The Bucknell Women's Water Polo Team traveled to Barbados in January for a preseason training trip. Junior Marta Considine and freshman Arianne Evans sent back regular reports about the team's experiences on the trip. 

Day 1 - Jan. 7, 2017

It was an early morning start for our 2017 Bucknell Women’s Water Polo team. We dragged our luggage through the snow and at 1 a.m. sharp the bus left Bucknell and we were on our way to the Baltimore airport. We had a short layover in Charlotte, where somehow our flight still managed to take off despite the snow-covered runways and the countless number of  canceled flights highlighted on the “departing flights” screen. As we walked down the aisle of the plane, there was a man singing, “‘Ray for the Orange and the Blue” and it turns out that he was a Bucknell alum who was flying to Barbados that week as well to visit another Bucknell alum at his apartment on the island (small world!).

Again, we lucked out when the flight attendant told us that because the flight was so empty, we could each get our own row of seats to sleep on during the flight!  Our team came up with some creative sleeping positions to say the least… Five hours later and we could see the crystal blue Barbadian coast line peaking through the clouds and we couldn’t be more excited to finally begin our much-anticipated training trip!

After going through the dreaded customs line, we hopped into our vans and it took some time to get used to driving on the left side of the road. On our way to the hotel we passed by rows of pastel-painted houses on our right and the lively beach on our left. When we finally walked into the lobby, we were greeted with cold and refreshing fruit punch and Eliza ate all our cherries. McBride split us into roommate pairs and we all quickly unpacked and then walked across the street to a restaurant called “Just Grillin Chicken.” We sat outside and enjoyed our Barbadian spiced meals as the warm island breeze helped us forget about the chilling temperatures back home in Lewisburg.  

Day 2 - Jan. 8, 2017 - Photo Gallery

This morning, we woke up and started our day with some breakfast that consisted of some fresh Bahamian fruits and flavors.  After putting on our matching orange and blue Jolyn bathing suits we walked down to the beach for our morning workout with Jerry, our athletic trainer for the trip. Beach workouts are a lot harder than they sound! We did dynamic warm-ups, stretches and sprints (all in the dry sand!) We also did our first ocean swim, and everyone survived!

Following our morning workout, we relaxed and HYDRATED before heading on over to the aquatic center. And let me tell you, we didn’t ease into it! We jumped right in to a 30x100 swim set followed by some leg work, passing and shooting. Don’t worry, we all survived Day 1 of practice!

Upon returning to the hotel, we had a delicious lunch consisting of chicken, vegetables and rice! And most of the team took our meals down to the beach and spent the rest of the afternoon playing in the ocean, relaxing on the sand and soaking up the sun. Some of the freshmen were ambitious and decided to swim way out past the surf break and waited 'til the sun came down to come back in. The sunset painted the sky with an array of pinks, purples and oranges as we watched our first full day in the Barbados come to a close.

 Day 3 - Jan. 9, 2017

The team woke up a little sorer than normal this morning, but the warm temperatures and beautiful views helped ease the pain. We walked down to the sand and started the day off with another beach workout led by Jerry. Morning joggers on the boardwalk seemed amused to see us try and do high knees and sprints in the soft dry sand (it’s a lot harder than it looks!). We finished the morning session with an open water swim/run along the shoreline directly in front of our hotel. Some of the hotel guests even cheered us on as we ran past their beach chairs in our caps and goggles. We have quickly acquired the label of “the water polo players from Pennsylvania” among the other guests. Let’s just say that 18 athletically built young women in matching apparel doesn’t exactly make it easy to keep a low profile.

After grabbing a quick breakfast and a power nap, we loaded back into the vans and caravanned to the pool. The local Barbadian music station makes for a different, but culturally authentic kind of pump up mix. Practice was a three-hour grind; it was everything you would expect the second workout of the season to be: physically demanding, mentally challenging, and emotionally straining. But most of all, it was insanely rewarding. And I think the latter is a unanimously shared sentiment amongst our incredibility hardworking and dedicated team. We already are so much stronger after just two days, that it makes thinking about what we can accomplish in an entire season overwhelmingly exciting.

We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and recovering on the beach or in our rooms. Some decided to soak in the last of the day’s sun rays, while others went into town or read a book. When it came time for dinner, we explored new tastes and flavors at various local restaurants in the area. Nothing beats sitting outside around a dinner table in Barbados, laughing and  creating memories with your teammates and best friends. Cheers to another productive and beautiful day on the island!

Day 4 - Jan. 10, 2017 - Photo Gallery

On day four, we woke up nice and early to find out we can only go to the hotel breakfast once, not before and after our morning beach workout. What a bummer! Time to make some sacrifices and ration our food! Morning workout was a little different today -- we did our usual warm up with Jerry, but split up into two groups and did some interesting “McBride inspired” military workouts: leapfrog, army crawl and horizontal squat jump relays (sand was everywhere). Not exactly what we had in mind, but it involved team work, which was super fun and rewarding.

