The Blue Demons toured locales throughout France in August. They saw Paris, the beaches at Normandy, Nice in the south of France, and Monaco.
DePaul coach Dave Leitao used the trip as an opportunity to get to know the team that he inherited since taking over as coach in late March.
“The non-basketball stuff that we did was tremendous,” said Leitao. “With guys engaging with the mission of DePaul and learning about St. Vincent DePaul, what he stood for, and walking in his footsteps. You can’t put a price tag on what the value of the educational portion of that trip gave to us.”
In wasn’t just about Leitao getting to know his team and an educational tour of France. It was also about teammates getting to know one another.
“As well as that was how the guys connected with each other,” Leitao said. “We had a lot of time on buses, hotel rooms, and travelling with different things they can learn (about each other) with guys that they don’t spend as much time with when they are back in Chicago.”
Then there was the time the Blue Demons spent on the basketball court, where they were allowed to practice for 10 days and went 3-1 in exhibition games against French professional and All-Star teams.
“Basketball-wise I thought it gave me, because I’m new, a chance to see them, evaluate their personalities basketball-wise, and evaluate what buttons I can push and who I can do different things with,” said Leitao. “It gave me a much clearer picture coming into the season about what I might have to do as opposed to experimenting right now and trying to find some things out.”
Of everything, team building and bonding seemed to be the most important aspect of the trip.
“With any team sport, any company, or anything that you do together you have to have great chemistry,” said Dave. “You have to have people who are selfless and giving of each other. When you have a chance to take a trip like that, you are forced into situations where you do bond. Guys understand that they have to look at things that they don’t normally look at, except for that person in the mirror, that everything becomes more important. With laughing and joking and carrying on, those are bonding things you can learn more about. In a 15 minute walk down the street somewhere, you might ask something about someone’s family that you might not normally ask.”
It’s bonding like that off the court that leads to better teamwork on the court.
“I felt like that was a major part of it,” Leitao said. “If any team is going to win, it’s because they are very close knit. That trip forces you to be closer than you were beforehand.”
“I think it develops trust,” added Leitao. “If I understand you as well as you understand me, then when I don’t do something right, you can see it, you can identify it, and you can help me fix it. Not just the coach, or not just the assistant coach. The team can be policing each other in a positive way. When you do that, I think that promotes growth within the group.”
That is growth that should lead to better performance on the court this season.
Be sure to watch the above video where Blue Demon guard Billy Garrett, Jr. talks about what he gained from the trip to France.