On the road to success

Both men’s and women’s basketball teams competed in Halifax tournaments

Sammy Ayisi, one of the star players of the team this year.
Sammy Ayisi, one of the star players of the team this year.

If we’re being frank, road trips usually blow. 

Roadies with family are fine for the first hour or so. But when your playlist loops a second time over, the drive becomes somewhat of a drag. 

For sports teams, however, hitting the road is exciting and generally helps teams grow. Players bond by way of a collective purpose — namely, to win games.

A few weekends ago, both men’s and women’s basketball teams were an example of this, as they headed out east to Halifax for invitational tournaments. 

The men pulled out a 1-2 record at the Mike Shoveller Invitational and the women posted a 2-1 finish at the Thunder Selects Tournament. 

For the men, the CIS Holiday Classic tournament was a precursor to the second half of their regular season. It was the first time they’ve played in a little under a month and a rusty output was expected, said fifth-year guard Sukhpreet Singh. 

“Playing is always a little awkward because you’re off for a month during exams, but it’s also helpful,” he said. “It gives you chance to see what went well, what didn’t, and how the team can address those issues in time for the regular season.” 

Playing in a new setting, too, posed its own set of difficulties, Singh mentioned.

“Basketball [in Halifax] is much different than what we’re used to. It’s a lot more up-and-down play, they love to get up and play in transition — that’s their thing.”

“We play a slower game with more skill work, run more offense, and they have more of a green light than we do.” 

Women’s head coach Dave Wilson praised his team’s play, emphasizing the importance of simply getting in a groove before their regular season picks up again in January. 

“Getting everyone back into this sort of team mentality, game-shape form is critical after the break,” he said.

Both teams’ performances, albeit important, don’t necessarily capture the gist — or purpose — of their trips. 

Rather, the road presents players a chance to bond and get a feel of what they’re really like off the court.  

“Whenever you’re stuck on bus or a plane with teammates, you have to interact with them. And we’re fortunate enough to be on a squad that has a very inclusive environment,” Singh said. “Everyone gets along.”

Getting a feel for one’s teammates inevitably reveals the very fabric of a team, and it certainly shows on the court. The better the chemistry off the floor, the better the team plays on the court and this largely holds true from recreational sports all the way to the pros.  

Wilson agreed, noting that time together away from the game is imperative for a team to grow.

“Whether it’s a bus, plane, or hotel, they all provide opportunities for the team to come together. And all of that culminates into a better performance on the court, because players are committed more to each other than just to the challenge at hand.” 

While the benefits are clear, the main concern for team’s hitting the road is that players could get caught up in the experience of being away. In other words, how do coaches and players alike find the appropriate balance between business and pleasure? 

“It’s always a little bit of both,” said fifth-year guard Emily Hazlett. “You obviously want to get a win, but in these tournaments where they span over a few days we go out and see some sights. And when its game-time we’re always ready to go.”

Road trips ought to be complemented with some kind of cultural component, Wilson added. Business and pleasure are often seen as conflicting interests, but the head coach thinks of the two as effective ways to boost
team morale. 

“I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive,” he said. “One of our goals for this program has been to include a cultural or learning component when we go out of province for a tournament.”

“When you’re travelling some distance, there’s more to it than just basketball.”

Both teams will open the second half of their seasons at home this weekend in back-to-back home games versus the Ryerson Rams and the U of T Varsity Blues. 

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