Today, instead of doing our normal one-lap ocean swim and run, we did it twice. As we were finishing the second run, we heard a local vacationer say to his wife “Karen, they're going again!” So glad that we are the center of attention on Accra Beach at 9 a.m.!

After our first practice, some of us rested and napped, while others went to the hotel breakfast to gear up for our second, much-anticipated challenging practice. And trust me, when McBride says something is going to be tough, it is! We did 10x250s, with twenty push ups in between each 250. Ya know that phrase "easier said than done?" That is perfectly applicable to this set. Nonetheless, we got through it, and motivated and challenged each other to new limits. 

After practice, we had our daily lunch delivered, consisting of rice, potatoes, and chicken. Nothing like sitting on the beach, sipping some coconut water, playing with monkeys, and enjoying each other's company to wrap up our fourth day in paradise!

Day 5 - Jan. 11, 2017

Today was another great day on the island. Morning workout was a little different than the previous days. Jerry decided it was time for some core work. We didn’t know what was coming when he told us to line up in two rows facing each other and then to sit down and link up our arms and legs. Next thing we knew, our team was doing 40 sit ups as one single unit, literally supporting each other left and right with our arms and legs. It was quite the bonding experience and definitely one for the books. Next was an open-water swim followed by a beach run (x2) and then some nice sandy stretching to finish off our workout.

The four jam-packed vans pulled out of our hotel parking lot at 11:40 sharp and we were off to another afternoon session at the pool. We were all secretly celebrating inside when McBride gave us a break from lap swimming and planned a practice that focused more on ball work and water polo drills. The team is looking stronger and more confident every day and this was especially evident at today’s practice as we worked on counter attack drills.

We ended practice a little early to get our picture taken by a Barbadian reporter and then hopped back into the vans to go shopping and exploring in downtown Bridgetown. The team split off into smaller groups; some of us walked around, while others bought souvenirs from local venders. It was a busy town and at 5 p.m. almost all the shops closed and the kids got out of school. So as our team was getting ready to leave, we saw tons of elementary school students in matching baby blue uniforms flooding the sidewalks on their way home from school. It must be nice to be able to watch the sun set over the sparkling ocean after a long day in class.

A couple hours later, some of us went out to explore and find a new restaurant for dinner. One of our team’s favorite spots is the “Raw Juice Bar” which is across the street from our hotel and makes killer Acaí bowls and fresh smoothies. It is rare to not find at least two of us there for lunch or dinner. When it starts getting close to 10:30 p.m. it is safe to say that almost the entire team is in our respective rooms, putting on aloe, rolling out our sore muscles, or already sleeping. Here’s to another practically perfect day or as they say in Barbados, we are “too blessed to be stressed.”

Day 6 - Jan. 12, 2017 - Photo Gallery

Hello from beautiful Bridgetown, Barbados, where we just wrapped up day six of our training trip. This morning we met bright and early in the lobby before going to the beach to lather on sunscreen. Some of us are finally realizing SPF 15 isn’t going to cut it here. As 8:50 rolled around, we walked on over to our beach spot and put our game faces on for our last beach workout (a bittersweet moment).

After doing the normal dynamic warm up with Jerry, we did some hip stretching exercises followed by a friendly competition. We each grabbed a partner and raced in a variety of different events including bear crawl, sprints, and backwards sprints. Burpees were on the line for the loser, so naturally it got a little more competitive than expected. For McBride’s portion, we continued the ocean swim and run (x2). Today, the waves were calmer than normal, which made the swim a lot more enjoyable. People at the hotel are starting to recognize us from the runs saying “Oh you’re the one leading the should do an Iron Man” or “I saw you trying really hard back there…You almost didn’t come in last!” So glad we are the talk of the hotel!

After our beach workout, we relaxed until practice. By 12, we were all lathered in sunscreen ready to hop in the pool. After a short warm up, McBride kept us on our toes by pairing us with our Barbados roommates and had us do 10 suicide sprints. While our partner was doing the suicides, the other alternated between hands out of the water and hands straight up. It was definitely one of the more challenging workouts we’ve done, but we all motivated each other and truly worked as a team to finish up strong.

We picked up our daily lunch that is delivered to us at the pool and headed back to Accra to catch a few hours of sunlight on the beach. The sophomores bought a blow up raft and inner tube, so the team had fun with that in ocean as the sun went down. As we sat on the beach watching the sunset, we all dreaded heading back to the 20-degree weather in Lewisburg in two days!

Tonight, we had a team dinner at a restaurant called “Tapas” on the boardwalk. They had food ranging from swordfish to fettucini alfredo to spicy curry. Not to mention the beautiful ocean view from our tables. It was a nice change to see our team all dressed up and out of our gym clothes, bathing suits and caps. We are at the point of the trip where we are trying to savor every moment, experience, and view. These are definitely memories that will last through the season, if not for the rest of our lives. Looking forward to soaking up our last two days here!

