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Vikings athletics: a truly global experience

International travel provides perspective, builds team camaraderie

The Vikings men's basketball team toured China in 2007 in preparation for what turned out to be a CCIW championship season.

Vikings: Not just in Sweden anymore

Year Sport Destination
2010 Football Austria/Switzerland
2010 Men's Basketball China
2010 Softball Australia
2010 Women's Basketball Greece
2008 Women's Soccer Costa Rica
2007 Men's Basketball China
2007 Football Czech Republic/Austria
2007 Men's Soccer Italy
2004 Men's Basketball Ireland
2004 Football Italy
2003 Men's Soccer Belgium/Holland/France
2001 Men's Basketball Belgium
1999 Football Sweden/Finland

Players on the Augustana men's basketball team had a different perspective than most when the Olympics were held in Beijing in the summer of 2008. That was because the Vikings had been on location less than a year before, touring China and playing exhibition games in preparation for the 2007-08 season.

International travel has become a staple of Augustana athletics. That two-week tour of China, during which coach Grey Giovanine's team went 4-0, marked the third time in a six-year span the Vikings had taken their game overseas and the ninth time an Augustana program had ventured outside U.S. borders since 1999.

It is a unique and mind-expanding experience, says Giovanine, whose team is planning a return trip to the Far East in August 2010.

"Our international tours often change the way our students view the world and their place in it," he said. "Exploring other cultures first-hand creates a remarkable educational opportunity. From a developmental standpoint, nothing unites a team more than competing on foreign soil together in a challenging environment."

Football coach Jim Barnes has taken his squad to Sweden, Finland, Italy, Austria and the Czech Republic and, in May 2010, will be headed to Europe once again.

"Our student-athletes grow tremendously from the experience of being out of their comfort zone here in the U.S.," Barnes said. "It's always a thrill for our staff and many of the parents to see how the players absorb new information on various cultures while they are on foreign soil."

The NCAA allows Division III programs to travel internationally once every three years, and that is the pace Barnes and Giovanine have kept the past decade. With the implementation of Augie Choice, which will award up to $2,000 to students to fund a hands-on learning experience, Director of Athletics Mike Zapolski expects other coaches will follow suit.

"The educational and team-building components are phenomenal," Zapolski said. "A number of our programs have benefited significantly from the opportunity to provide an international experience for student-athletes."

Augustana College emphasizes global learning. More than 40 percent of our students travel abroad during their undergraduate years to places like Austria, Vietnam, Spain, Latin America, Australia, West Africa, Italy and Sweden.