Feb. 16, 2012
STANFORD, Calif. -
"Planes, Trains and Automobiles" is not just a brilliant John Hughes comedy starring Steve Martin and the late John Candy, but also a way of life from November to April for the Stanford women's basketball team.
On top of the equally, if not more demanding academic grind the Cardinal student-athletes face on a daily basis, the grind of basketball season and related travel presents its own unique challenges.
Wednesday, third-ranked Stanford embarked on its seventh road trip of the 2011-12 campaign. This weekend's itinerary had the Cardinal making its only trip of the season to the Pacific Northwest to visit Oregon State and Oregon. Due to the new scheduling arrangement of the Pac-12 with the addition of Utah and Colorado, there is one specific trip that each school does not make during the regular season. For the Cardinal, this season's trip to Seattle and Spokane (Washington and Washington State) is off the books.
The student-athletes caught a personal break in the days leading up to Wednesday, as Setsuko Ishiyama Director of Women's Basketball Tara VanDerveer scheduled practice for 2:30 p.m. ahead of the team's 5 p.m. departure from Maples Pavilion to San Francisco International Airport. Occasionally, the team will practice at 7 a.m. on a Pac-12 travel day, to ensure that the student-athletes will be able to attend Wednesday's classes before departing.
On this day, the team members got classes out of the way first. With Midterm Week in full swing, it made sense to have the early moming off for those spending late nights in Green Library and the dawn hours at a local coffee shop cramming for the big exams.
With classes and midterms out of the way, the team members could turn their full attention to basketball. And that is where the travel schedule really got started:
2:30 p.m. - Players begin to trickle out of the locker room and training room and onto the Arrillaga Practice Gym court. Freshmen Taylor Greenfield along with Lindy La Rocque and the Ogwumike sisters, Nnemkadi and Chiney, are among that first group, and begin warming up at the various hoops. Over the next 15 minutes, more players arrive, while others will join practice in progress after finishing their late-afternoon classes.
4 p.m. -
Practice is in full swing on the east court of the Arrillaga Practice Gym as the Cardinal runs through its sets for Thursday's game against Oregon State. By now, all healthy players have arrived, while the Cardinal's injured players participate in workouts with assistant sports performances coach Susan Borchardt
4:30 p.m. - VanDerveer splits the team for its end-of-practice shooting drills. The team also has a special participant in practice today, as former All-American and current Indiana Fever guard Jeanette Pohlen is in town and putting up shots with the Cardinal.
4:44 p.m. - Practice ends with a team huddle at center court. Practice ran longer than expected, so the team is already behind on its itinerary. The original departure time of 5 p.m. has been moved back to 5:05 p.m. VanDerveer ends the huddle with instructions: "Bus leaves at 5:05, you have 20 minutes to shower and get on the bus. Let's go!"
After those final words, VanDerveer steps aside to avoid the stampede of players rushing to be first to the locker room and have first crack at the showers.
5:06 p.m. - Junior Joslyn Tinkle is one of the first players out of the locker room and to the bus, mainly because she will give a short interview with the Buck/Cardinal Clubhouse's Mark Soltau before the team leaves. As Tinkle speaks with Soltau, the rest of the players and coaches gradually assemble on the bus. As each player steps aboard, they are greeted by Assistant AD/Director of Women's Basketball Operations Eileen Roche in the first seat, who has the team members sign for their weekend per diems.
5:14 p.m. - The second-to-last player has boarded, and Tinkle wraps up her interview and boards. The team departs, traffic is lighter than expected, and a quick arrival to the United terminal at SFO is assured.
5:53 p.m. - The bus pulls up to the curb in front of the United terminal, and the unloading process takes place. Players and staff members alike help pull bags off the bus, while Roche heads to the counter to expedite the check-in process.
5:58 p.m.- 6:24 p.m. - Check-in, security and food. Bags are checked, and team members head to security. The line moves well and with no hassle, and with nearly 45 minutes to spare before the scheduled 7:11 take off, team members scatter to the food court for snacks and the most popular item available: coffee.
6:46 p.m. - The boarding process begins. Coaches and about half of the players are at the gate prepared to board, while others are still relaxing at the food court. The gate agent announces that any ticketed passengers not present by the end of the boarding period will have their seats forfeited to those on the standby list. This announcement prompts the coaching staff to round up a search party for the remaining players making their way to the gate.
6:58 p.m. - All present and accounted for on the plane, crisis averted.
7:09 p.m. - Wheels up to Eugene!
8:37 p.m. - Wheels down in Eugene. The Eugene airport is one of the smallest airports that the team flies through every year, and this trip is no different. The late evening arrival finds the team walking through empty walkways and to a near-deserted baggage claim.
8:52 p.m. - The team has bags and heads to the bus waiting outside. The brisk 40-degree temperature hits the Cardinal as it departs, a stark departure from the mild nights back home.
8:57 p.m. - Eugene, we have a problem. The bus is ready to depart but a quick head count finds that Video Coordinator Lauren Greif is not onboard. A quick call from Roche gets the answer: the team's video projector screen did not arrive from San Francisco. Greif is working with the agents on figuring out the projector's whereabouts, while the bus idles. The answer comes through that the screen was not put on the team's flight in San Francisco. Intern Liz Rizza is assigned to join Greif at the airport to await the screen's arrival, then the pair will take a shuttle to the hotel.
(Ed. Note - Greif and Rizza took a shuttle back to the hotel 20 minutes later...the projector was set to be delivered Thursday morning, but as of 10:30 a.m. it had not yet arrived)
9:20 p.m. - The team arrives at the hotel in Eugene. The 20-minute ride from the airport featured players quietly getting comfortable in their seats, while most of the noise on the bus came from up front, where the coaching staff and support staff shared stories from past trips to Eugene. VanDerveer and associate head coach Amy Tucker tell stories of games at Oregon and Oregon State in years past, while Borchardt, a Cardinal guard from 2000-05, recounts stories of her own from those trips. Great performances, bad team performances, bad calls, and even Candice Wiggins' second-half entrance into a game at Oregon State in 2007 (after watching the first half of the game in warm-ups) is recalled.
9:23 p.m. - The team enters the lobby as assistant coach Kate Paye hands out the room keys. Players all room together, except in one case due to there only being 11 players on this trip. Nnemkadi Ogwumike draws the lucky straw and has her own room on this trip. The players make quick stops at their rooms to drop bags before heading upstairs to a banquet room for team dinner.
Team dinner was originally scheduled for 9:30 p.m., and as the players head into the meal room, the time shows 9:29 p.m. Despite a later start than planned, it all ran on time in the end.
Just another road trip with Stanford Women's Basketball.
--Aaron Juarez, Stanford Athletic Communications