Out the smudged window there’s a constant, monotonous image of greenery. The trees are tamed only by Interstate 85 and medians covered by overgrown weeds, confettied with an occasional plastic bag or empty Coke bottle. Our bus inches slowly up the map toward our destination.
I look up from my laptop occasionally, glance out the window and am met each time with a familiar sight. Then there’s an SUV heading southbound, pulled over by the flashing lights of one of North Carolina’s finest. We head past it at 70 mph and it’s gone. More trees.
These sights are reminiscent of any weekend road trip for my team, the Duke University field hockey team, and the team road trip is an experience shared by any NCAA team at any institution. The trips differ in the opponents, the outcomes, the direction in which the bus heads off—but embarking on another weekend mission always feels the same.
Nineteen girls, four coaches and an athletic trainer occupy the same seats every time we hit the road. Below the bus are suitcases embroidered with Duke emblems, goalkeeping equipment, Band-Aids and gauze, sticks and stick bags and all the other weekend battle necessities. The cabin of the bus boasts pillows pressed against tinted windows, and the floor is littered with untied Nike sneakers. Bare feet are rested on headrests, and headphones drown out the constant hum of the engine.
The bus carries on and then we’re welcomed into the state of Virginia by a sign at the side of the road. Sometimes it’s South Carolina. Or maybe Maryland. We’re still seeing the same trees—north, south, east or west. Road trips sometimes exist as merely a blur, a smear of East Coast states until we’re greeted with some civilization or pit stop to stretch our legs and pick up a pre-ordered meal. Then it’s back to the bus.
These road trips are not just like business trips. They are business trips. Forget power suits and Ralph Lauren; we don matching sweatshirts and shorts, each sporting a Nike swoosh. We have an agenda and an itinerary, an objective to carry out. Pregame meetings replace conference calls and the field is our office. We have a duty to represent the University and a responsibility to impress our coworkers and bosses. The “2:30 feeling” turns up, but is quickly cured with a slurp of Gatorade and a bite of a granola bar. Then it’s back to work to finish the day.
Sure, team road trips represent all of these things, but beyond the field or the sport there exists an opportunity. It’s our privilege to traverse places across the country that we likely wouldn’t visit otherwise. Ann Arbor, Mich.? Probably not. College Park, Md.? Maybe to visit your cousin. Farmville, Va.? No. Definitely no.
As much as we’d like it to be, field hockey matches aren’t always primetime sporting events, but they are more than worth your consideration. Seventy-minute matches of physical work and psychological wit where “non-contact” means “don’t get caught.”
We embrace these challenges and more on our journeys by bus and by plane, from sea to shining sea, and we enjoy the diversity that our teams so effectively gather. We’ve got East Coasters. We’ve got Canadians. We’ve got girls from across the pond, girls from the countryside. We are 19 girls who consider “studying abroad” completing make-up work in a Doubletree Hotel in Philadelphia, whose Saturday night drink of choice is Gatorade, who consider wearing this University’s colors to be not only an unparalleled privilege, but also an ardent responsibility to scratch wins in the scorebook.
Six of my teammates—your classmates—are lucky enough to carry the Duke name to the Pan-American Games in Mexico for the next 14 days. Four Americans, two Canadians—all Dukies—have the honor of embarking on another trip to take care of business, this time on an international stage. Here at Duke, our squad will be down six, but we’ll continue to take care of business while they’re gone. They’ll wear red, white and blue or show off a maple leaf on their jerseys; we’ll boast black and blue. But whether we’re playing on East Campus or in Guadalajara, we’re working everyday in the name of this University.
The next time I sit looking out the window, we’re headed southbound, rolling past the border of Durham County. Out the window I see the same trees lining the same tarred road. There are ice bags situated carefully on legs and hips and arms, ointment and Band-Aids covering blistered and turf-burned skin. And another win in the book for Duke. Yet again, we were privileged enough to work and sweat and win in your colors. And it was lovely doing business for you.
Ashley Camano is a Trinity junior. Her column runs every other Friday. You can follow Ashley on Twitter @camano4chron