The first step in the Ohio University Master’s in Soccer Coaching program is a 5 day on-site residency. As a summer admission, my residency was at the Athens campus. I thought I’d write up a short survival guide to capture my thoughts from the week.
Traveling to campus
Flying from California to Columbus consists of 3 options:
- Arrive in the evening prior, stay in Columbus
- Take the red-eye
- Leave super early on the day of
Both options 1 and 2 allow you to take a variety of ground transportiation choices to Athens. Option 3 requires you to get a rental car or buddy from Columbus to Athens.
I chose option 1. I was able to find a hotel downtown and take the GoBus from the bus station to Athens. The GoBus takes about 90 minutes and costs $10 each way.
It’s about a 10 minute walk from the GoBus drop-off to the dorms. I carry a Tortuga backpack (rather than roller board) and I found the walk a nice change of pace from sitting on a bus for over an hour.
I strongly encourage anyone attending to make a quick grocery store run to stock up on snacks, drinks, etc for the week. You’ll probably want to hitch a ride with someone – there is a Kroger’s in downtown Athens but it’s not a comfortable walking distance.
The dorms have water dispensers – it’s a great idea to bring your own water bottle (I use a HydroFlask) – but many bought Gatorade or other sports drinks. I brought my own supply of Quest bars and picked up some grapes, pineapple, chocolate milk, and coconut water (to mix with my protein powder supply).
The dorms supply personal towels and bedding. They don’t supply shampoo, soap, etc.
The program has a model in which cohorts either begin or end their program with an on-site residency. In my case, both cohort 6 and cohort 9 (my group) were at Ohio together. This provides a fantastic opportunity to talk with coaches who have been through the program about their experiences. I was fortunate to ride the GoBus with 2 of the cohort 6 members and tag along with them to the Kroger’s. I’d met 8 members of cohort 6 before meeting someone from my cohort.
Throughout the week, cohort 6 provided a great support system to my group.
What to bring
The program admin sent us an itinerary for the week, which helped greatly. We were on the field 2x/day for the middle 3 days of the residency. Since I knew it woud be hot and humid, I packed 6 pairs of field/coaching shorts and about 8 of my club and high school training shirts. In the end, I wore all but 1 of the training shirts and used all of the shorts. There is a laundry in the dorm – one of the coaches used it during the week – but it’s simpler to just pack what you need.
In retrospect, I should have packed some rain gear. I was fortunate not to get too wet – there was a thunderstorm during the week.
There is a business casual dinner during the week. As I needed to pack everything into my Tortuga, this presented a challenge. In the end, I decided to wear my field turf shoes on the plane, pack my loafers, bring along a pair of Vibrams and a pair of Vivobarefoot shoes.
I also brought along 12 servings of TrueNutrition protein powder.
The residency consisted of a series of on-field and classroom sessions.
As a relatively senior athlete, I had some concerns about my ability to perform in the on-field sessions. At my NSCAA Advanced National course in 2009, I rolled my ankle badly enough that I thought it was broken and was forced to hobble through 5 days of on-field work.
I regularly ROMWod and I’d advise everyone to make sure that you are fully loosened up prior to taking part in strenuous activities. The field sessions consisted of a morning session in the fieldhouse and an early evening session on the stadium field. The real “playing” work was in the mornings while the evenings were “coaching”.
Given the heat and humidity, I made sure to stay hydrated throughout the week and eat snacks during the break periods.
The classroom sessions were stimulating, led by an excellent set of instructors. I strongly encourage everyone to bring a laptop or other keyboard-capable device as the ability to take notes is very important. Much of the class work is submitted through the Blackboard web site and the classroom tutorial required internet access.
Food, sleep, and working out
At home, I have a pretty consistent routine on how much and what I eat, how much and when I sleep, and how much, when, and how I workout. I knew it would be a challenge during the residency to meet the physical level required to perform in the classroom and on the field.
Ohio has a pretty nice student dining center – much better than I encountered at either SF State or Stanford during previous residential courses. Because there were concurrent student orientation groups on campus as the same time, it was very important to get to the dining hall right when it opened for meals. Otherwise, when the herd arrives, the lines become exceptionally long – not worth the effort to wait in. I stuck primarily with salads, simple proteins, and vegetables.
Sleeping is always a challenge. I averaged about 6 hours a night and tried to find a few power naps during breaks.
Ohio has a very nice student recreational center. For a $5 day pass, I was able to get in and work out on a Concept 2 Model C erg with a PM3 and do some bodyweight work (pullups, situps, pushups). No connection between the C2 and my heartrate chest monitor but more than adequate for traveling. There are a couple of basketball courts, a room with cable equipment and free weights, another with barbells and plates and some Rogue racks for squats/pullups/etc. I was able to get in a couple of maintenance sessions during lunch breaks. The workouts provided me with a mental and physical “reset” – and kept me on track with my personal training.
A key part of the experience is socializing – meeting and working with members of both cohorts in the classroom, at the dorms, and off campus. The dorm floors have several meeting/social areas – during the evenings, these became ad hoc study halls and TV watch areas.
There is a limited amount of night life in Athens but what is there is within short (10-15 minute) walking distance. On the final night, most of the members of both cohorts plus several of the staff went to one of the local bars.
It’s super important to socialize during the residency – not just to avoid being an outcast but because (1) there are some really great people and stories and (2) there is a learning experience in every interaction.
The Ohio residency was a great opportunity to meet my classmates and instructors. I felt that I mostly did a good job of preparing – in terms of packing and then purchasing amenities on-site that helped me focus on the work at hand. The staff was helpful, out-going, and supportive. The members of the 2 cohorts were smart, fun, and committed.
I’m really looking forward to the next 2 years of study. More to follow …