Women's Hoops: Practice Update

Driving down 25th Avenue, you can see the signs of the changing of the seasons outside of Memorial Gym, as the green leaves of summer turn to the reds and golds of autumn. Inside the gym, you can see the signs of the changing seasons, too.

In the summer, outside of the basketball camps, you never see the basketball coaches on the court with the players, thanks to the strict practice guidelines set by the NCAA.

In fact, in the summer, there can be no required activities at all. Coaches aren't even allowed to observe the regular pickup games in the gym, and even strength and conditioning workouts are non-mandatory.

But when the fall semester begins, coaches and players are allowed to ease into practice. The NCAA allows up to 8 hours of required activities per week. For two of those hours, players are allowed to work directly with the coaches.

These individual workouts (known in basketball slang simply as "individuals") can be literally individual, but usually involve small groups of 2-4 players. The other six hours are spent in required strength and conditioning workouts.

The changes in the activities are accompanied by an increasing sense of urgency in the minds of the players.

"In summer you're trying to focus and set your goals," said junior guard Abi Ramsey after an individual workout on Wednesday.

"You're trying to forget about last season. It's when you start getting your conditioning and getting back in shape. You have a lot of aspirations in the summer, but they're mostly just thoughts.

"Right now, it's so much more intense. We all know that right now determines how the first week of practice is going to be, and that's going to set the tone for the rest of the season.

"Our pickups and these individuals are so competitive. In the summer it's a lot more laid back. I think right now is the most crucial part of the year because if we're not training as hard as possible right now, then we're just wasting time when the season starts, trying to get in shape then."

Until this point of the pre-season, the individual workouts in Memorial have been in groups of two, guards with guards, and posts with posts, twice a week for about 30 minutes.

The players rotate, so different players are paired with each other during workouts, but coaches remain constant, with Kristin Schneider working with the guards and Vicky Picott working with the posts.

"We try to put freshmen with one of the older people as much as possible because they've been through workouts before," said Schneider after Wednesday's workout with Ramsey and freshman guard Caroline Williams.

"It's easier to follow someone's lead than to try to figure out what the heck you're doing, and they can see how hard they need to work in individuals. It's so completely different than high school."

Much of the work in individuals emphasizes fundamentals, such as footwork, but at the same time, they're working on different elements of the offense.

"We don't do a drill just to drill it," said Schneider. "We'll work on different shots they'll get during the games."

For example, during Wednesday's workout, two folding chairs were part of the team. "A lot of times we'll set double screens at the end of our plays, so they were the offensive players setting the screens," Schneider said.

"I use them as props so they'll know to hesitate at the screen. And then we did transition shots out of the break. They were just working on getting their footwork down and being able to hit the open 3 once the point passes it to them."

Next week will brings a couple of new wrinkles. After working for weeks with two guards or two posts, the coaches will work in groups of four, guards and posts together for the first time.

And then, beginning on Saturday, October 18, the NCAA practice limit jumps to 20 hours per week, and the entire team can begin to practice together under the supervision of the coaches.

And that's when the new season begins in earnest.

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Photos by Whitney D for VandyMania. Click on thumnails to view a larger image. If you are unable to see the photos or click on the links provided please visit www.vandymania.com to view all photos.

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