NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (KNOP) - Over the course of the 2019-20 school year, North Platte varsity sports teams will spend more than 36,000 miles on the road.
The North Platte basketball teams load up to bus ahead of their road trip to McCook (Credit: Patrick Johnstone/KNOP-TV)
According to John Schultz, the Transportation Supervisor for North Platte Public Schools, North Platte students can spend up to 45,000 miles on the road in a school year between varsity and junior varsity sports, junior high sports, high school activities, and other miscellaneous trips.
NPPSD has 10 drivers who operate 27 different vehicles, including five coach buses, four yellow school buses, six 15-passenger mini buses, and two mini vans.
The Bulldog varsity basketball teams will spend over 50 hours on the road this season, and they travel together, so that means the bus can get a little crowded.
"Nobody's got their own seat, everybody's doubled up. It's kind of hard to get comfortable,” said Tyson Hammond, the girls’ basketball coach.
On long trips, the coaches and bus drivers try to make a stop around halfway, to give everyone some time off the bus.
“When we go to Lincoln or Omaha we'll stop at Bosselman's in Grand island. We’ll try to spend a half hour or so just to move around a little bit get some food," Hammond said.
Bulldog teams will spend more than 570 hours on the road combined, which equals more than 23 days.
Matt Kaminski, who is the boys’ basketball and girls’ golf head coach, as well as the boys’ golf assistant coach, knows a thing or two about sitting on a bus. Kaminski will spend at least five days, 20 hours travelling for games this year alone.
"Fatigue definitely sets in when you're traveling to Lincoln or Omaha. For a few years in a row, we're getting back one or two a.m. on a Friday night and we'd have an afternoon game the next day," Kaminski said.
Back-to-back night to afternoon games is not uncommon for the Bulldog basketball teams.
"We might be getting back at two in the morning and turning around in the next day and having a shoot-around at 10 and trying to get ready for a four o’clock afternoon game," Hammond said.
Time on the road is also time away from school, and Bulldog student-athletes need to make up work and tests when they get back in town, and homework doesn’t wait for them on the road.
"The athletics part of it becomes a huge academic part because they really have to stay up and caught up on the things I need to get done in the classroom," Hammond said.
"As a coach you just kind of have to keep stressing the importance of academics and staying ahead and communicating with your teachers. Academics are always number one, we tell our parents that from day one. We went to school we have to make up for that in our trips," Kaminski said.
The athletes pass time like any kids their age might, but the coaches also want to keep them focused for their games.
"In general they spend some time sleeping, but we don't want them sleeping the whole time. We get spouting reports, and sometimes we watch a movie, sometimes we watch film,” Kaminski said.
"We'll let him listen to music, or we’ll bring a movie put a movie up on the screen. A lot of times we'll try to watch them game film or go over scouting reports and things, just to keep their mind on the mission that we're on," football coach Todd Rice said.
Rice also stressed how important nutrition becomes when teams are spending so much time on the road.
“When you talk about nutrition, a lot of times we'll take a pre-game meal for athletes, but depending on whether we leave before noon or not, you have to have a proper pre-game meal for them. So, they eat about 2 or 3 hours before game time, so you really have to plot some of that stuff out," Rice said.
Spending so much time together in close proximity, the kids create strong relationships with one another.
"Over the years, I've seen a lot of good friendships and relationships, and a big part of that is probably time they're spending on the bus," Kaminski said.
Despite spending so much time travelling, the Bulldogs do not want to use it as an excuse.
"We talked to our kids all the time in our situation; we never want that to be an excuse. It certainly is an issue that we have to address and we have to be proactive with," Kaminski said.
Scottsbluff and Gering teams rival the travel of North Platte teams, with Bearcat teams spending over 26 days on the road, and Gering Bulldog teams will spend over 22 days, compared to the North Platte Bulldog teams, which will spend over 23 days travelling. However, compared to Eastern Nebraska teams, the Western teams travel exponentially farther. Comparatively, Lincoln Southeast teams will travel less than a third of the distance of North Platte teams, and Omaha Benson teams will travel nearly ten times fewer miles.
Varsity team breakdown of travel for North Platte teams (travel time and distance are estimates from Google Maps):
Distance: 36,718 mi
Time: 578 hr 22 min
Average Time per trip: 4 hr 40 min
Distance: 918 mi
Time: 14 hr 32 min
Average Time per trip: 2 hr 34 min
Distance: 2,136 mi
Time: 32 hr 34 min
Average Time per trip: 6 hr 31 min
Distance: 2,932 mi
Time: 45 hr 38 min
Average Time per trip: 4 hr 34 min
Distance: 2,324 mi
Time: 35 hr 16 min
Average Time per trip: 5 hr 53 min
Distance: 1,798 mi
Time: 28 hr 18 min
Average Time per trip: 3 hr 9 min
Distance: 3,024 mi
Time: 46 hr 52 min
Average Time per trip: 4 hr 41 min
Distance: 3,635 mi
Time: 58 hr 12 min
Average Time per trip: 5 hr 12 min
Distance: 3,529 mi
Time: 55 hr 12 min
Average Time per trip: 3 hr 21 min
Distance: 3,763 mi
Time: 58 hr 46 min
Average Time per trip: 3 hr 13 min
Swim & Dive
Distance: 1,974 mi
Time: 31 hr 22 min
Average Time per trip: 3 hr 55 min
Distance: 1,782 mi
Time: 28 hr 40 min
Average Time per trip: 5 hr 44 min
Distance: 2,132 mi
Time: 34 hr 28 min
Average Time per trip: 5 hr 45 min
Track & Field
Distance: 1,470 mi
Time: 23 hr 6 min
Average Time per trip: 3 hr 51 min
Distance: 1,262 mi
Time: 20 hr 46 min
Average Time per trip: 4 hr 9 min
Distance: 3,364 mi
Time: 53 hr 42 min
Average Time per trip: 4 hr 29 min
Distance: 675 mi
Time: 10 hr 56 min
Average Time per trip (round-trip): 3 hr 38 min