Peter Haugen Recaps Football’s Trip To Cancun

Posted on June 19th, 2014 by

The Gustavus football team in Cancun Mexico.

St. Peter, Minn. – For the second time during the tenure of Head Coach Peter Haugen, the Gustavus Adolphus football team went on a service-training trip to Cancun, Mexico. Because Gustavus played in an international game while on its trip, the Gusties were permitted an additional ten practices and were allowed to wear full pads and participate in full contact drills this spring. Following their unique spring season, the Gustavus football team departed for Cancun on May 28.

Over the course of five days, the team’s journey combined service with play. The Gusties hosted youth football and coaching clinics, volunteered, toured the region, and played an international game against the Cancun Lagartos.

“It was a great experience for our team and we were certainly extremely busy,” said Peter Haugen. “Last time we went we had six days and this time we packed the same itinerary into five. We were constantly moving and taking part in a number of activities. From running clinics, to spending time in an orphanage, to sightseeing and playing football, this was a one of a kind experience.”

Each day of this action-packed excursion offered something different for the student-athletes, coaches, and family members.

Below is a day-by-day recap of the Gustavus football team’s activities and head coach Peter Haugen’s most memorable moments of the trip.

Day One – Gustie Youth Football Clinic
–       Team arrives in Cancun at 10:05 a.m.
–       After checking into the resort and grabbing something to eat, the players and coaches load the bus and depart for the Lagartos practice facility, which is roughly 20 minutes from where the team is staying.
–       At 6:00 p.m., the team hosts the Gustie Youth Football Clinic. All players help run drills, demonstrate skills, and assist the coaching staff throughout the two-hour clinic.
–       The team is back to the resort by 9:00 p.m. and is on its own for the remainder of the evening.

Zach Vine demonstrates proper technique at the Gustie Youth Clinic.

Zach Vine demonstrates proper technique at the Gustie Youth Clinic.

Coach Haugen:
We had roughly 80 kids take part in the clinic and everything went great. Our players worked with our coaches at different stations both offensively and defensively. The offense took the first 45 minutes and the defense took the final 45 minutes. It was fun to have an opportunity to coach kids of this age – both the players and coaches thrived on the opportunity.

What was the coolest part about this year’s clinic was that we have begun to see dots connected. Some of the young people that were at the clinic the first time we went to Mexico were actually on our football team this past year. Several of our Cancun-native players stood up in front of the campers and talked about this connection, the importance of football, and how it helped them be able to gain an education at Gustavus.

As much as the clinic was a benefit for the kids, I believe it was just as impactful on our guys. Being able to connect, work with children, and share knowledge about a sport that they have a passion for was huge for the players. There is obviously a language barrier through large segments of the trip, but when it came to football, everyone seemed to be on the same page. They connected on an emotional level and that was touching to see.

Day Two – Orphanage and Coaches Clinic
–       Team is on its own until 2:30 p.m. At that point, players, coaches, and family members load the bus and are transported to Desarrollo Integral Familiar.
–       Team arrives at orphanage at 3:00 p.m. The Gusties provide companionship, engage in conversation, and deliver gifts to the children of the orphanage.
–       After and hour and a half at the orphanage, the team is transported back to the Largartos practice facility at 5:30 p.m. The Gustavus coaching staff hosts a two-hour clinic for the Lagartos coaches. The clinic features 45 minutes of offensive instruction, 45 minutes of defensive instruction, and 30 minutes of a team walk-through. Gustavus coaches treat the clinic as if it were a team practice, using players to demonstrate technique, drills, and concepts.
–       The team is back to the resort by 9:00 p.m. and is on its own for the remainder of the evening.

Michael Hintze offers a hug to one of the orphans at Desarrollo Integral Familiar.

Michael Hintze offers a hug to one of the orphans at Desarrollo Integral Familiar.

Coach Haugen:
We went to an orphanage that we hadn’t been to previously, so nobody really knew what to expect. In this particular orphanage there were 200 children – boys, girls, and babies. It is operated by the county and was a bit of a trek from the resort, which was an experience all in itself because the team was able to see a side of Cancun that never comes into view of tourists.

The level of security this time was much different. Cameras weren’t allowed in certain parts of the orphanage and guards were posted at various points of the complex. It was eye opening to see how well this county has done taking care of these children – many of which come from unsafe home environments or are the sons and daughters of parents who are currently incarcerated. You could tell upon stepping into the orphanage that these children where in need of love. To see our players play and interact with the orphans behind guarded walls was a truly special experience for all who were involved.

The coaches clinic later in the day was designed to give the staff of the Lagartos and other surrounding teams an opportunity to see how our staff functions at an average practice. Much like we did a day earlier, we ran our players through drills, taught concepts, and offered technique instruction on both sides of the ball.

Day Three – Activity Day
–       The team is on its own to snorkel, fish, and sightsee for the entirety of the day.

Day Four – Game Day
–       The team loads the bus and departs for a walk-through on the game field at 8:45 a.m.
–       Following an offensive and defensive walk-through, the team is back to the resort and the players are on their own from 10:45 a.m. to noon.
–       Pre-game meetings begin at 12:30 p.m. and the players tape/dress in the resort beginning at 1:30 p.m.
–       At 2:00 p.m., the Gusties load the bus and depart for the Universidad Anahuac Field, which is a artificial surface field located at the Coliseo Maya.
–       Pre-game warm-ups begin at 3:00 p.m. and last for one hour.
–       Caribbean Bowl II begins at 4:00 p.m.
–       Gustavus wins by the final score of 49-14.
–       The Gusties and Lagartos have dinner together following the game. The team is back to the resort following dinner and the players are on their own the remainder of the night.

The Lagartos and Gusties pose for a group picture following Caribbean Bowl II.

The Lagartos and Gusties pose for a group picture following Caribbean Bowl II.

Coach Haugen:
The game featured a torrential downpour and I don’t think I’ve ever coached in water up to my ankles before. We scored on our first four possessions, and as a whole, executed very well throughout the game. The game itself is not as important as the commodore and togetherness that it stands for. After the game, both teams went back to the Lagartos practice facility a took part in an authentic Mayan dinner. Seeing the Gusties and Lagartos share a meal after such a memorable game was pretty cool. It was a perfect symbol of the bond that we’ve formed with this organization over the years.

Day Five – Home Sweet Home
–       The team loads the bus at 7:45 a.m. and is to the airport by 8:30 a.m.
–       Gustavus student-athletes, coaches, and family members are back on American soil in Minneapolis by 3:00 p.m.

Coach Haugen:
Looking back on the whole thing, we gained terrific experience and got out more than we could have hoped. To go along with the international experience, the additional practices this spring helped us make great strides in team building, relationships, and personnel needs heading into next season.

Peter Nyhus has been such a tremendous ambassador for Gustavus football – especially when it comes to our relationship with Cancun. I remember the first conversation I had with him and we were talking about the goals of the program and the possibility of taking an international trip. He suggested that we take a look at Cancun because football is an emerging sport there and it also offered a community service aspect. This relationship has mushroomed into a great project for the college with anywhere between 12 and 14 students from Cancun attending Gustavus in the fall. Peter played a great role in all of that and we can’t thank him enough for the support.



  1. Jeannie Peterson says:

    Thanks for this recap, Pete. I’ve been anxiously awaiting to hear about this memorable experience. What fantastic memories and connections you and your team have made with these international ventures. Happy to read of this successful trip!

  2. Wendy Ericksen Bachman '87 says:

    Way to pack it all in, guys! Thanks for the awesome read, Coach Haugen!
    Go GUSTIES!!