knew little about two of Miami’s three opponents, she had circled the first game, which will pit Miami against the Dutch national team and two former Hurricanes: “We’re excited to play against Laura [Cornelius] and Emese [Hof] in our first game against their national team. And hopefully we get the win.”
When I asked Meier about that game, it was evident that seeing Cornelius and Hof would be a highlight of the trip for her. She gushed, “I don’t know if you can hear my smile, but they were just so special. … the game is the game, but I’m just happy I get to see them and hopefully, I’ve begged their parents to come too because I just love their families. … they are just super, super, super, super, super people.”
Meier’s statement that “the game is the game” reflects her view that the trip is primarily an opportunity to experience a foreign culture and build Miami’s team culture, not to win basketball games. On the court, she is focusing on three things: “How hard did you play? And then how much did you compete? And then how impactful was your communication? And that’s it.” With seven newcomers—five freshmen and two transfers who sat out last season—Meier quipped, “I have to … make sure that my communication is very impactful as well.” Adding to the degree of difficulty, Miami’s offense depends heavily on team chemistry and feel and runs few set plays. It “gives a lot of choices to the players,” Meier explained. “It’s a lot based on what do you see, who’s hot, who’s playing well. So you gotta have a real awareness and an empathy. And you really have to know each other.” From Meier’s perspective, this trip is a golden opportunity for the Hurricanes to get more comfortable playing together.
Another unique element of Miami’s trip is that the team has been studying for it for several weeks. Meier originally tried to get players course credit for the trip, by tying it to a summer school class on Italian history and religion and bringing the professor along. However, per NCAA rules, Miami would have had to open the class up to all students. Instead, the players took an Italian religion class this summer that is separate from the trip, and the trip will unofficially test and reinforce their learning. Meier explained, “What I love is that I’m going to be sitting there going, ‘Hey, what’s that?’ And my players are going to say, ‘Hey, that’s … David!’ … for me personally, the excitement is going to be seeing my players see this stuff. … the Coliseum is going to just blow them away.”