Scheduling the right opponents can be a way to test skill or refresh a team on the fundamentals, especially at the beginning of the season.
Coaches at Keene State College pick their own pre-season matchups, which are mainly out-of-conference games, to get their team prepared for a long season.
Some coaches like to throw their players into battle right away, with a game against a team in a good conference, perhaps to give a taste of what the playoffs would be like.
Other times, these pre-season matchups are used to get some feel-good wins against a weaker team or participating in a tournament to boost morale and gain some team chemistry.
“This year will be the most difficult out-of-conference schedule for us,” men’s lacrosse coach, Mark Theriault said.
Theriault has scheduled games against top ten opponents including Tufts and Western New England.
“Every single one of our out-of-conference games are top twenty or better so we need to be ready,” Theriault said.
For conference games, the schedule is made by a committee for the Little Eastern Conference.
It is essentially a rotation where the matchups are usually the same, but each year the home and away locations are switched.
Every two years the last team KSC plays switches as well, according to Director of Athletics, John Ratliff.
Men’s basketball coach Rob Colbert took his team to Montreal for the preseason, where they spent a week and won three games in a row before returning home.
Cross country coach, Peter Thomas, decided to throw his team to the wolves earlier this fall and produced a KSC cross country player that qualified for the NCAA’s, Ryan Widzgowski.
“There’s a lot of tough teams out there, [KSC] has a lot of work to do to make them better runners,” Thomas said, “If you get spanked a little bit then you’re thinking, ‘I’ve got some work to do.’”
A benefit for spring sports, however, is the privilege for every team to fly down south to open the season. Locations can vary, however most teams elect to go to Florida.
“All the spring teams go south and they’re responsible for doing their schedule down there and generating their own money to do that,” Ratliff said.
According to Ratliff, for spring sports, the college supplements the budget with $175 per student. When the fees to get there are around $1,000, the athletes pay for the rest through fundraising or out of their own pockets.
Ratliff said he hopes to increase the supplement to $200 per student, but the program currently doesn’t have the budget.
“We feel with the spring [sports] it’s critical for them to jump-start their season where we wouldn’t put that money into soccer,” Ratliff said.
Playing lacrosse, softball or baseball in Keene and other surrounding areas during March is almost impossible. Fields are not properly prepared due to the cold and usually aren’t ready until mid-April. Because fall sports start their pre-season in August, they don’t need the “jump-start” that winter and spring sports may need.
The opportunity to go down south gives spring teams a chance to get out of the cold, stop practicing in the gym and get out on the field to get ready for the upcoming season. Since baseball and softball are more dependent on field conditions than lacrosse or swimming, the diamond sports get to play between 10 and 14 games in Florida, where they’ll play doubleheaders throughout their trip.
The other sports, which require more stamina for the majority of the athletes and can play on sub-par field conditions, will play fewer games when they travel for warmer weather.
“They have to be lacrosse rats in order to be successful, they have to play all year round,” Theriault said.
The allotment for how many games they play in the south depends on the total amount of games a particular sport can play in a season, set by the NCAA.
For example, baseball and softball can play around 40 and lacrosse can only play around 17.
“If baseball or softball wanted to play all forty [games] down there they could, but they wouldn’t be allowed to play any when they get back,” Ratliff said.
Stephen Aruilio can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org