If you go to Italy, the Sistine Chapel and the medieval town of San Gimignano are must-sees. Florence is the Italian city for shopping. It is apparently possible to get tired of Italian pasta. And if you’re a fan of ranch dressing, beware the Hard Rock Café in Amsterdam, which is unfamiliar with the condiment.
These are just a few of the travel tips I picked up from six Division I teams that took foreign tours this summer. Before they headed overseas, I spoke with players and coaches from West Virginia, Tennessee, Illinois State, Miami, George Mason, and Oregon State about their hopes and expectations for their trips. In this article, I share what they learned and how they think the tours will help them this season.
No two teams’ itineraries were exactly the same, but several teams visited the same sites, leading to some common themes in my interviews. The weather was a big one, as several teams contended with hotter-than-normal temperatures across Europe. In Rome, it was hotter than the historical average on every single day in August, and high temperatures were at least 97 degrees on four straight days from August 10-13, right in the middle of several teams’ trips. There was often no air conditioning in the gyms, either, but coaches put a positive spin on the situation—and at least one team cranked up the heat in its pre-trip practices to prepare.
Teams also contended with flight delays, bus breakdowns, and the occasional language barrier, but overall, the trips went very smoothly. The coaches and players were universally grateful for their experience and often said they would remember it for the rest of their lives. That was partly because of the amazing sights that were on the itinerary, but also because the teams developed so much camaraderie in a short period of time. Oregon State head coach Scott Rueck reflected, “What a blessing this entire trip has been … All of the shared experiences we’ve had over 10 straight days, they bond you at a different level. There is no way to replicate this at home.”
Let’s take a look at each team’s trip and key takeaways.