Representing the United States of America in Different, Yet Similar Ways
With practice finished, they walked out of the U.S. Naval Academy’s Halsey Gym and began the trek halfway across campus.
Stopping in front a large tulip poplar tree just outside of the yard at the historic Bancroft Hall, 17 members of the 2014 USA Basketball Women's National Team in the running for a spot on the 2014 USA World Championship Team, looked on as noon passed Tuesday and the Brigade of Midshipmen marched into place for the noon meal formation, a daily tradition, weather permitting, from Monday through Friday.
USA National Team coach Geno Auriemma, along with six Olympic gold medalists — Seimone Augustus, Sue Bird, Maya Moore, Tina Charles, Lindsay Whalen and Angel McCoughtry — received a closer look as they were given the opportunity to watch from the King Hall steps.
Once the formation began, scheduled each day at 12:05 p.m., the yard’s periphery stood still. For about five minutes, the roughly 4,000 midshipmen marched in place in sequence with one another. The timing and teamwork were in sync in a regimented and disciplined manner.
For guard Danielle Robinson, something seemingly routine for the Naval Academy midshipmen was a display of unity her teammates were fortunate to be present for.
“I was in awe, it was an amazing sight to see,” Robinson said. “To know this happens daily and that people get to come and watch, it was great.”
For Auriemma, this week marks the first time he’s ever stepped foot on campus at the Naval Academy. A believer in learning on-court lessons from the military, the noon meal formation served as a reminder of the kind of discipline needed to be successful in any endeavor.
“[The players] were watching them march and noticing how precise they are,” Auriemma said. “You could see them thinking, ‘Man, they’re not almost getting it right. They’re getting it right.’ I think that’s a great characteristic to aspire to.”
The USA National Team began training camp on Monday at the U.S. Naval Academy, with the players getting an up-close look at how it operates. Before Tuesday’s practice, Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia, as well as Auriemma, addressed the team on what it means to represent the United States, regardless of the position they’re asked to do.
Bird said that while there’s a clear difference in representing the United States in basketball compared to the armed forces, she said there are some takeaways the players can use from this week’s experience.
“Obviously with what they do there’s a little more at stake, so to speak,” Bird said. “We’re just playing basketball. We’re fortunate that way. They fight for our country. They put their lives on their line. We’re talking about two different things. But there are some similarities. We talked about discipline, teamwork, being with a group of people. I think when you’re in the military, you have to put your individuality aside and it’s all about the team. That’s how basketball is as well.”
Before walking over to catch the noon meal formation, the USA National Team was introduced to the Naval Academy’s women’s basketball team. The two squads began chatting with one another before taking out their phones to take selfies and Snapchat videos to document the moment.
Naval Academy senior captain Chloe Stapleton said that she, along with her teammates, had been counting down the days until they’d have this opportunity.
“We grew up watching these women play,” Stapleton said. “We watch them on TV all the time. It’s awesome to see them and meet with them, have them come to lunch.”
But the USA National Team was just as impressed with the collegians, given the sacrifices they’re willing to make once their four years at the Navy Academy have concluded.
“It’s been amazing to see their discipline,” McCoughtry said. “It makes us appreciative of what they do. They’re looking at us like, ‘We love what you do,’ but we’re like, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing.’”
The USA National Team will conclude its time in Annapolis with a Wednesday practice before participating in a scrimmage at the University of Delaware on Thursday. But it appears the three days spent in Annapolis will resonate with this group for quite some time.
“These people risk their lives for us as people and for our country,” Robinson said. “For us to be able to wear that USA on the front of our jersey, it’s definitely an honor.”