VandyMania Interview: Jenni Benningfield

Thursday afternoon VandyMania stopped by McGugin to talk with forward <!--Default NodeId For Jenni Benningfield is 316806,2002--><A HREF=[PlayerNode:316806]>Jenni Benningfield</A> about the long off-season, her plans for the summer, and her new role as one of the team's senior leaders.

VM: Jenni, when it comes to basketball, when do you become a senior?

Jenni: Oh goodness. When do I become a senior? (Pauses.) Honestly, I think probably the first team gathering we have after the end of the season. Our first workout was lifting and conditioning with Lori before we had any type of team meeting, before we started playing pickup, before we started doing anything constructive with basketball again. That was probably about a week after the season was over.

It's funny. After our first workout, me and Hillary were talking, and we could just feel that the leadership was ours now. I'm not saying it's purely just ours -- everybody has a role on our team, but just keeping everybody on the same page. You could definitely feel the difference.

It's been great, because since our workouts this spring after the season, everybody has just kind of stepped up in little ways. With the workouts, everybody's been cheering everybody on, really supporting everybody, and just really excited and confident already about next year, knowing that we all have to be on the same page before these seven freshmen come in here in July, because if we're not on the same page, they're going to come in here and not have any type of structure. We need to be leaders for them. We need to be role models for them because they don't know. We know how it feels to be a freshman, and they don't. So it's kind of like we're all on the same page right now and really trying to get better because we're just so confident in how good we're going to be next year.

VM: From a fan's point of view, from the banquet in April to midnight madness in October, there's nothing in between. Could you talk about what goes on during that time?

Jenni: Well, like I said, we get probably about a week off purely just to get back on track with school and everything, but then we start with Lori. We lift four times a week, and we do some type of conditioning before we lift and do ab workouts before we lift. Right now we're playing pickup two days a week right now, because it's finals and we have so much to do. But usually we play about three. It's been great because when school is in session and our practice guys are around we get them because they're awesome guys. They're quick, they're fast, they make us better. They know how to play structured ball, and they're under control, and they know how we play, so it's better than going over to the rec and playing with a bunch of guys who won't pass us the ball because we're girls and try to show off and that type of thing. So it's more beneficial to be in our gym running the big court. It gives us a chance to run our stuff. . . So we've been doing that.

We have team meetings and we have individuals until school is out, which have been great. The coaches have been great, giving us drills and different things to work on in the summer when we're away from here or when they can't actually do stuff with us, so we know what to get better at for next year.

But then in May usually everybody goes home, and then June and July people will either be taking summer school or here working at camps or other jobs and working out with Lori. The whole summer we do four days a week of conditioning and lifting and then try to play on our own. In the summer in June and July we get people from TSU, MTSU, David Lipscomb, people like that over to our gym, so we play several games at least three times a week.

VM: Just girls?

Jenni: Yeah, just girls. We run the side baskets. There's three courts that way. The guys usually have a lot more than we do, so they'll have two courts, and we have one. Or if we have a lot, we'll go in our practice gym where we can run as many games as we want. We've had several times where we've had two courts going. It's great because as soon as one of the teams gets done we'll go another one. We do games to seven, so it's quick, but it's beneficial for everybody.

But we stay busy. Summer's a very hard time. It's good because you work at something you need to get better at, but you definitely don't really have a break. And it's also nice to be here in the summer just with people, because you're with your team and you push each other and work out with each other.

But as soon as school starts again, we have team meetings, and we start working out, and we do extra conditioning, similar stuff to what we're doing now until the season starts.

VM: Is this your year for an internship this summer?

Jenni: Yeah, I will be doing that in June and July. I'm going to be working in Nashville at the Girl Scouts of Cumberland Valley. I'm going to be working camps and doing coaching and counseling with kids, along with working at basketball camps, so I'm going to be busy.

I'm also trying out for the Pan-American team that's going to the Dominican Republic. Tryouts are May 22 through the 25th in Colorado Springs. And then if I make it, then at the end of July, maybe the first couple of days of August, we go to the Domnican Republic. Debbie Ryan from Viriginia is coaching that, so I'm excited just to have the opportunity to try out.

VM: This is your first tryout with USA Basketball?

Jenni: Yeah. Yeah. So I'm looking forward to that. I'm very pumped, very pumped. So I'll have a busy summer; I'm not going to have much time off. But it's my senior year. It's the last time I get a go round, so I might as well make the best of it.

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