In a way, Wabash College head football coach Erik Raeburn is having the U.S. Men’s National Team over at his place for the eight-day training camp leading up to IFAF Senior World Championship.
Raeburn’s school is hosting 45 players and nine coaches as they prepare to defend their gold medal July 8-16 in Austria.
Along with practice facilities, locker rooms and office space, Team USA members are using Wabash dining halls, lecture halls and dorms during their preparation.
Wabash isn’t the biggest school with fewer than 1,000 full-time students, but Raeburn said the leaders at the NCAA Division III institution in Crawfordsville, Ind., saw this opportunity as a way to promote their school and be part something special that doesn’t come around too often.
“Everyone here is excited about this,” Raeburn said. “It is a way for us to show off our facilities and our stadium while helping the U.S. national team.”
Many Team USA players come from large Division I programs, but Raeburn said all have been complimentary of the TurfPro field at Hollett Stadium.
Team USA defensive end Johnny Dingle said Wabash’s field stacks up with any he played at while attending West Virginia. There may be fewer seats in the stand, but the playing surface is what matters most to players.
“This is a very nice place. I really like it here,” Dingle said. “I’ve never been to Indiana before, and I didn’t know about (Wabash), but I’ve liked what I’ve seen so far.”
Raeburn thinks a number of players researched Wabash College before camp began here Tuesday. Many appear to be familiar with Wabash’s history and traditions.
“I’ve had a few come up and want to see the Monon Bell (the prize that goes to the winner of the annual Wabash-DePauw game),” Raeburn said. “I’m proud of our stadium, our practice facilities, our locker rooms and our meeting rooms. For the size of school we are, I think we have top-notch facilties.”
A tradition Raeburn has continued this week is his wife and children bringing snacks for when practice ends. As the Team USA offensive line coach, that unit has been treated with cookies and popsicles as well as its own cheering section.
“My son gets into the breakdown stance with the offensive linemen when we end practice, and they let him do the ‘U-S-A’ chant,” Raeburn said. “The kids are involved with the Wabash players like that, and I’m happy the USA players are just as welcoming.”
Like everyone on Team USA, Raeburn’s No. 1 goal is to bring home the gold medal again. He said the players and coaches are focused on that above all else.
But Raeburn also wants leave the national team a better coach. He is soaking in as much as he can – from players and fellow coaches alike.
“By the time this is done, I’m going to be a stronger coach,” Raeburn said. “I’ve learned new ideas on how to run the program here and am having a great experience personally and professionally. It’s like a four-week coaching clinic where you talk football all the time.”