Tropical Thanksgiving

Nov. 24, 2011

Video Message from the Hawkeyes!

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Most families in the state of Iowa spend Thanksgiving dodging snowflakes and eating turkey while watching NFL football games and a famous parade. That’s not the case for the Bluder family.

Thanksgiving week is a prime opportunity for women’s basketball teams to face great competition in one of many holiday tournaments. Tropical locations attract top NCAA women’s basketball talent for 2-3 game tournaments.

University of Iowa women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder takes advantage of these opportunities, flying her team to a different location every Thanksgiving in order to take on top-ranked talent to help build an NCAA Tournament resume. During her time at Iowa, Bluder has taken her squad to Cancun, The Virgin Islands, San Francisco, Miami and Los Angeles. This year, the Hawkeyes are competing in the Junkanoo Jam in The Bahamas.

“These holiday tournaments give our team great competition,” Bluder said. “We face some of the best teams in the country, and we tend to face teams that are outside of the Midwest. This gives us a chance to play top ranked teams from the east or west coast.”

Accompanying Bluder on the Thanksgiving trips are her family; husband David, daughters Hannah and Emma and son David. The Bluder family Thanksgiving traditions are a little different than your normal turkey and stuffing filled Thursday’s.

Bluder’s family travels with the team each Thanksgiving week, making for unique experiences each year.

Bluder’s oldest daughter, Hannah (age 14), has been on numerous Thanksgiving trips with the team. She ranks Thanksgiving just as high as every child’s favorite holiday.

“I get really excited when I think about Thanksgiving,” Hannah said. “It’s just as fun as Christmas for me, because we get to go to a warm place and get out of the cold.”

Emma Bluder (age 11) likes a little variety in her Thanksgiving holiday. After all, that’s what she is accustomed to after all the travel.

“I really like Thanksgiving because it’s something different every year,” Emma said. “I still get to be around my family, but we go somewhere new.”

Most kids think about pilgrims, Indians and turkeys when you mention Thanksgiving. David Bluder (age 9) thinks of something completely different.

“When I think of Thanksgiving, I think of being thankful and being warm,” David said. “We always go to a warm place for Thanksgiving.”

Hannah, Emma and David both rank Cancun as their favorite Thanksgiving destination. The Bluder’s always try to have turkey on Thanksgiving, but sometimes the places they stay just don’t have the traditional bird on the menu.

“It’s fun to eat turkey on Thanksgiving,” Emma said. “They didn’t have any in Cancun, but that trip was still my favorite. The resort was really cool.”

Whether it’s around a relative’s kitchen table or on the beach in the Caribbean, spending time with family on the holidays is the most important part of Thanksgiving for Bluder. She is thrilled her family is able to make lifelong memories during the holiday break.

“It would be difficult if my family wasn’t with me on these trips,” Bluder said. “It would be hard to enjoy these tropical locations without them. We have some down time on the trips, and it’s great to be with them on the beach or by the pool. When it comes to the holidays, family is very important.”