Anyone who has ever worked in college athletics has some sort of travel story about a plan going awry. Some of these stories end well (delayed flights eventually get to the destination, a new bus comes after the other one has broken down, etc.), some don’t (I got left at the pool after day three of the 2009 Big 12 Swimming and Diving Championships. I was picked up immediately, but that story is brought up EVERY year around conference championship time).
The Iowa State volleyball team had their travel story of 2013 yesterday. Due to the impending snow in Minnesota, a last-minute decision was made to move up the departure time a couple of hours. To accomplish this, practice in Ames had to be postponed until the Cyclones got up to Minneapolis. Once the bus got rolling, the next stage was to find a place to practice.
The court at the Sports Pavilion was not allowed due to NCAA Volleyball Championship regulations and the Cyclones would not be permitted to practice next door at Williams Arena as Colorado (who also moved up travel plans) were already denied their request to practice there. The Cyclones were then offered a practice court at the Student Recreation Center, but declined due to Colorado also practicing in the building (we never got specifications about how close or far away the courts were going to be, we just decided it was best to stay away from the same place Friday’s opponents would be practicing).
Fortunately associate head coach Dawn Sullivan had been working the phones and was able to get in contact with Stephanie Schmidt, the head coach of Division III North Central University, and was offering us their gym to use for practice.
Now if you have not heard of North Central University, you are not alone. Matt Shoultz (yes, THAT Matt Shoultz) and Travis Hines of the Ames Tribune both lived in Minnesota for over 20 years each and both had never heard of it. It is a school of about 1,300 students located about a mile Southeast of downtown Minneapolis and half a mile South of the Metrodome.
The campus only consisted of five or six buildings so the same building that housed the Clark-Danielson Gymnasium where we practiced also doubled as the administration building, the athletics department, the student recreation center, the worship center (North Central is a private, religiously-affiliated university) and also had classrooms.
Some amenities were available. There was a training room with a table for our staff to work on and they had ice for post-practice treatments. Some amenities were not available. The Cyclones had to bring their own volleyballs, the Molten IV58L-N Super Touch (which we use at all our home matches and is the official volleyball of the NCAA Championship) and there was no locker room facilities available.
For about two hours, the talk of North Central University was the Iowa State volleyball team. Schmidt and many of her players stayed the entire practice to watch the Cyclones get ready for Friday’s match. About half-a-dozen students at a time would be watching from a full-sized window that overlooked the gym. A couple of police officers in charge of security at the campus stopped by and watched for a little bit. Whenever you stepped out in the hallway, a student would be telling his friend that Iowa State volleyball team was practicing in the gym, he would not believe it and then look inside the gym and be stunned.
It is safe to say that Iowa State had the most high-profile volleyball team to visit Clark-Danielson Gymnasium this season (no offense to the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference squads. #UMACtion). Eventually the spectacle and fanfare wore down as students were getting anxious to get on the court for their intramural basketball games that started at 10 p.m. with the Cyclones wrapping up at 9:56 p.m.
It was not the easiest situation for anyone involved to be in (the scramble in Ames by everyone to get ready on only a couple hours of notice (or less for some) will be a memory to keep), but in the end all the goals were accomplished. We got to Minnesota safely and got in a practice before checking out for the evening.
We want to give another thank you to Stephanie Schmidt, athletic trainer Kelly Berg and the whole North Central University athletics staff for helping us arrange a practice on such short notice. We probably won’t cross paths with the Rams again, but we will always remember our unplanned trip to North Central Univeristy.