For most students, winter break means leaving campus to enjoy the holiday season elsewhere with family and friends. For some varsity athletes, however, this is not the case. Instead, these athletes spend the majority of winter break on campus training or travelling around the Pacific Northwest for competitions. The men’s basketball team needed to spend most of their four-week break in Walla Walla, but made the most of their extended time together.
Without classes and coursework, the team was able to focus on improving their game and hanging out with one another. A typical day for first-year Jackson Clough, for example, entailed morning practice and lifting, reviewing and studying film from past games, eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, playing video games, napping and reading. In the evenings, he would head to the senior players’ house, “Sportscenter,” to eat a big spaghetti dinner and watch a lot of “Family Feud.” Clough saw his time spent with the team in a positive light.
“It brought us closer because there were no other outlets for what was going on in your life and you ended up talking with and learning a lot more about other guys on the team,” said Clough.
While most players enjoyed the isolation as an opportunity to improve team chemistry, first-year Dominic Lippi also noted the challenges.
“We got to know each other even better, but sometimes it is difficult to stay entertained for such a long time with no one else around,” said Lippi.
The team planned several fun activities to come together over the winter break such as a Secret Santa gift exchange and going to see the movie “Les Misérables.” Of course, with the chilly weather, snowball fights were inevitable.
“The snowball fights this year were especially fierce with the coaching staff often taking advantage of opportunities where they outnumbered a group of players,” said sophomore Clay Callahan.
Callahan was central to starting a Facebook page called Whittie City, and worked on developing it as a side project during the break.
“We are trying to start a fan website for the sports fans on campus. We usually post our videos to the page as well as little updates as to how the various athletic teams are doing,” said Callahan.
One of the most notable highlights of the break was the addition of a new member, Philip Chircu, from Australia, to the team. Head Coach Eric Bridgeland was especially excited and impressed with how the team accepted a new teammate.
“My favorite memory from this break was how much our program welcomed a new member to our culture. I am very proud of how open and welcoming our guys were,” said Coach Bridgeland.
The team members kept themselves busy between training and hanging out, but also took time to participate in two community events during the break. The team gave back to the community by volunteering at the Christian Aid Center on New Year’s Day. Also, the team had a dinner at a supporter’s house who is a member of the W Club.
At first glance, staying on campus may seem a little dull. With such a big team, though, the experience can definitely be an excellent opportunity for training and team bonding.