The Richmond Register

January 21, 2014

Winter break a different experience for athletes

By Deverin Muff
EKU junior basketball player

RICHMOND — While other students were gone and enjoying their time with family and friends back home for the holiday season, the EKU basketball team was in Richmond for the most part of winter break.

Being here in town while school is not in session allows for a lot of free time.

The basketball team only gets four to five days every year to spend with family at home for winter break. The thought of having that short of a winter break while everyone else gets to spend a month at home probably sounds terrible to most, but actually it’s not that bad. For one, we know it comes with being a basketball player and that this is one of the sacrifices we have to make to live out our dreams of playing college basketball. Also, we get to spend just enough time with our family and friends at home before they drive us crazy.

While at home I try to squeeze in as much time with as many people as possible because I know that it will be a couple of months before I see them again. Although the visit is short, I always have a great time back home and leaving always gets tougher every year.

When we do return to campus, it looks like a scene out of a sci-fi movie — a desolate ghost town. It’s so empty that we get excited if and when we actually see other people on campus.

The roads are deserted. Hardly anyone stops at stoplights. It’s almost surreal how quiet it is when everyone is gone.

Games during winter break have a different feel to them as well. The only people who show up are the local fans and alumni — hardly any students.

It’s pretty cool because it helps us appreciate the students when they come back and lend their support at games. It also serves as a reminder that we need to play our hardest no matter how many people are in the stands.

We usually do a lot of traveling over winter break to away games.

This year we took three flights in three weeks to play four games on the road. Traveling to different airports and cities is exciting, if only to see new places and other teams’ gyms (one of my favorite things).

One of the downsides is the amount of free time we get. During break, we usually practice once a day for three hours and then the rest of the time is pretty much up to ourselves. I probably watched more than 20 movies and started two TV series (Arrow and Dexter) on Netflix.

Some teammates spend the extra time going to the mall. Others like to play video games or use the extra time as a chance to catch up on sleep that they might have missed during the fall semester.

Still, there are a few perks. With the cafeteria closed and with no place to get a bite to eat, we get a per diem of about $30 a day for food. So we get to head out into Richmond and eat wherever we like (the new Cookout restaurant was one of my favorites). And we get to keep whatever money we don’t spend, which a lot of us put toward bankrolling our Christmas gifts to family.

While most students are sad to go back to school, ironically most of the basketball team can’t wait for its return (although that feeling quickly fades once we realize that this means the return of school work). After more than a month of living in a dead zone, the chance to be around other people our age is riveting.

It just drives home the point of how our campus really is a big community. We basketball players miss our fellow students who go home over break.

So it’s good to have you all back. This place just isn’t the same without you.