The team has just finished stretching and Coach Karin Harvey is blowing the whistle for the girls to pair off and make free throws. “Keep yourself moving!” She shouts in the center of the gym so all the women can hear. There is no cliquing off, or moving around to find their favorite friend. Each girl grabs the closest person to them and moves off to a basket to practice soaring the ball through the air and into the hoop. They laugh and run and move around as much as possible. Harvey watches them with a smile on her face before blowing her whistle to call them back in, their faces become serious as they listen to her go over their starting drill and just like that, practice has begun.
For the women’s basketball team of Montclair practice is in full swing. They’re first game is less than 20 days away and the girls are spending as much time as they can preparing for the hopefully long season ahead of them. For the past five years the women’s basketball team, led by Coach Harvey has won the NJAC, a tournament that recognizes the female basketball teams around the state that have performed above average during the usual season. Practice is an imperative portion of the road to the NJAC
“Practice is critical,” Karin Harvey, the women’s basketball head coach claims with a sharp nod, “Every drill is very important.” This much is evident to those who watch the coach during practices. She watches the drills with a hawk like intensity, blowing the whistle quietly every couple of seconds to encourage the girls to move the ball, and blowing it more forcefully when a learning moment is available. She addresses all players with the same information, from the freshman to the senior making sure everyone can improve. “My biggest challenge during practice right now is figuring out how to not only challenge my freshman and sophomores but my juniors and seniors as well.”
It seems that while during practice Coach Harvey’s goal is challenging her players, her captain Katie Sire’s goal is making herself accessible. “I’ll pull some of the players off to the side to help them out before the coaches can say something” Sire smiles and looks to the left where one of her sophomore classmates is located, making it clear that it is a portion of her daily practice routine she takes great pride in. However, that smile turns into a full-on laugh when asked about her opinion on the daily sprints any member of a sports team has come to expect. “Yea, sprints.” she says on a chuckle. Sire becomes more serious as she continues, “Sprints are an important part of the training process, they keep us conditioned”.
On some days the team will do drills that require each player to make an amount of free throws equivalent to their year. For example, a sophomore must make two and an inability to complete the exercise results in sprints. “It’s a high pressure type of situation,” says Alex McKinnon about that particular drill. When asked if there’s any resentment towards players who miss shots that result in the team doing sprints she laughs “No, there’s no hate. We all cheer each other on” she goes on to say “sprints are apart of practice, if they’re going to happen they’re going to happen.”
It’s clear the women’s basketball team takes these preseason practices just as serious as any other portion of their year. McKinnon even claims “practice is when we need to be serious and give 100%.” As they move forward we can only hope that will continue to give 100% to their practices, in hopes that for the sixth year in a row the team can make it to the sought after position in the NJAC tournament come March. And if they do, perhaps we can expect a sixth consecutive victory.
Montclair State | New Jersey