A quick outlet pass gave Sr. Sam Beetham the ball at the free throw line extended. He looked up the court as he ran by one of the opposing players. Beetham drove toward the three-point line, immediately drawing the three defenders toward him. He took a quick dribble past one, then stopped on a dime to watch another run right past him as an attempt to steal the ball was made. Beetham jumped straight up to make an easy pass to one of his teammates that had been ignored in the chaos that was created on the fast break. She scored an easy layup. “I look over at [Coach] Chapman to see him shaking his head laughing. The assistant coach behind me says ‘nice pass’ with a chuckle.”
With a roster of only eight active players, the West Ottawa varsity girls’ basketball team sees limitations placed on what they can and can not do in practice. They can’t run drills five-on-five. They can’t run plays five-on-five. They can’t scrimmage five-on-five. Basketball is played five-on-five. The inability to replicate game situations can hurt a team’s in-game performance.
Coach Paul Chapman quickly figured out that he could pull people from places like the weight room or the JV team to come and help the team their practices, like the instance with Beetham on Monday, January 15.
Some advantages could be noticed right from the start. Immediately, practices could run much smoother with a full roster. Jr. Abby Sprick noted that smoother practices allowed the girls to play better, longer and harder, which in turn got them ready for real game situations. Bringing in practice players made the practices themselves run smoother and made it more fun for the team.
Chapman specifically brought in men to play with the team. He believes that, since they are fairly big, strong, and quick on their feet, “it presented more of a challenge.” The volunteers being used are good enough athletes to the point where it will give the players some good competition. When men are brought into practices, guarding him is very position specific. “Someone does guard him depending on what player the guy represents for the team we are about to play” Jr. Rachel Elms said. For example, if the girls are about to to play a team that runs a post offense, then one of the posts on WO will guard the guy representing the post.
Putting the girls up against athletically inclined guys has really impacted the team’s ability to adapt to unexpected obstacles in game. “Playing against guys has made it a little easier to play against other girls’ teams,” Sprick said.
Having different players to play with or against in practice also gives the team the ability to adapt and form their in game strategies around what the other team is doing. Elms loves using practice players and the diversity that comes with it. Using different players gives the girls some different challenges to overcome. “It makes us want to do better and…it helps practice more, get our plays down, and it gives us different people to play against,” Elms said.
Using practice players to fill in has benefitted the girls’ basketball team greatly. With an overall record of 9-6 so far, including a win against Rockford on the road, the high school is proud to see such a small team having success. But, our girls aren’t done dominating just yet. They still have four regular season games and the district tournament, which will be hosted at home. Our girls will beginning against a strong Zeeland East team and that means there are a few more opportunities for their work to pay off.