Day 7 - Jan. 13, 2017

How time flies when you mix a rigorous practice schedule with beautiful beaches and amazing teammates. It’s our last full day here, and although it will be nice to give our bodies a little time to recover for a couple of days, I don’t think any of us are ready to return to the dead of winter in Lewisburg. We all feel very fortunate to have had this opportunity to train abroad and have truly made the very most of every moment and opportunity. Over the past week our team pushed our pain threshold, gained mental toughness and created unforgettable bonds and memories. All thanks to this unique and exciting Water Polo experience in the Barbados.

Today was the first day we got to sleep in past 9 a.m. because we didn’t have morning practice, due to our scrimmage later that night. We sat at breakfast a little longer and enjoyed each other’s company. Some girls grabbed smoothies from our newly beloved Juice Bar across the street and went for a walk down the boardwalk. We saw a man doing our exact same beach workout from the day before! He was doing a little speed skater circuit with some squats. I’m glad someone got a beach workout at least! Glad we are inspiring people to stay active! After, most of us used the extra time to lay in bed and rest up for the upcoming afternoon and evening trainings.

We had some surprise visitors walk onto the pool deck as the team was finishing up our leg warm ups. Rihanna and some of her friends showed up and sang “Work” for us! (Just kidding. That would have been cool though). No, but actually, as we were treading across the pool, two Bucknell alums, Mark Eberle '72 & Doug Dischino '78, who happened to be vacationing in Barbados at the same time we were there, came and watched the first half of our practice. Doug and his wife, Emily, were the same couple that we met on our flight on the way to Barbados. So awesome to have our own little fan section at the aquatic center! It is always fun to see fellow Bucknellians outside of Lewisburg, especially when abroad. The team got out to snap a quick picture with the two alumni and they even sang the university's Fight Song for us (not missing a beat). What a special and small-world moment -- I guess Bison are just everywhere. ‘Ray for the Orange and the Blue! Thanks for the visit Mark Eberle, Emily Eberle and Doug Dischino!

The team had a three-hour break back at the hotel to eat, nap and stretch until it was time to go back to the pool and scrimmage with the Barbadian National Team. McBride led both our team and the Barbadian team in warmups and then we played an hour-long controlled scrimmage. We were impressed by their strong and speedy shots, but the Bison women definitely held our own. It was a great way to practice and implement a lof of the skills and techniques that we had been working on all week. It was also the first time that our entire team suited up (including the three juniors that were abroad first semester) in the 2017 season. We could see the sunset paint the sky as we shook hands and exchanged shirts with the Barbadian team; signifying our last practice in that pool and country.

We quickly showered and changed out of our workout clothes. Some of the girls on the team heard from some locals about an island-wide event that happens every week called the “Fish Fry.” We had no idea what to expect, but it was our last night in Barbados and even though our bodies were exhausted, we gathered the energy for one last hurrah. The tricky part was that the event was taking place a few miles away from our hotel and we were not exactly sure how to get there. We decided on a bus and as we were walking to the station, a large cab pulled over and asked if we needed a ride. Next thing we knew, all 19 of us were piled into the back of this cab. I don’t know how we did it, or why the driver let us, but it made for some good laughs.  And we even got some singing in when Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking out Loud” came on the radio.

The Fish Fry was a kind of massive and interconnected market and festival. It was a perfect mix of locals, tourists and vendors. In the middle there was more food places with freshly made fish, chicken and other local flavors. Jewelry and craft booths outlined the rim. There was music, dancing and people representing all corners of the world. We could not have spent our last night together on the island in a better and more authentic way. Cheers to making it through hell week in paradise!

Day 8 - Jan. 14, 2017 - Photo Gallery

Nothing beats waking up without an alarm clock, especially in beautiful Barbados. As we ate breakfast and soaked up the last bits of Vitamin D, we reflected on what an amazing trip and incredible experience this has been!

Some girls rented Jet Skis, while others relaxed and finished up the last pages of the books they started a week ago! We packed our bags and headed for Grantley Adams International Airport at noon, not-so-ready to tackle our 12-hour travel day.

Our first leg was a 3.5 hour flight to Miami, with a QUICK layover. And when I say QUICK, I mean we barely made it. Two of our girls were “randomly selected” in customs, just to make things more interesting. As we rushed through customs, re-checked our bags, and went through SECURITY again, one of us got left behind: Karen! The flight attendant ripped the wrong boarding pass in Miami, and she was caught up. Luckily, her and McBride came rushing on the plane in the knick of time, and all 24 of us were finally together as we hopped on our flight to Baltimore. 'Ray!

As we landed in Baltimore at 11 p.m., we were all ready to get our last leg of the journey over with… until we realized Karen's bags didn't quite make it. They were left in Miami!! Luckily, they weren't completely lost and will be returned to her shortly--stay posted!

As the Susquehanna Trailway bus pulled onto Moore Ave at 2:45 a.m., we were more than ready for a good night's sleep and a couple days off before regular season starts. Thanks for following our journey the past week and help us countdown to our first tournament in three short weeks in Providence, Rhode Island! And if there is one thing that we can all take away from our trip to Barbados it is that “We are too blessed to be stressed!” Stay golden, and 'Ray Bucknell!