Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Rugby Diaries - What I Learned Out on the Road

With rugby being one of the most popular sports in the world and one that seems to be growing by leaps and bounds throughout the United States, it stands to reason that facing competition will require travel. Whether it's traveling across the country for a run at Nationals, across the region or just across town, travel is a part of competition. How a team travels is almost as important as how a team plays. It is not a task to be undertaken lightly, and here's some advice on what to consider when preparing to travel.

WHO are you going to travel with?

It's really easy to be friends with people when you see them during practices, matches and socials. It becomes an entirely different story when you are trapped with them in a vehicle for an extended amount of time. That's when their slightly annoying ticks become extremely irritating and few things throw a player off their game mentally quite like a driver that makes every trip to the pitch a life-and-death scenario or one that plays the same five songs on an eight-hour trip. Neither of those are good scenarios.

Pro Tip: Find someone with a huge SUV. The potential for interesting conversations are greatly increased in that scenario; and if you can't find someone to get along with in an eight-person vehicle find a ball or a pillow, get comfy and sleep the drive away. Remember, if you are riding shotgun you MAY NOT fall asleep as you are the navigator and car DJ; and if you do fall asleep you leave yourself open to being the victim of pranks and funny Snapchats.

WHAT are you traveling with?
A rugby road trip doesn't run on hopes and dreams. It requires preparation. Serious thought has to go into what gets brought on board in order to maximize utility and space. For travel that doesn't require an overnight stay, the idea is simple: Have ball. Will travel. Bring the essentials for the matches - this includes water, because someone ALWAYS forgets to bring the water. For more extended travel, it gets a little more difficult.

  • Toilet Paper - When traveling great distances, especially through back country roads or in between states, toilet paper is a must on any trip. Having to use a disgusting roadside bathroom with no other option is scary enough. The only thing scarier is facing said bathroom without the material necessary to properly clean the area or one's self once the deed is done. Nobody wants those problems.
  • Snacks - During a lengthy trip, people will get hungry and stopping for food won't seem like a very good proposition. That's where snacks come into play. The main thing to consider when packing snacks is how gas-inducing they could be. No one wants to be trapped in a gas chamber for two hundred miles. It's not a good way to live. Other than that snacks are up to the discretion of the driver or the buyer. Remember, sharing is caring.
  • Electronics - On those extended trips entertainment is often needed. Whether it's that one guy playing on his phone in the back of the car that lights up the entire vehicle at night or a jerry-rigged Playstation 2 and TV in a rented mini van, electronics are necessary on road trips. Two things to consider, though: be considerate and be prepared. If people are trying to sleep in the car, it might be time to either dim the screen on your device or put it down all together. Twitter followers can wait. Also, electronics won't run forever. Keep track of the battery left on your device, and make sure you have the cords - and have them readily available - necessary to recharge said device. No one like to have their phone die mid text, and no driver like to look into the rear view mirror only to see a butt crack staring back at them.
  • The Essentials - Everybody has that teammate with so many bags that there is barely enough room for anything else - and that's just for an overnight trip.  First off, don't be that guy. Just don't Take what's need and conserve space. Also, don't be so caught up in bringing your going out clothes that you forget what's really important - your kit.
    Pro Tip: Get your Halloween costumes early.
WHERE are you traveling?Life is about the journey, not the destination. A road trip is mostly about the destination. The destination dictates everything else - the vehicle, the traveling companions, what gets packed, etc. Also remember, especially if the destination is in the Midwest, rugby weather is unpredictable. If the weather forecast calls for 72-and-sunny, pack for a blizzard. It happens.

Pro Tip: Always keep gear for extreme cold and extreme heat on hand. It will probably come in handy more frequently than expected.

WHEN are you traveling?
Rugby time. The struggle is real. For those scheduling departure times, take into account how RT affects your squad. If they are always 30 minutes behind, move the arrival time up. For the players convening, get it together, get an alarm clock and get where you need to be. Nobody likes to wait for that one player whose "alarm clock didn't go off" or "isn't a morning person."

Pro Tip: Become a morning person or find a traveling buddy that can help you be a responsible adult human being.

WHY are you traveling?
The reason for travel is extremely important to consider prior to scheduling a trip. The travel has to be worth the destination, for one reason or another. If the trip is more for a team vacation and social time than competition, then take that into account and make that clear to everyone. If the goal for the trip is to prepare for an upcoming season or to achieve success on the field, that also needs to be considered and and made clear to fellow travelers. The reason for this is not everyone wants to travel across the majority of the country to play a match or two and have a few over-priced drinks. On the other hand, there are those in the rugby community that like to use their time off from serious competition to enjoy themselves and let their bodies heal - perhaps while destroying their respective livers. Knowing exactly why a team is traveling can benefit the group financially as well. A good but expensive tournament might not be worth the cost if there is a closer competition that offers similar benefits at a better price.

Pro Tip: Shop around a little. There's no shortage of competitions out there. One only has to look and find the one that best suits the needs of his or her team.

Essentially, travel is necessary so it is important to do it right. Not everybody is going to be happy, but considering the team's needs will ensure that the maximum benefit is gained by all. Whether traveling for fun or for glory, make sure your team stands out and makes a statement; and if all else fails have a theme, because others may think you all look silly but nothing bonds people like doing something dumb and enjoying some smiles together.

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