RIT Practices Foreign Relations

By Staff

Coaching Management, 13.5, April 2005, http://www.momentummedia.com/articles/cm/cm1305/bbritrelations.htm

Thinking of going on a team trip? Taking your players out of their comfort zone can prove to be a beneficial and worthwhile endeavor, says Roger Worsley, Head Coach at the Rochester Institute of Technology, who traveled with his squad to Tianjin, China last August to play against the Tianjin University of Technology.

The trek provided both a cultural adventure and a unique preseason training opportunity. "It was an incredible experience," Worsley says. "It allowed the team to bond and gave the players an opportunity to see things in a completely different perspective."

Before they left, Worsley told his team to remember it was still preseason, and that they needed to concentrate on the training aspect of the trip. And train they did, every morning with the TUT team in their hostís gym.

"Training with them made a big difference," says Worsley. "Immediately, there was a connection there. One thing I found was that while there were language and cultural barriers, volleyball is still volleyball."

RIT played two games against TUT and one against the Tianjin Professional Sports School, losing all three, but Worsley and Assistant Coach Kathleen Schreier were happy with their teamís effort. The coaches took solace in the fact that TUT is the three-time defending national university champion and TPSS is a year-round sports school training future Olympians.

In preparation for their trip, Worsley had a group of Chinese students at RIT, including several from Tianjin, speak with the team about their homeland and what to expect overseas. Worsley says the key to the successful trip was that his players went with open minds in terms of trying new foods, learning a little of the language, and seeing everything they could.

"We all agreed and understood that you just need to go into this with an open mind," Worsley says. "And whatever the experience gave us, we took from it 100 percent and I think that makes for a great trip."

The team had some free time in the afternoons, which they spent shopping, exploring Tiananmen Square, and sightseeing with their host team. "The street markets in China were so much fun," says Sarah Ballard, a senior on the team. "We all tried bargaining, and we got to meet a lot of characters in the marketplace."

In October, it was RITís turn to play host to the Tianjin volleyball team, which visited the RIT campus and traveled across the state to play Syracuse University and Nazareth College. "It was really exciting to have them visit us," Schreier says. "Even though we were only over there for a short time, some strong bonds were formed. It was great to be able to see them again and return the hospitality they showed us."

The opportunity came about through the schoolís affiliation with an organization called PEN-International, a worldwide system of colleges and universities educating deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Both RIT and TUT have Technical Institutes for the Deaf on their campuses, and TUT was interested in expanding their relationship with RIT beyond their academic connection. In May of last year, TUT sent a group of martial artists to RIT for a workshop in exchange for hosting the volleyball team.

Despite an NCAA rule that allows only one international trip every four years, Worsley is looking forward to continuing the bond the universities have formed. "The relationship is there," Worsley says. "We would definitely look at making a return trip when the time is right."