This summer, the men’s basketball team will travel to Costa Rica to play international teams, but more importantly, do mission work.
Though specific details are not in place yet, the team is set to take off Aug. 9 and will return Aug. 14, about a week before classes start.
The idea has been on the back burner for a while. Now, the opportunity is here.
“We’ve been wanting to do something like this for a long time,” said Joe Golding, head basketball coach. “Many of the players haven’t even been outside of the States.”
Brette Tanner, associate head coach, is in communication with Basketball Travelers, Inc. to plan the trip. Basketball Travelers is an organization that helps high schools and colleges organize tournaments and tours in and out of the country.
Div. I schools are allowed to take trips like this every four years.
“There are a lot of reasons for doing this,” Tanner said. “I think it’s special at a place like Abilene Christian where we can go and take a trip like this, and we can do a little bit of mission work along with it.”
The basketball team is known for doing volunteer work in Abilene. They’ve participated in Love and Care Ministries, Hendrick Home for Children and have even volunteered in communities where some of their away games have been.
“We do a lot here in the community of Abilene, but this gives us a chance to spread our wings and extend what we do in another country,” Tanner said.
ACU’s mission is to educate students for Christian service and leadership throughout the world and is a big part of why the team emphasizes mission work.
“We’re unique here,” Tanner said. “Here, it’s part of the mission of the university, and you can see that everywhere we go. Everywhere we play, there’s an ACU contingent there that comes to our games. It doesn’t matter if we’re in California, if we’re in Houston or Maryland, we have ACU people there. It really helped us learn what ACU people are all about.”
The trip is coming at a perfect time with ACU’s continual transition into Div. I athletics.
“Year three is kind of always the year that we marked that would be the turn of our program,” he said. “That’s when you’ll really start to see the strides the program has taken in going Div. I. That’s one of the main reasons for going Div. I – to expand our footprint out in the world, not just in the United States; it’s another opportunity for us to extend the ACU brand out of Abilene.”
The trip will also allow the team to get a jump-start on the season. The NCAA will allow the team 10 extra days of practice to prepare for the three games they will play against semi-professional and professional teams overseas.
“These games will give a better idea of our team and what we have to work with,” Tanner said.
What’s more important, though, is that the team will get a chance to bond with each other and their new teammates.
Incoming freshmen who are usually trying to find their place in September will have the opportunity to get acquainted and begin to build relationships during the summer.
“This trip will give us a chance to gel and help our chemistry tremendously,” Tanner said. “They’ll get to play together and experience each other, and it’ll help bring these guys together with a common theme for this upcoming year.”
The trip won’t be all work, though. Players and coaches will get to experience Costa Rica, too.
“My hope is that they get a cultural experience they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise and gain appreciation for what they have here, because sometimes we forget that, and to do some work and help others,” Tanner said.
Though mission work and skill-building are focuses for the trip, team-building is the primary goal.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to see something different,” Golding said. “Whether it’s sitting on the beach or ziplining or helping out people, they’ll be bonding with their teammates, and that’s more important than the basketball side.”