This year’s late Thanksgiving brings a shorter preseason for winter sports teams, and that’s not exactly bad news for the student-athletes.
“It’s always nice to have a few more extra days, but my kids would rather play games than go through one of my preseason practices anyway,” Newburyport girls basketball coach Gregg Dollas said.
Most local coaches will have only 11 or 12 days to get their respective athletes ready for their first competitions due to the late Thanksgiving holiday. By Mass. Interscholastic Athletic Association rule, preseason practices for the winter sports season can not start until the Monday after Thanksgiving, and the first official competitions typically start on the second weekend of December.
Dollas believes that with so many high school athletes playing a sport each season, the short preseason sounds like a bigger deal than it actually is. For instance, his team includes five Newburyport soccer players, all of whom finished their fall seasons just over a week ago with a state-championship victory in Worcester.
“I don’t think we feel that pressured,” Dollas said. “They’re in shape. It’s not like we have to worry about conditioning. We can spend the next 10 or 11 days focusing more on basketball.”
The transition from a running sport like soccer to another running sport like basketball figures to be a little smoother than the transition from seemingly unrelated sports like golf and hockey. However, most of the local hockey coaches run year-round conditioning programs to offset the typical slow transition back onto the ice for athletes who play other fall sports.
Triton hockey coach Drew Wile held his first tryout yesterday at 6 a.m. to send the message to his players that the season had officially started.
“I wanted to get them out of bed, and get the season off to a start,” Wile said. “I want to get them thinking that life isn’t going to be easy over the next 112 days.”
Like most local hockey teams, Wile’s Vikings will open Dec. 14. Before then, he expects to hold either an on-ice practice or a classroom film session each and every day. The team’s first day off will be Dec. 15.
“There’s just not a lot of time,” Wile said. “We have 13 hours of ice time and two scrimmages before our first game. We have to do a lot of classroom work and film study. That’s all part of it.”
As part of Wile’s annual tryouts, each of his 40 players in required to run a six-minute mile to pass the conditioning test. He estimated a half dozen of his players fell short of the requirement yesterday, meaning they will have to try again every day until they achieve the feat.
“I thought we did pretty well considering our numbers,” Wile said. “There’s no time for preseason conditioning, so they’ll have to do that on their own time.”
Newburyport hockey coach Paul Yameen will host tryouts through tomorrow’s 6 a.m. practice. Perhaps the Clippers’ number one priority this preseason is finding a goaltender. Three-year starter Alex Buckley graduated last spring, leaving Newburyport without a single goalie who has logged a varsity minute.
“We really don’t have anybody with varsity experience, so we’re going to be a young team,” Yameen said. “The goalie position is a wide-open competition. We have five of them at tryouts, so it might be a little different from what we normally do. If I see three or four that are deserving of playing time in a scrimmage, then that’s what we’ll do.”