by Jardyn Angell
When does a Division I men’s soccer coach look at a record of 2-4-2 and call that result “inconsequential”? When those games – played during the school’s January term – were supposed to provide a cultural experience, not an athletic conquest.
The Drake University men’s soccer team played the eight games in Guadalajara, Mexico, where a partnership with the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, better known as Monterrey Tec, enabled the Drake men’s and women’s soccer teams to experience the best of both worlds: studying abroad and participating in international competition.
“When it was soccer time, it was soccer time,” men’s coach Sean Holmes said of the trip. “When it was school time, it was school time.”
The length of competitive seasons and extensive training in the offseason have long made the proposition of studying abroad difficult, if not impossible, for Division I college athletes. But Holmes and Lindsey Horner, the Drake women’s soccer coach, traveled with 42 students on their rosters.
For the Drake students, soccer was in the morning, when the teams practiced or had games against club or national teams or a team from one of Monterrey Tec’s 31 campuses. The women’s team went undefeated in its four games, but the warm weather and high altitude helped the teams to improve their conditioning in ways that they couldn’t in Des Moines, Iowa. The trip also strengthened the teams’ relationships.
“In terms of team chemistry, it was awesome,” junior midfielder and accounting major Rhian Pritchard said. “I got to know a lot of people on my team and the men’s team that I wouldn’t have otherwise.”
After a morning of soccer, players attended classes and lectures in the afternoon for their international business course on globalization – which required a research paper and two presentations.
The trip included both educational and soccer benefits, but perhaps the most significant benefit of Drake’s term in Guadalajara was the experience of traveling abroad, with visits to a chamber of commerce, an immigration center, an orphanage and a number of nearby cities.
“For a lot of the kids, it was the first time” traveling to a different country, Holmes said. “There was a growing-up component to it.”