Winter break cut short for basketball team

In the three weeks that the Norwich men’s basketball team has to return to campus early, four days will be spent in Florida participating in a tournament and bringing in the New Year. The rest of the time will be spent cloistered on campus, practicing for up to four hours a day, scrounging to find meals and entertainment.

It’s part of the sacrifice basketball players make to train and improve their skills while others are kicking back on holiday break.

The men’s basketball team will arrive back on campus on Dec. 27, in preparation for their flight to Florida on Dec. 28, said Richard Giroux, 21, a point guard from Colchester, Vt., who is a senior and criminal justice major.

While in Florida, they will participate in the Land of Magic Tournament. The tournament will entail two games, one against Wilkes University from Wilkes-Barre, Pa, and the other against Colby-Sawyer College from New London, N.H.

The last day of final exams for the fall semester is Dec. 19. Classes for the spring semester are set to begin on Jan. 22. Students are able to return back to campus as early as Jan. 20 but the men’s team has a decidedly shorter time away this year.

“It is exciting to come back from break early this year,” said Ryan Booth, 21, who plays forward and is a senior physical education major from Northfield, Vt.. “We get to travel to Florida and it is the team’s first time out of New England since I have been on the team.”

In previous winter breaks, the team has “practiced for roughly a week before playing a game,” said Joseph Bertrand, 21, another forward who is a senior and majors in physical education from Saugus, Mass. In the past, the team also partook in “two, two-hour practices per day” in that week before games are played.

The team will return to campus on Jan. 2, 2018 after completion of the Florida tournament. The athletes will remain on campus and will begin their traditional winter break routine. The goal is to get ready for an intense schedule in the new year.

“Once we arrive back in Vermont, we will practice for a few days before beginning a streak of six games,” said Giroux. “Between playing six games in 14 days and fitting practices inbetween the games, there is little free time left over the break.”

Each player spends their free time differently. Players partake in a wide variety of pastimes, for example “sleeping, spending extra time practicing, lifting, playing video games, or just hanging out with each other,” Bertrand said.

“One of my favorite things to do when we are not practicing or playing over the break is to get to know some of the freshman players on a more personal level,” Booth said. “Since we are always so busy with school or practice, it makes it challenging to really interact with the freshmen.”

The Cadets will host three of the games at home and be on the road for the other three. According to a few of the men’s players, it is best to play away games during winter break because there are “no classes and no worries about academic obligations.”

Basketball is one of the few athletic teams that are in season for both academic semesters, as they begin games in October and continue through the middle of February. Because of this, they are obligated to arrive back on campus before other students and are not able to spend much time at home around the holiday season.

“It is especially hard for people on the team who don’t have easy access to get home,” said Mike Hogervorst, 21, a senior electrical engineering major and men’s basketball center from Leiden, South Holland, Netherlands. “We are all away from home and not able to spend time with friends and family like the other students on campus.”

Being away from home over the winter break makes it “challenging to spend time with friends from home,” Bertrand agreed. Winter break is the longest break during the academic year.

“The break between semesters is typically about a month long,” Giroux said. “This month-long break occurs for most colleges, making it the easiest time to see friends who are away from home for college as well.”

The break between semesters is “the most neutral break where most of my friends are back in town,” Bertrand said. Because the basketball players are not able to spend much time at home, they find ways to make being on campus feel like they are still on break

“Even though we are on campus for most of our winter break, it does not feel normal because there is no homework to do and no one in the buildings,” Booth said. “This is the only time while in season that we can actually just relax and focus on just basketball.”

Still, staying on campus during winter break does have some downsides as well, according to Giroux. As everything on campus is closed, that makes access to food harder than it normally is when school is in session.

“The chow hall is closed until the Sunday before the first day of the spring semester,” Hogervorst said. “A lot of us rely on the students who live off campus as a place we can go to cook meals.”

Getting food is not as “difficult for those who live locally,” Booth said. The players who live locally are able to get meals and snacks from home and bring it back to campus.

“It is easier to prepare individual meals at home and just bring it back to campus,” Giroux said. “Then all that is left for me to do is reheat my meal in the microwave.”

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