NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

December 11, 2013

Coaches, players fight the jitters as season approaches

Tim Lima
On Basketball

---- — If it seems that just a couple weeks ago you were reading high school football recaps, you’re not delusional. High school students across the Cape Ann League will begin their basketball seasons on Friday, just 15 days after the fall season concluded on Thanksgiving.

While first-game jitters are always at a premium in the winter season’s early weeks, basketball coaches have fought against time to physically condition and mentally prepare athletes for what promises to be an unusual situation on the hardwood. Thanksgiving came late this year, restricting coaches to under two weeks of practices to ready their team. While some coaches lean heavily on just a few techniques they feel are most important, other coaches are left trying to fit in everything.

While some may opt to spend significant time physically conditioning their players to ensure that energy will be stored late into the second half, others are working most on minimizing the mistakes that a young season brings.

Pentucket boys basketball head coach Ed Hickey is readying his team for what promises to be an ugly first couple games of the basketball regular season.

“There is so much that you have to put into effect before the first game,” Hickey said. “Traditionally, early-season games are very sloppy in terms of a lot of turnovers. We are focusing on defense and eliminating turnovers, making the easy passes and playing within yourself.”

For other coaches, the shortened preseason does not present reason for straying from the norm.

“Our team focus is getting in shape, running plays and getting prepared for the games,” said Newburyport girls basketball head coach Gregg Dollas. “I don’t take much stock into the time we have, so we roll through what we have and keep it going. We just have to keep pushing.”

First-year Triton girls basketball head coach Charlie Noonan has applied knowledge gained from previous coaching stops at Bromfield School, Ayer High and Anna Maria College in preparing his team this year.

“I go back to old practice plans from a couple years ago and look at old concepts,” Noonan said. “I don’t change too much in the first 10 days. Adjustments come as you get to know your players better. We certainly have been practicing and doing well with our defense. Offense takes time. We are becoming better shooters as the weeks go on, but our defense is coming along as planned.”

While Noonan has stuck to his regular preparation schedules of past years, he has altered the way in which this unique team has practiced. To prepare his group for their three away games in their first four regular-season contests, Noonan has worked in two away scrimmages. There will be nothing omitted from focus at Noonan’s camp, though, as the first-year Triton coach is looking to entirely revamp what has been a struggling program.

One thing that has been uniformly agreed upon is the concept that jitters are something one must work through. Practices and game-scenarios are meant to harness the nerves that come with a first game, but it is something that all players must get out of their system with time.

“I don’t think any athlete is calm the first time they play in any sport at any time in their career,” Noonan said. “I have ninth-graders and seniors, but I think they’ll both be jittery in the beginning.”