Road trippin’: 4,529 miles in 19 days

Men's soccer will play several top 25 teams in the next six games, including Akron, Coastal Carolina and UCF. CT file photo

Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor

For some college students, sleeping in on a Monday morning after a long weekend and skipping class is OK. That’s not the case for most student-athletes, especially men’s soccer players. 

“It’s a reality that college students skip class,” coach Dave Giffard said. “What our guys lose is the ability to do that because if you miss a few classes for other reasons, well now that’s even more difficult to catch up because you’ve already missed three or four other classes.”

And the Rams very well might be missing classes soon — men’s soccer will begin a six-game road trip Friday and will travel about 4,529 miles in the span of 19 days, going back and forth between Richmond and the away cities. With the constant travel to and from away games, routine is big for Giffard’s squad, which means trying to miss as few classes as possible. 

On the road, Giffard says the players try to sleep well and control what they eat. From there, the routine is pretty straightforward. 

“Get up the next day, go for a walk, go play the game, and then come back after the game and go to class the next day,” Giffard said. “It’s not rocket science.”

The team plans ahead, working with professors to make up work that will be missed for competition. Giffard credited academic advisors for helping create schedules that minimize the number of classes student-athletes have to miss during the season. And student-athletes have a contingent of tutors and academic advisors who can help them succeed in their classes.

“They’re here to support them and try and help them be successful during this time period,” Giffard said. “So you have some checks and balances to try to keep people on the best path they can stay on, where a normal student doesn’t have those advantages.”

Players use study hall hours as a way to keep up with their schoolwork.

“When we travel we have what we call study hall hours, so five hours a week we are supposed to go to a study hall,” said junior goalkeeper Mario Sequeira. “We have a lot of tutoring, we have a lot of facilities of help from advisors and tutors, and even our coaches keep track of what we’re doing.”

Redshirt-junior midfielder Anthony Gonnella echoed Sequeira’s sentiment and said he does his homework before going on the road. 

During the six upcoming road games, the Rams will play three teams ranked in the top 25; UCF (15), Coastal Carolina (12) and Akron (21). They will also begin their Atlantic 10 portion of the schedule on the road against St. Bonaventure and Saint Joseph’s. 

“St. Bonaventure and Saint Joseph’s are our two first league games and they’re not the two easiest places to go based on facilities,” Giffard said. “I think each of these six games are really ones we are looking forward to, really important.”

Playing on the road can actually be an advantage for some players, because it puts the focus on soccer, eliminating distractions that can arise when playing at home. The coaching staff knows what the team is eating prior to the match, and the players can relax while studying. 

“It is nice to know here’s what everybody’s eating, you get a good night’s sleep, and sometimes being at home is a disadvantage,” Giffard said. “You have class, your daily routine … Sometimes being on the road for some guys is better than sleeping in your own bed.”

The Rams use three different modes of transportation throughout the season, depending on what’s best for the players and their bodies.

“We try to look at what’s the easiest and best for the kid’s bodies,” Giffard said. “So, if it’s a shorter trip we just take a 36-passenger bus with nicer seats and a little more space to spread out and you’re a little more comfortable.”

If the trip is longer than four or five hours by bus, the team considers flying, while taking into account the players’ bodies and safety. They avoid multi-leg flights, Giffard said, because it’s taxing on the players and isn’t very relaxing. 

In some instances, the Rams take a double-decker sleeper bus to games farther away, giving the players a chance to sleep and relax. The sleeper bus is typically easier for the team than flying because they don’t have to arrive at the airport hours before the flight leaves. 

The sleeper bus also allows the team to rest on the way back to Richmond after a late-night match. 

“You get another few hours of sleep in your bed, you get up and you go to class the next day,” Giffard said. “We just try to make decisions on what’s the best way for them to travel most safely and gives us the best opportunity to perform well.”

Sports staff writer Adam Cheek contributed to this report. 

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