As most of you already know, Springfield College is the birthplace of basketball.
While it’s nice to say that, it’s even better to help spread the sport throughout the world, all while being able to take part in a once in a lifetime trip.
That’s exactly what the Springfield College men’s basketball team got the chance to do this summer when they took the 6,848 mile trip from Springfield, Massachusetts to Osaka, Japan.
The trip served a few purposes: to celebrate 100 years of basketball being played in several YMCA’s in Japan, and for the Japanese team to prepare to play, and host, the 2020 Summer Olympics.
In the ten days prior to the trip, the team practiced on campus, but it was a different kind of practice, given the circumstances, as Head Coach Charlie Brock said.
“The practices were different, and they were different for me too,” Brock said.
“Just the way we conducted them. There just wasn’t that kind of pressure there is when you’re preparing to play WPI or MIT.”
The group, which included the team, President Cooper, Director of the International Center Deborah Alm, and others, departed Logan Airport in Boston on Wednesday, July 16 and, after a quick stop in San Francisco, landed in Osaka that Thursday.
The first day in the new country was fairly straightforward, just getting situated, adjusted, and eating dinner, of course.
Friday was the team’s first day of practice overseas, but, like all trips, sightseeing was set to be part of the day. Practice was brief, and then the group left the court to tour some of Osaka’s astounding temples while taking in the Japanese culture.
While the visit was centered around basketball, it was important to take the opportunity to take in as much of the surroundings as possible. After all, it’s not every day that a college team gets a chance to visit a country halfway around the world.
Saturday was the team’s first game day, as the guys took on a squad of Japanese players put together just for the occasion. The first game was played in Kyoto, at the opposing team’s facility.
The arena was loaded, with upwards of 4,000 fans, mostly kids, there to watch the two teams face off.
The game came down to the wire, as Springfield nailed a few last-second free-throws in the waning moments of the game to seal the deal and earn the Pride their first win of the trip.
The second game was played back in Osaka on Sunday. A short shoot around was squeezed in that day, as the group toured the Osaka Castle on a sweltering summer day.
By the time their Monday game rolled around, the team was gassed, and they were “blitzed” by the Japanese squad, as Coach Brock described it. What stood out to Brock was the difference in the crowds there, as opposed to a crowd at a normal season game.
“They don’t really cheer as much as they applaud,” Brock went on. “They applauded both teams. For me, it was a very unique experience. We’d do something good, they’d applaud. They’d do something good, they’d applaud equally.”
The group left Japan on Tuesday, July 22, and returned home on the same day. If their mission was to help spread and promote basketball in an almost diplomatic way, it’s safe to say it was successful.
When asked if there was one particular highlight of the trip, Coach Brock couldn’t seem to find just one.
He described the sightseeing, being immersed into a whole new culture, and getting to spend more time with the team all as high points in the memory of a lifetime.
Brock viewed the trip as an “enhancement to the relationship that teams tend to create anyway,” as he hopes that the camaraderie carries over into the regular season.
When asked if he thought that this trip would have any effect on the team’s regular season performance. His answer: “Ask me again in February.”
While it may be too early to decide anything about the team’s season, it’s hard to picture a scenario where an across-the-world team bonding event like the team’s trip to Japan won’t have a positive impact on this upcoming season’s outcome.