Going the extra kilometer for athletes abroad

Big Red Athletics Study Abroad
March 30, 2023

Katy Crossley-Frolick doesn’t draw up last-second plays. She also doesn’t run practices, pick starting lineups or shout words of encouragement to energize the weight room.

In fact, her best work in support of Denison athletics isn’t even done on this continent.

But for student athletes looking to remain in shape while studying abroad, Crossley-Frolick is another valuable resource committed to giving Big Red sports an advantage.

The executive director of the university’s Center for Global Programs is tasked with enriching the academic and cultural experiences of students traveling abroad. In recent years, Crossley-Frolick has undertaken another responsibility: She searches for institutions providing on-campus sports training sites.

She recently entered Denison into an agreement with the American College of Greece, which boasts state-of-the-art facilities, including an Olympic-sized pool. Crossley-Frolick is scouting similar opportunities in the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand — searching for places where Denison athletes can sharpen their minds and hone their muscles.

“There’s no reason our students can’t do both,” she said.

Keeping student athletes fit while navigating a new country and culture is a team effort. Few liberal arts colleges have half of their juniors studying abroad the way Denison does. That percentage includes athletes who are away from their teams’ off-season conditioning programs and might not have easy access to gyms or the sports they play.

Crossley-Frolick is part of a network of administrators and coaches providing the best options for a school that’s won the last three North Coast Athletic Conference all-sports league trophies.

“Studying abroad adds to the overall Denison experience, and it’s really part of our DNA,” said head volleyball coach Carter Cassell. “But when athletes get ready to go, we need to have hard conversations: ‘What are you going to do to stay active for four months? And what can we do to help ensure that happens?’”

Master of improv

When Luke Fisher ’24 and Clyde Bresnahan ’24 arrived in Lisbon, Portugal, in fall 2022, the Big Red lacrosse players assessed their workout options and emailed Beau Scott.

Scott is the head of sports performance at Denison. He trains not only the hundreds of athletes on campus, but also the ones embedded in study-abroad programs. Scott doesn’t want to receive the first phone call, text message or email from overseas — those belong to parents and loved ones — but he wants to hear from athletes not long after the suitcases are unpacked and classes begin.

“When they get there, I want to know what they have access to as far as training,” he said. “We will modify their workouts from there.”

The sight of a well-equipped weight room on an overseas college campus is as rare as President Adam Weinberg wearing Kenyon colors. College sports aren’t prioritized abroad, where most athletics are run through club programs.

Fisher and Bresnahan were fortunate to locate a good gym near their school and follow Scott’s training plan.

“If they didn’t have the equipment we needed, Coach Beau improvised and gave us an alternative plan,” Fisher said. “We’d wear our Denison lacrosse stuff to work out, but nobody over there knew what lacrosse was.”

Lucy Anderson ’23 was able to find a club volleyball team in Copenhagen, Denmark, where she could bump, set, and spike her way to game fitness. However, those stories are more the exception. Henry Gray ’20 joined a fencing club in the Czech Republic, but in order to wield his rented epee he needed to make a one-hour trip by train and bus.

Most student athletes don’t have the time for such long journeys. That’s why Scott’s improvisational workouts are so valuable to the Denison athletic mission.

‘It’s a privilege’

As the men’s lacrosse team began its fall 2022 conditioning program, coach Eric Koch didn’t have a single player from his junior class on campus. All 13 athletes were participating in study-abroad programs in Portugal, South Africa, England, Austria, Italy, and Denmark.

Koch wasn’t perturbed by the absences. If anything, he was jealous.

“I love the fact they do this,” Koch said. “I pitch the opportunity to every recruit that comes for a visit. When I look back on my college career, among my regrets is not going abroad.”

One of the unique features of Denison is that almost all head coaches are members of the faculty, said athletic director Nan Carney-DeBord, so “they understand our strategic priorities and what makes us different as a university. They take the holistic approach to development.”

The cost for Denison students studying abroad is roughly equivalent to a semester on campus, Crossley-Frolick said.

Fisher had the chance to play lacrosse at the Division I level but chose Denison in part because of its robust global studies program.

“It’s a privilege to be part of that experience,” said Fisher, one of seven lacrosse players in Portugal in 2022. “How many chances do you get at that age to see the world and be surrounded by friends and teammates?”

Beyond the academic and cultural experience, Koch sees another benefit to the global studies program.

“A lot of the kids come back more confident and mature,” he said. “It comes with having to navigate foreign countries and cultures and overcoming language barriers.”

‘Ultimately, it’s up to you’

Anderson and Anna Lindower ’23 embody the “going the extra kilometer” philosophy. In Lindower’s case, she went an extra 42.195 kilometers — the metric distance of a marathon.

It wasn’t enough for the cross-country and track athlete to run three to five miles a day while studying in Stockholm in spring 2022. Lindower decided to train for her first marathon.

She traveled to Vienna, Austria, and completed the 26.2-mile course in under four hours.

“Running is one of my passions, and I always wanted to run a marathon,” she said. “I had the time, so I figured why not try it.”

Thousands of miles removed from coaches and teammates, student athletes must motivate themselves. It’s easy to skip workouts when surrounded by so many opportunities to sightsee and sample the culture.

Cassell, the volleyball coach, was looking for club volleyball teams in Copenhagen for Anderson. He should have known the enterprising two-time All American was one step ahead of him.

“I stayed with a host family, and I had written to them about finding a place to play,” Anderson said. “By the time I got there, the father had connected me with a team.”

Perhaps the most resourceful story belongs to former Denison basketball player Patrick Keller ’16, who spent a summer in Bogota, Colombia. With no gym nearby, he strapped a bag containing 20 pounds of books to his back and ran 10,000 feet up Mount Monserrate.

“You can’t let yourself get out of shape,” Keller said. “Coaches back home will do everything they can to support you, but ultimately, it’s up to you.”

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