I usually have very little trouble finding topics for this blog. Things just happen or memories kick in and then it’s a blog. However, this blog was inspired entirely by my assistant coach, Lori Hopkins. Coach Hopkins is the master organizer for our program. She makes sure everything runs smoothly. Sometimes, outside forces prevent that smooth operation. Those outside forces are usually found in the person of our opponents.
Take for instance game preparation. Things are much easier today than when I began college coaching. To get videos (DVD’s) of our opponents, we had to use the mail or Federal Express. Now, almost every NCAA II league belongs to something called Game Tape Exchange. If I want to see any game my MIAA opponents play, I can just download (or is it upload?) it from the Game Tape Exchange mainframe. If you want to trade games with non-conference opponents, you simply exchange emails with the games attached. What makes it difficult is some teams just don’t want it to be easy. They refuse to trade games. Then we have to make calls and beg for games from other teams. It usually works out, but it seems so senseless when coaches could work it out themselves. Upper Iowa was one of those teams that wouldn’t trade games. One other team pulled that on us and I’ll talk about them later.
Parking the bus can drive Coach Hopkins nuts. At Northwest, we allow buses to park on the curb right by the gym. While our fans have to tread through slush, ice and curbs, our opponents have a red carpet to the gym. The only two conference schools that present parking challenges are Southwest Baptist and Missouri Southern. At Baptist, it’s a guessing game which door will be unlocked when we arrive. If we pick the wrong one, we trudge to the other side of the building. At Southern, the parking is an issue at shoot-arounds. Sometimes the front door is the only one open and sometimes it’s the side door. I really shouldn’t complain about Southern. On one occasion, their assistant coach had to climb through the press box window at Northwest to let the team into a shoot-around.
During the games, teams always provide water for the visiting teams. You wouldn’t think there would be much issue with the water. All the MIAA schools provide a big cooler of water and cups. That is except for one school. Emporia has the water, but getting to it is another matter. They provide flimsy, cone shaped, thin, paper containers to hold the water. Emporia is a tough place to play and to have to worry about dumping a cup of cold water in the middle of a Bearcat turnover is something I can do without. I’ll think I’ll bring my own cup this year.
I’m pretty sure most NCAA II teams provide towels for the players when they shower after games. I know they all intend to provide this service. However, at Ft. Hays, they seem to always forget when we come to town. Again, Hays is not an easy place to play. Before any cooling down period can occur after a close game, I usually have to hustle to find a Ft. Hays coach or trainer to get our supply of towels.
Finally, as we leave the locker room, the players can always count on a cooler of bottled drinks that is provided by the home team. Ten of the 11 MIAA schools have bottled water waiting for the players. The lone exception is Northwest as we provide Gatorade. We try to be classy in Maryville.
That brings me to the reason Coach Hopkins asked me to write this blog. Saturday, we played #24 ranked Arkansas Tech. They certainly didn’t play like a 24th-ranked team. If the way they played Saturday is any indication, they will soon be in the top 10. However, they won’t make Coach Hopkin’s or my top 10 list any time soon in the areas we have just mentioned.
First, we thought Coach Hopkins and the Arkansas Tech assistant coach had agreed to e-mail the December 30 game to each other. However, when we checked with the head coach, he didn’t remember any agreement. “Anyway,” he said, “I already have plenty of games on you.” As irritating as that was, it only took a couple of phone calls and I had all the games I wanted.
Arkansas Tech had scheduled a 6 p.m. practice on New Year’s Day. They arrived in Maryville early, so they asked for their practice time to be moved up. I chased down our men’s coaches and checked their practice times and got Tech in 30 minutes early. We try to be good hosts. We proved to be excellent hosts as Arkansas Tech put a thumping on us. It was disappointing to get beat that badly at home. However, the final straw for an already bad day came next. Coach Hopkins ordered a medium pizza for every player for a post-game meal. After the game, she couldn’t find them anywhere. However, all the Arkansas Tech players seemed to be feasting on a whole bunch of medium pizzas. Coach Hopkins went to find the Arkansas Tech coaches. She found the head coach in a classroom. When asked if they had ordered the pizzas his players were eating, he said, “Oh. I thought it was an MIAA thing.” He then walked away from Coach Hopkins.
Let’s add up all these expectations; There was no film exchange; The red carpet parking was available; The water was cold and the cups were sturdy; Clean, fluffy towels were available immediately after the game; And there was Gatorade waiting for them in the locker room after the game. I’d say we held up our end of the deal. Then, they ate our pizza. Only another snowstorm could be worse.