Nearly 70 athletes from Canada’s University of Western Ontario Mustangs track & field team have spent the past week soaking up sunshine and island life, while getting valuable outdoor winter training in Bermuda.
It’s the Mustangs’ second visit after spending a week on the island in December 2017.
“We made a decision to go to a warm-weather destination every two years, and our last trip here was such a valuable, positive experience, I definitely wanted to make Bermuda our go-to spot again,” said Head Coach Vickie Croley. “Bermuda is unique, and a good cultural fit, so I’d definitely recommend it to other sports teams.”
The group, comprising 67 student-athletes, from sprinters to high-jumpers, returns to London, Ontario today after a seven-day sojourn. They took advantage of training facilities at the National Sports Centre, Devonshire, including its gym, outdoor track, and 50-metre pool, as well as natural venues like the Railway Trail and Arboretum, to gain beneficial winter training in Bermuda’s balmy sub-tropical environment. The students also paid a visit to Bermuda Elite Athletic Strength Training (BEAST) Gym, in the City of Hamilton, where they spent a morning doing weights.
The visit aligns with the Bermuda Tourism Authority (BTA) sports tourism strategies and key goals of the Bermuda National Tourism Plan which focus on attracting team and group business and delivering balanced growth with an emphasis on non-summer seasons. The Mustangs are one of several school teams the BTA has worked to bring to the island this winter: it follows a 10-day trip by 45 swim-team athletes from Hartwick College, Oneonta, New York, to St George’s Club before Christmas, and is being immediately followed by a week-long stay at Grotto Bay Resort starting tomorrow by 42 swimmers from Ramapo College, Mahwah, New Jersey.
“These are success stories made possible through our sports tourism partnership with the National Sports Centre which is now entering its fifth year,” said the BTA’s Director of Sports Business Development Hazel Clark. “We’re working to attract athletic teams during winter, spring and fall, when sports facilities are most available and when visiting athletes from North America can best benefit from our warmer temperatures—while stimulating Bermuda’s economy.”
Based at Newstead Belmont Hills Resort, the Mustangs enjoyed team-building activities not possible during their regular campus routine, including a New Year’s Eve celebration at Rosa’s Cantina, Hamilton, where they bought out the venue for two hours. They also enjoyed daily swims in the ocean, beach visits, fish sandwiches, and tours of the island. Notably, their visit supported numerous local vendors, including Dunkley’s Dairy, which provided wholesale items, Lindo’s Group of Companies, and Supreme Transportation.
“Our main goal is to get away from our harsh winters for some quality training, so Bermuda’s ideal conditions and sunshine are a bonus,” said Coach Croley, adding the team is currently preparing for Canada’s U Sports Track & Field Championships in Alberta in March. “But it’s not only about the weather—it’s about getting our athletes together to work on team-building experiences as well. Bermuda is such a beautiful place, with top-rate facilities and wonderful, friendly people. It was easy, no stress, and we were welcomed here. Our athletes feel so comfortable, it brings the best out in them in their training.”
Bermuda’s winter training camp was also a valuable recruiting perk, Croley said. The Mustangs plan to post a testimonial about their sunny escapes on the team’s Instagram and Facebook channels, tagging prospective athletes they hope to attract to Western in the fall of 2020. Meanwhile, the 30,000-student university’s swim team is also considering a November 2020 trip to the island, and its soccer squad is in contact with other Ontario institutions in the hopes of arranging a joint visit to play each other’s teams.
“People can’t believe I’ve come to Bermuda for a training camp—it’s my first time here and it’s been great,” noted Paige Doyle, a fourth-year psychology student and the Mustangs’ Women’s Team Captain as a long- and triple-jumper. “We’re such a big team and we’re all on different training schedules back at school, so there are people we didn’t know well before this week. As an athlete, it’s been good to get acquainted with my teammates, to have time to relax and just go to the beach with them—it helps us develop cohesion as a team. We’ve had a sports psychologist with us, and played games and enjoyed down-time together, so this trip has also been about getting to that deeper level with your teammates.”
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