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Examining the psychology of being ready for road trips

From mid-week prep to the actual process of traveling, Jayhawks prepare for everything

4 min read
The Kansas football team and head coach Lance Leipold prepare to take the field. [Chance Parker photo]

Artificial crowd noise has been a popular sound around the Kansas football facility this week, with the Jayhawks preparing for a Top 25 showdown at No. 3 Texas this weekend.

But while preparing for 100,000 screaming Longhorns fans to make life miserable for you after kickoff is a wise move, there are other elements of these road trips that require planning and preparation, as well.

Kansas (4-0 overall, 1-0 Big 12) has experienced one game away from home so far this season — a 31-21 win at Nevada in Week 3 — and, according to those who go on the road with the Jayhawks, that game showed that this veteran group is taking advantage of things that experience can provide off the field as much as on it.

“The more that you get used to doing something, the more it doesn’t bother you as much,” KU quarterback Jalon Daniels, who is now in his fourth season of traveling to road games, the first coming in the weeks after he turned 18.

Daniels compared the Jayhawks’ travel routine to their use of the inside zone run concepts on offense. They’ve been doing it the same way since Day 1 and that familiarity makes everything operate smoother at go time.

That’s not to say that there haven’t been tweaks. KU coach Lance Leipold said this week that he recently has talked with the team’s leadership council about how to structure the routine of going on the road, “to kind of give them a little input,” he said. And he appreciates the fact that so many of his players are used to the travel process and can offer good ideas and handle themselves in a businesslike manner on travel days.

The things they discussed, according to Leipold, included what to do with down time, how to conduct meetings, how many meetings to have and which meetings they could combine into one to operate at peak efficiency.

“You gotta watch that you don’t get 10 different ideas,” Leipold noted. “But they handle it and they understand. We’re creatures of habit and as long as we can stay in good routines, I think they have a chance to prepare to get ready for kickoff.”

“We low-key take a road trip every weekend, so it’s kind of normal to us.” — KU linebacker Rich Miller

Like Daniels, offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki said experience is the best teacher. And that philosophy extends to creating a travel routine, as well.

“I think when you have returning players, obviously the experience and the reps on the field is a huge deal,” Kotelnicki said. “But it’s things like (the act of traveling) that are hard to quantify and hard to measure that (contribute to) how less stressful it is.”

Spending the week dealing with and fighting through piped-in crowd noise has played an important role, too.

“This will be a little bit different in the amount of people and sound from our first one,” said Leipold, referring to KU’s win at Nevada, which has a home venue that seats 30% of what Texas’ Darrell K Royal—Texas Memorial Stadium can hold. “(But) there’s a good majority of (our) offense and defense that (have played in big environments like UT). And that’ll definitely be a part of it.”

Kotelnicki said being prepared for every road trip to be the same — at least up until kickoff — includes finding comfort in things like boarding a bus, getting off a bus and hopping onto a plane, knowing what happens when the plane lands and also what happens at check-in.

For the Jayhawks, it’s typically check into your room, participate in a special teams meeting and then break into offensive and defensive meetings before team dinner.

With so many guys on the travel squad who have been through that countless times before, that’s one less thing the coaches have to worry about taking care of.

“They know the routine,” Kotelnicki said. “It’s not new and it’s not a bunch of guys always checking the schedule.”

That leaves their minds free for things like the game plan, one last look at opponents’ tendencies and taking a few minutes to prepare their minds for battle.

Kansas linebacker Rich Miller said the fact that the Jayhawks actually stay outside of Lawrence — at a hotel in the Kansas City area — the night before home games helps, too.

“We low-key take a road trip every weekend,” Miller said. “We stay almost an hour away from here, so it’s kind of normal to us.”

Miller said the Jayhawks have been known to hop into the hotel pool on road trips, but only when they’re with strength coach Matt Gildersleeve and only when Gildersleeve is leading a water workout.

So, no, it’s not floaties, goggles and dive toys on these trips.

“Oh, no,” Miller said with a laugh and a smile. “You’re not doing all that swimming stuff. You’ll wear yourself out doing that.”

The Jayhawks will need all the strength and energy they can muster in their latest road test, which is slated for a 2:30 p.m. kickoff against the Longhorns on ABC.

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