Sept. 20, 2004
Having all the athleticism in the world doesn’t guarantee victories or titles. In order to have a championship-caliber season, a team must have a multitude of ingredients, but one of the main factors is chemistry. No one knows this better than Florida State University volleyball head coach Todd Kress and he takes steps to develop it just like any other aspect of the team.
During preseason practice, the Seminoles not only worked offense, defense and passing, but Kress and his staff worked on promoting team unity. Just prior to the end of the three-a-day sessions, Florida State went away from Lucy McDaniel Court at Tully Gym for an offsite retreat at the Ichetucknee Springs State Park.
Working outside the constrains of the gym is not something new to Kress. While at Fairfield University in Connecticut, he regularly took his team on a retreat before the season started. He continued team-building at Northern Illinois University with regular activities such as scavenger hunts that allowed the players to not only learn about one another, but also the athletics department, university and community.
In his third year at Florida State, Kress is still in the midst of building his own program. Twelve of his 15 players, including eight sophomores and freshmen, are in their first or second year with the Seminoles so the bond amongst the team is still growing. That is why he made the decision to take the team to Ichetucknee Springs.
“The first reason we do the camping trip is because it’s a great opportunity to get to know one another as people,” Kress said. “So often they’re in the gym and they get to know each other as athletes and off the court they get to know each other as students, but it’s good that they have the chance know one another as people. When you’re working with someone so much and spend so much time with one another you need to know what makes people tick.”
After practice, the team was divided into three groups and given $100 to purchase the items they needed for the two day excursion. The coaching staff provided little guidance as to what supplies were needed, this exercise was designed to promote leadership and cooperation.
There was one mandate from the staff. The players were not allowed to bring cell phones or anything that could be plugged in to an outlet. The items that provided the comforts of home were left in Tallahassee. This was a business trip.
Most of the $100 went into purchasing tents, tarps and sleeping bags. Each group was also responsible for cooking one meal during the trip so the group’s normal meal money had to cover either dinner the first night or breakfast or lunch the following day.
“I think the camping trip should be a tradition from here on out,” senior captain Aisha Carr said. “We’re 5-1, doing well on the court and we’re friends off it. We got to learn a lot about each other, things about our families, pets, experience in volleyball, good or bad, so I think that helped learn each other’s personalities.”
Upon arrival at the camp grounds, the players had to set up their tents while one group had the added responsibility on making dinner. Following dinner, the players had free time to get to know one another. After breakfast the next day the entire group went on a tubbing trip down the Ichetucknee River before lunch and then back to Tallahassee to practice.
“They’re all very different when it come to personalties and I thought it was good that they had a chance to get to know each other,” Kress added. “They all enjoyed it. We had some bumps in the road, but I think what we got out of it will definitely be a big part of our success this year.”
Through the first two weeks of the season, Florida State has a 5-1 record–the sixth-best start in school history. Maybe a little time away from the court and in the woods is the final ingredient that the Seminoles need for a successful season.