Kirkham's Korner: Travel in the RMAC - toughest places to play

By Steve Kirkham published October 4, 2006

What are the toughest places to play in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference? Everywhere! I'm not just saying that so our teams don't get singled out when they travel this year. The crowds are already rowdy and extremely supportive of their teams. And I am going to mention some specific experiences I, or someone I know, have had in the RMAC.

Biggest crowds? Nebraska Kearney in pretty much everything because of their facilities and their support, Mesa State, with the "Herd" a vociferous group of students who can intimidate the best-prepared teams, Fort Lewis in soccer because they've been exceptional, and Colorado State-Pueblo in baseball because Pueblo has always been a baseball town and they win.

Craziest crowds? Chadron State because all the programs support each other. For instance, the entire football team sometimes dresses in drag and lines the sideline for an entire men's and women's basketball doubleheader. Colorado Mines because they get out of studying and really get into the sport, whatever it is, because they get out of studying. Mesa State it nuts due to the aforementioned "Herd." And Western State can be really fun if it has been cold for a long period of time; they develop serious cabin fever that they get rid of at the games.

Other places create tough environments for other reasons. Here at UCCS, our limited seating creates a hot and loud atmosphere. Chadron has dead spots on the floor and a cold wind blowing through the cracks in the door at the north end when you are shooting free throws. If the wind is blowing down off the Rockies, Colorado Christian has vents that make the loudest noise you ever heard. Several gyms are tough to play in because no matter how good their teams are, there is never anyone at the game. We won't mention those schools as we're not writing this piece as a recruiting tool.

One thing many people do not understand is that the louder the crowd, the easier it is to play. When only one fan is being heard, it can be much more distracting than constant noise. Doug Schakel, the legendary basketball coach at Mesa State had a crowd noise tape he would play during practice. I don't remember a tape with just one fan yelling, "hey isn't this your seventh year in school?"

Getting to play in this type of environment is one of the true treats in being on a college team in the RMAC. The great players and championship teams thrive on these moments. The teams and players that don't make it a positive are always lost on the road.

Next week will begin a discussion on sportsmanship.

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