By Tracey Tong
Players on Ryerson’s soccer teams board the bus to the University of Guelph under a light drizzle at Lake Devo. It’s cloudy and unusually cool. For a September day, but that doesn’t stop them from being excited about their game. Both teams are looking for their first win of the year against the hosting team, the Guelph Gryphons.
All the athletes are confident they’ll get the chance today. Soccer games aren’t usually cancelled unless there’s thunder and lightning, or if it’s so wet players will ruin the field.
“Bad weather doesn’t faze me because the other team has to play in the same conditions,” Jon Sanderson, coach of the women’s team, says Saturday on the way to Guelph.
Men’s team captain Ivano DeLuca flashes a grin as he stares out the window.
“I love the rain,” he says. “You can blame it on the rain if you mess up.”
Most players love road trips such as this one. The bus ride is an adventure in itself and helps players get to know their teammates better.
The jokes on the bus start once the coaches distribute the cash allowance. Each player gets $14 to spend on food for the day, but others are tempted spend it on other things.
“I kinda see it as getting paid to play soccer,” men’s team midfielder Ian Crilly shouts out. “We can get whatever we want, like porn.” He quickly tells me he’s kidding.
On the way up, the girls sit in the front of the coach and the guys are crammed in the back. Some use the trip to catch up with class readings, while others scan the morning newspapers. Some are turned around in their seats, talking to team members behind them.
Amy Doerksen, a midfielder on the women’s team, says she loves the team bonding experience.
“The soccer season is a short one,” she says. “There aren’t many opportunities to get to know other players better. Soccer is social. You meet other girls that would otherwise never meet.”
The soccer teams usually travel every second weekend to play fellow teams in Ontario University Athletics. Although the trips are fun, Rania Amer, a forward on the women’s team, says travelling makes it hard to keep up with school work.
“A few away games are good for getting to know the team better,” she says. “But it’s hard to commit to going away so much.”
Other players, however, live for the road trips.
“I love overnight games,” says Marko Ptrovski. “You get to go out at night with the team and you see all these guys trying to pick up girls. It’s a big joke.”
When the bus pulls up at the University of Guelph’s stadium, everyone gets up and stretches like they’ve been sitting for a day instead of an hour. Then men’s coach Stuart Miller sends out some pre-game instructions to the teams.
“When you’re in the athletic centre, be sure to take a look at my picture on the wall,” the former Gryphon says.
“Check out my haircut and that moustache from 20 years ago. It’ll inspire you to play better,” he says over the sound of rustling jackets and overhead compartments being opened.
But players might have missed checking out Miller’s mug shot.
Both teams suffer losses to Guelph, the men by a 2-0 score and the women by a 6-0 score.
Still, the players were in good spirits on the way home. Although striving to win is an important component of university sports, it seems athletics also play on teams for the friendships they make.
“It’s not just my team that love the away games,” Sanderson says.
“They let us travel together for a good hour-and-a-half, which is definitely good for the unity of the girls. The more time they spend together, the more they can bond as a tight-knit group.”