Girls Basketball Takes Season for Practice
Coach Alex Prince calls the team over and tells us to take a seat. The seven of us form a circle on the gym floor and look at Coach Prince. I am unsure of what to expect, but I have the sense that something is up.
Coach Prince tells us that she is “just going to be real” with us: Our girls basketball team does not have the numbers or skills to play competitively this season. With only seven players — all still learning the game to some extent — we will lose if we compete. We should cut down on our games and focus on practice, she suggests.
Her mind is made up, but she wants to hear our thoughts. Going around the circle, we each share our opinions. I am caught off guard; at my turn, I just share that I am still processing this new plan. Regardless of my uncertainty, after making it around the circle, the consensus is clear: The majority of us accept the plan. It is official: Our team has taken a time out.
During this year’s season, Coach Prince changed the direction of her focus. She said, “My goals — they have nothing to do with [the team’s] record. They have to do with [the players] being mentally stronger, physically stronger, and being able to understand and articulate the game.” As the season began, Coach Prince knew that in order to reach these goals, she needed to start from scratch. “Basketball is extremely complex,” Coach Prince said, “and in order to be successful we need to have a strong foundation. Fundamentals [are] the foundation of anything.” With the original schedule for the season, there simply was not enough time to master the fundamentals before the games.
In addition, Coach Prince wanted the team “to feel comfortable within the four lines” of the basketball court. She hoped that the team could feel at ease asking questions and making mistakes. To do this, she planned to treat everyone — regardless of their actual experience — “as if it is day one.” This does not mean Coach Prince went easy on her players — Coach Prince will never, ever waver in her demand of drive, dedication, and communication, she said. However, she presumed nothing in terms of prior knowledge or skill. After years of coaching, she knew that “different teams have to be coached differently,” and Coach Prince believed this approach can take the team far.
All in all, the team had mixed emotions after establishing the changes to the season, due to a conglomeration of disappointment and relief for many. Regardless of understanding — and even liking — the new plan, removing the majority of games from the season came with feelings of loss. Junior Racheli Seeman said, “Even though I know that [Coach Prince] knows what’s best for us,” the lack of games feels disappointing.
Senior Noa Mishli explained that she will miss how games give a chance to implement the results of hours of practice. In addition, the desire to win games provides a source of motivation during practices.
For freshman Tova Bregman, practicing for what feels like the sake of practice offered less motivation. She admitted, “If we were coming [to practice] and we had a game next Saturday, I would be pushing myself a little more.” But she wondered, “By the game, would I be ready? Maybe not.”
As a senior, Noa especially mourned the loss of games from the season. This season is her last playing for the Lady Jags, and she wished the team could compete more. However, her feelings weren’t so clear cut. She stated, “I want games, but I want to win them,” and she doubted the team’s capability to do so. “I don’t think we are ready to play a full game yet,” she believed. “But I’m scared we will never be.”
Concurrently, Coach Prince’s new approach offered relief for many on the team. For Tova specifically, the focus on practice and low expectations felt alleviating. New to basketball, leading up to the beginning of the season Tova worried she lacked the skills needed to keep up with the team. Taking off the pressure of competing eased the stress of learning the ropes of the game. Racheli also appreciated the elimination of Sunday practices: “I have a lot going on this year and a lot of work. So being able to have my Sundays open is something that will really benefit me.”
The team also believed that, in the long run, this time to practice can make a big difference. Junior Aviya Mishli said, “It will be better for the team next year because we will be developing our skill.” Racheli said, in a similar vein, “It’s what will benefit us the most… Next year, or when we do start playing games, we will be much better equipped.”
Just weeks into practice, the improvement was apparent. Coach Prince believed that “the energy is already different.” Tova saw an increase in her stamina within the first week, and Noa felt that this year she “can talk more openly.” This season’s schedule differs from a typical season’s, but the team does their best to “trust the process,” as Coach Prince always urges.