Last week, Niki found out she was going to fly to Spokane, Washington to watch the Blue Hens Men’s Basketball team take on Michigan State during March Madness. A proud Blue Hen, Niki didn’t want to settle for watching the game on TV. She wanted to be there. So, distance didn’t stop her. The story of how Niki received this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity proves that nothing is impossible. You just have to jump out of your comfort zone and try it. Because of this, the memories she made will last a lifetime!
Curious about how she did it? Read all about Niki’s adventures in the article below.
Before Spokane, had you followed the Men’s basketball team throughout the season?
I started following the Men’s basketball team during winter session this year. I wasn’t on campus, but I would watch when we played on TV and I would constantly check scores on BlueHens.com as well.
Who did you contact to see if you could go with the team?
I contacted the Vice President at the Office of Communications and Marketing about going to Spokane with the team. Once I found out we were playing Michigan State in Washington, I sent the VP an email Sunday night asking if there was a possibility that I could go. I figured the answer would be no because it was across the country, but I received a response around 6 AM the following morning saying the OCM would let me know what Athletics said later that day. It wasn’t until 6 PM Monday night that it was confirmed I would go (Oh, and I needed to be at the Bob at 6 AM)!
What was your first thought when you realized you were going?
The first thing I did when I received the email confirmation that I was going to Spokane was call my dad. I basically freaked out. We were texting each other all day talking about how this probably wasn’t going to happen and everyone I spoke to had positive feelings about it but me. I just remember I was shaking, speechless, and I just kept repeating that I somehow pulled off the impossible. If there’s one very valuable lesson to be learned from this is you never know unless you ask. For me to email the VP of the OCM asking to travel with the team as the only Social Media Ambassador the night before we left was completely insane, but if I didn’t send that email, I never would have gone. Worst case scenario, they would have said no. So put yourself out there and ask!
What is your favorite memory from the trip?
My favorite memory from the trip was just seeing how happy the players were to be there. I was able to go (and tweet/photograph) all 3 games in Baltimore for the CAA Championships so I felt apart of the team, and I knew not only how badly they wanted this, but also how badly they deserved this. These guys really put in so much effort this season, and to be able to witness our first March Madness bid since 1999 was absolutely incredible! The entire team was so excited to fly out to Spokane and represent The University of Delaware! They are the ones who worked so hard this season to be the #1 team in the CAA and win the championships– not the press, not the band, not the cheerleaders– so seeing how grateful and proud they were was definitely my favorite part of the trip.
What is something you ended up doing that you didn’t know you’d do?
Going to Idaho for a couple of hours was something I didn’t know we would do. I’m not going to lie, there isn’t a whole lot to do in Spokane, and because we were a #13 seed, the hotel the NCAA put us in wasn’t in downtown Spokane. For a day trip, the administrators had one of the buses take the band, spirit teams, and whoever else wanted to come to Coeur D’Alene, Idaho on Wednesday afternoon. We were about 10 minutes from the Idaho border, so the trip was a nice little break and a fun way to further bond with everyone. It was also our last free afternoon before the game Thursday afternoon, so we got to explore Idaho for a little bit!
What did you do during the game?
My job during the game was to live tweet and take pictures for the UD Social Media accounts. I worked with the NCAA to get a press pass for the week, which allowed me on the court and behind the scenes not only during the game, but as well as, during practice. The team practiced in front of the public on Wednesday and had press conferences as well. I was able to sit in on the press conferences with the student athletes (Threatt, Usher, Saddler, and Baptiste), as well as Coach Ross, on both Wednesday and Thursday. On game day I had a spot on the court to sit and take photos.
Did anyone famous tweet at you before/during/post game?
Before the game, I saw Gino Gradkowski [University of Delaware alum] was on Twitter, so I sent him a quick tweet asking if he was going to watch the game and he replied with “Absolutely!” That was really cool for me because no one famous had ever tweeted me before so it made the week just that much better for me!
What was the energy like on the way there? On the way back?
The energy before the game was super positive. The band and cheerleaders lined the hallway leading out to the buses and when the players/coaches came out we were all clapping and screaming! Every person I spoke with thought we were going to upset Michigan State because we really had nothing to lose. These guys had never been in this situation before so they didn’t really know what to expect, which can be a very good thing in something as big as March Madness. When we walked in and saw the last half of the Harvard-Cincinnati game and saw Harvard had the major upset (along with OSU losing earlier in the day), we all thought “Well, this is it…we’re actually going to do this!” Even when we lost, our spirits were still high because you have to take a second and look at where you lost. No one wants to lose, but to lose (against the team that is probably going to win the entire tournament) on the biggest stage in college basketball after not being there in 15 years…it’s still an incredible experience. The team still went out there, worked hard all game, and played in March Madness. You can never take that away from those guys. We were all going to be proud of them whether they won or lost that game.
What is one thing you learned through the experience?
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again…put yourself out there and take risks! From my own personal perspective, this was a major learning experience because I was the only student representing UD who was covering the game. The Director of Multimedia, as well as one of the photographers for the University was there, but other than those two, there was no one else covering the game from the media side. No one expected me to be there (including myself) but it started off with a short email explaining that I really wanted to go, represent the University and learn more about the sports world since that’s where I want to work, and there’s no bigger stage for college basketball than March Madness. Another thing I would say was a determining factor in them allowing me to take the journey across the country with the team was the fact that I showed interest in this from the beginning. I started getting my own press passes for the football games last year, and that fed into basketball and my Social Media Ambassador bosses saw that. It played a big factor in me being able to fly to Spokane. If you have a passion for something, try everything possible to achieve your goals. Who knows– that could lead you to Spokane, Washington with the basketball team to watch them play in March Madness!