Column: How traveling with a team of 60 works

If you miss an exam for a swim meet, some professors count the next exam doubly.

The swim and dive team had its first away meet last week at Kentucky.

Away meets are not as simple as traveling to another school, swimming the meet and coming home. Along with them come issues of making up for missed class, finding hotel rooms for and efficiently feeding 60 people, as well as working out our schedule so that we swim our fastest in the actual meet.

Usually, we drive to away meets. We occasionally fly to especially far locations, such as Knoxville, Tennessee and Austin, Texas last year, but unfortunately, the eight-hour bus ride to Lexington this past week was not deemed too long to drive.

This meet was two sessions: one Friday evening and one Saturday morning. We left Columbia at noon on Thursday to avoid having to swim immediately after the bus ride. Since we would have had to miss class anyway on Friday, leaving after most classes Thursday allowed us an extra night to get used to the change from Central Standard Time to Eastern and to get a warm-up swim in Friday morning so that we could get used to the pool and loosen up from the bus ride. To a non-swimmer, loosening up from the bus ride may not seem necessary enough to warrant leaving a day early, but based on our team’s performance at the meet (we dominated all three opponents, by the way), I definitely believe it helped.

Another challenge of travel meets is feeding a large group of swimmers, who notoriously eat a ton. To avoid the wait that would result from having 60 meals made every time we eat, we order all of our meals in advance of the trip. This way, we can pick up a meal that is already prepared on our bus rides or be served shortly after arriving to dinner after the meet. If our starving team had to wait for an hour for food after performing at a meet, someone might get hurt.

The most stressful aspect of away meets for swimmers is keeping up with school, especially if one misses an exam for the trip. That was the case for me this week, but luckily my professor was very willing to work with me to determine the best way for me to take it. I ended up taking it proctored at the hotel in Kentucky. Other professors prefer student-athletes take exams before they leave, and some don’t let us make them up at all, but instead count the next one doubly.

Trying to make sure we get a chance to make up assignments we miss while traveling requires cooperation from professors, which is not a given. Fortunately, I have never had a professor who has been unwilling to work with me, but I know that has happened to others. Even for me, though, away meets mean doing extra work to get assignments finished before we leave town and having the discipline to work on the bus ride or in the hotel.

Away meets can be complicated, both logistically for the team and for individuals academically. Still, I don’t mean to make them sound like a burden. They are a fun opportunity to bond as a team and prepare for the big meets that come at the end of the season. When we swim well like we did this week, everyone is happy.

Even an eight-hour bus ride can be enjoyable.

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