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Knowing When to Push Players

Brice Crowther has learned over the years when it’s the right time to push his players and when he should ease up.

The head varsity girls basketball coach at Sangre de Cristo Undivided High School in Mosca, Colorado considers a number of factors in how hard to work his players when it comes to practice.

One important factor is how many games his team will be playing that week. Sometimes there’s just one game on the schedule, perhaps a Friday, and other weeks it could be Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday.

“If our games are on the weekends, then when we come back Monday they have Sunday to rest and recover and sometimes Saturday and Sunday to rest and recover,” Crowther said. “We tend to go pretty hard at the start of the week.”

If his team has a game on Tuesday, the next day’s practice can be a lot lighter from a conditioning and the players being on their feet standpoint. If it was a tough game the night before, Crowther will scale back the intensity of his following day’s practice by 30 to 40 percent. If his team took care of business handily in a win and his players didn’t exude a lot of extra energy, practice can be 10 to 25 percent less intense.

Leading up to a game, say a Monday practice with a game the next day, Crowther really works his players.

“Before games we’re going just as hard,” Crowther said. “It’s the practices after games that maybe take a little more feel as to how we’re feeling before we dictate what kind of practice we have.”

On a Monday practice after a long weekend, some of his players might still be in relax mode, so Crowther needs to get his girls into gear.

“If they have a good excuse to be tired or sluggish, then I definitely understand that,” Crowther said. “Sometimes I feel like it’s more mental than it is physical, and if that’s the feeling I’m getting then we’re going to keep pushing and try to push through that mental block. Make them aware of it and communicate them that’s how we’re feeling and try to get some give and take from them as the practice goes.”

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Crowther’s Monday practices consist of plenty of timed drills to get his girls engaged for the start of a new week.

One drill Crowther runs is a three-man weave implemented with a game of 110 in five. The girls have five minutes to score 110 points. The girls run down the court and shoot one layup and two jump shots. Turnovers, bad passes, missed layups, and other miscues cost the teams points.

“You can tell fairly quickly that, man, they’ve got to wake up and get going,” Crowther said.

Another important factor in how hard Crowther works his players is the makeup of his team.

“If I take my two teams from last year and this year for example, this year we’re incredibly young,” Crowther said. “Last year, we were senior heavy and this year we’re playing four freshmen, two sophomores and a senior. That in itself dictates a lot. Younger legs tend to bounce back a little quicker, but then they wear down a little quicker, too.”

Crowther believes 80 percent of the time his players are sluggish in practice is more mental. He thinks a great deal of that has to do with the age and experience of his players. He never had an issue with sluggish players last year with a senior-laden team.

“When we get tired, we talk about it a lot, we really kind of sink to the base level of our abilities and our base levels this year are a lot lower than it was last year,” Crowther said. “Boy, if we get tired, we go to the toilet as far as our ability to execute and do the things that are asked of them.”

From GameChanger and Greg Bates.

Basketball, Basketball Player Development