“Better never than late.”
-George Bernard Shaw
No one likes to start a game late. When a team arrives late, it’s has a tremendous ripple effect. Players, coaches, umpires, parents, field maintenance personnel, and athletic directors, and local media are all affected. Remember your game is an event. People make arrangements far in advance to be there. For example, let’s say a game is to start at 4:30 PM. What is the proper time to arrive? For my team, I would like to arrive at 3:30 and at the latest 3:45. If you show up any later than that, everyone is making accommodations for your team and its lateness, which is resented by entire list of people previously mentioned. Your team may be as polished as World Series champions, but if you show up late, the first impression your team will give is of Bush League champions.
Our conference may be the most spread out in the state of Illinois. Our shortest drive is 20 minutes. On the flip-side, many of our opponents are 1 hour or better. Still 3 of those are very close to 2 hours. Keep in mind that these trips are usually taken on “big yellows,” which is what we affectionately call our busses. The drivers of these busses are instructed to drive at the exact speed limit, as they should. You can see how planning of road trips can be a nightmare. To give our entire conference credit, the schools are all very good about handling the great distances. On a given day that we have one of our longer trips scheduled, with the cooperation of our principal, we are able to get our players dismissed at 1:30. The bus will leave at 1:45, and barring any extenuating circumstances we will arrive at the field at about 3:35 or 3:40. If we make good time, and show up earlier, GREAT!
Another way to be on top of this situation is to have some back up. The directions that bus companies give their drivers are usually good. Although, on occasion they can be incorrect or out-dated. With websites like mapquest.com it is easy for you as the coach to have some back up directions, just in case. In turn, it’s always a good idea for the opposing coach to have your cell phone number and vice-versa. This can come in handy for any one of a million variables that may come into play during the time in which your team leaves town and when it arrives to the destination.
Some coaches may be reading this and thinking, “Why do you need to be an hour early?” Well, my answer is if you want to prepare your team to play that day, it takes time to do so. Players will need to change shoes, stretch, run, throw, and perform their pre-game routine. Oh, I almost forgot, after 2 hours on a school bus, typically the closest restroom is in order. Nothing should be changed from what you do at home. Good coaches allow time for good pre-game preparation. If the coach is hurried, the players are hurried. When people feel hurried, they get confused. Isn’t it also possible that this confusion could carry over into the game?