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Sophomore diaries: The importance of committing to improvement

Grenfell is a sophomore public relations and management double major and can be contacted at carly.grenfell@drake.edu

There are many factors that come into play in order to compete at the Division I level.  In the Missouri Valley Conference, it’s hard to say who is the best team. Essentially, it’s the team that comes ready to play that finishes on top. The competition is neck and neck. It’s hard saying who will grab the title this year come tournament time. What is it that separates one team from the other? What is it that makes one team more resilient or gritty than the other? What is the difference between a top-half team and a bottom-half team?

Here are my thoughts.

You know what they say: practice makes permanent. Generally speaking, practice is the time for improvement. However, the best teams take improvement to an entirely new level.  They do this by creating a game-like environment in which every player understands the importance of good habits. A team that wants it easy or goes through the motions will more than likely not be successful.

What does it mean to practice good habits? This may range from footwork to going full speed in every drill or maybe even a solid defensive stance. Let’s look at it this way — if you’re a senior in high school, and Geno Auriemma, the renowned University of Connecticut women’s basketball head coach, came to watch you practice, how would you respond?  If you were even relatively smart, you would take every drill seriously. You would expend all your energy in doing things the right way.  This should be the way all players approach practice.

One particular aspect of our basketball program that is truly valuable to our success is the grey squad.  The grey squad is a group of guys who volunteer their time to be a part of our practices.  When we go against bigger, faster and stronger guys, we are prepared for what we will face in games.  They serve as our scout team as well.  Our coaches will give them a set of plays to run through, and we will guard the offense. It gives our team a competitive edge in a way. The last thing a guy wants is to get beat by a girl. To be honest, it’s actually pretty fun to push around a bunch of guys in our drill work. And believe it or not, there are always some good friendships made in the process. In fact, a former player met her boyfriend through the grey squad — they are still together to this day!

While practice during the season is a big part of success, there is so much to be said for the off-season.  We are here from June through the end of July working out as a team.  The summer up until October can obviously be considered the time to improve our game as individual players. But with improvement also comes adding more skills to each of our repertoires. It’s hard for a player that doesn’t add something new to their game each off-season to make strides in our league. Teams in the Missouri Valley Conference know every player’s strengths and weaknesses like the back of their hands. Rachael Hackbarth and former Bulldog Kristin Turk are prime examples of this growth process.  Rachael could hardly make it up the court as a freshman, and she is now a serious contender for MVC player of the year. Turk hardly played as a freshman and sophomore, and is now leading her team in Sweden to a championship.

Great things don’t happen in the blink of an eye. Great teams and players evolve through time and the commitment to becoming better.

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