Every preseason camp, Vanderbilt soccer coach Derek Greene likes to give his team a break from the grind of two-a-day practices and technical and fitness tests.
Usually the Commodores stay in Nashville and participate in fun team building exercises.
This August, however, Greene wanted to venture out of the Music City and make a splash.
The fourth-year head coach certainly did that a week ago when he surprised the team with a two-day white water rafting trip in the Ocoee River, located about 40 miles northeast of Chattanooga.
After a morning practice on Saturday, Aug. 9, Greene told the team to pack their bags because “we’re going to the woods.” The team returned that following Monday, rejuvenated and closer.
“It was amazing to watch this group – they had no idea,” Greene said. “It was awesome to see their excitement. I think it built throughout the trip. They kept trying to guess where we were going. They couldn’t figure it out.”
The team stayed at a lodge in southeast Tennessee. On Saturday night, they tie-dyed T-shirts, sang around the campfire, roasted s’mores and competed in a team dance-off.
The next day, they headed to the Ocoee River and padded five miles down the Upper Ocoee — the same section where the 1996 Olympics held the whitewater competitions.
For a team with players from 16 states, it was the first time many had gone whitewater rafting. Director of operations Nick Dykes strapped on a GoPro camera to catch all the action on the river, including a certain head coach taking an unexpected dip into the water.
“To go through the rapids with your teammates, to have to stay in unison in your raft, it was outstanding,” Greene said. “Of course there were a few unfortunate souls who bit it and went into the river. But no names there.”