The UConn women’s basketball team travels all over the country this season. They play in the US Virgin Islands, the west coast, New Orleans, St. Louis and pretty much everywhere in between. But no trip will be more impactful than a 2.5 hour bus trip to the banks of the Hudson River — to the United States Military Academy at West Point.
The team visited last week and spoke with a handful of generals, including Lieutenant General Darryl A. Williams, superintendent of the school, as well as some cadets. For a program that prides itself on hard work, seeing what the cadets go through on a daily basis was an eye-opening experience for them.
“It puts into perspective how you feel like you’re sacrificing and you’re working hard everyday, but they’re putting their lives on the line every hour of every day,” senior Katie Lou Samuelson said. “You have to really count on your teammate out there. If you aren’t holding up your end of the bargain, you’re going to get someone killed.”
Most college students are kept busy with schoolwork and extracurriculars. Student-athletes have even less time with practice, lift and other team activities. But the cadets at West Point are on a completely different level.
“Busy, busy, busy. They have a full schedule,” sophomore Megan Walker on her biggest takeaway from the trip. “They wake up at about 5:20 every day, they have room checks, they have to wear uniforms. I feel like they have a lot of extra stuff before class and practice so their schedule is busier than a normal student.”
Head coach Geno Auriemma was glad to give his team a dose of reality. For them, a tough stretch is getting on a plane, flying to play a game and then coming back to school. But when they get back, life returns to the status quo; a comfortable routine. The same can’t be said for the cadets. Their “tough stretch” laps what the Huskies deal with and they do it every single day, all year long.
“The experience of being in an environment where everything is expected of you every minute of everyday, they came away from there...with a healthy respect for their peers,” he said.
Auriemma is no stranger to winning. But West Point gives the idea of winning a whole new meaning.
“The biggest message is always about whatever your definition of winning is, you can’t just show up, you need to show up to win, that’s the world they live in, show up to win,” Auriemma said. “So they try to win at everything they do every day. General Dempsey always says they’re undefeated and they never play home games. And we hope they never do.”