At this time of year, it is always stressful for both basketball coaches and for basketball players who played (or are still playing) a fall sport as to when they should start practice if the seasons overlap. Even when the fall sport ends on a Friday or Saturday and then basketball practice starts on Monday, it is a tough call. I would like to express my opinion and encourage high school and middle school coaches that have to deal with this issue to give it a lot of thought. I do not believe my way is the only way or even the right way, it is just what has worked best when I have had to deal with it. My belief is that each situation should be handled on an individual basis and that there is no way to have a blanket policy as to when a fall athlete should be required to start practice. A reasonable agreement can be worked out between the coaches and the athletes who fall into this category with a little communication.
There are several reasons that I feel that each case should be handled differently. One is that each fall sport is different and affects different positions differently. I ran cross country in high school, so this is not a slam on cross country runners, but it makes sense that they do not get as beat up as a running back in football who carries 20 times a game for nine or ten games. On the other hand, a cross country runner who competes in the state meet on say a Saturday, might have a tough time being at a 6:00 am practice on that next Monday.
Even within a particular sport, the physical toll is different. A setter in volleyball does not have as many landings and as much strain on the legs as a hitter. I have very little specific experience with specific wear and tear on all of the fall sports, so I am not going to go into more examples. I just believe that it is something that should be discussed with your assistant coaches in order to have a plan in place ahead of time that is the best you can do for each individual who is affected.
One factor that complicates things is that I feel that it is not right to talk to the fall athletes about basketball as they are entering their playoffs and state tournament series. I believe that there focus should be allowed to be on that sport, just like I hope that the spring coaches extend us the same courtesy in late February and March. I do believe that if a fall sport ended over a week before basketball starts that the player should be at the first practice unless there is an injury involved. Then they should be at practice to watch unless they have doctor visits and or rehab.
I always like to take the late practice time slot the first day of practice if that works for the other programs that we share the gym with. That gives us a little more time to talk with the fall athletes whose seasons may have ended over the weekend. I have never liked to run to them to start the school day to see what they want to do. I want to give them a little space after their previous season ends. If you can’t practice late, you might have the assistants start practice while the head coach talks with the fall athletes.
It is difficult to get the season going as you are wondering when your players will be out for practice, in some cases needing to make cuts, stay withing state guidelines for the number of pre-season practices required, having a short time to prepare for the opening game, having to take care of the administrative items of passing out equipment, pictures, parent meetings, etc… And, to top it all off, basketball is the only sport that has the added difficulty of sharing facilities and having to either change practice locations, practice times or both.
I do not believe that it shows that a player is not eager for basketball who asks for a few days to recover from fall sports. There will be some that want to start as soon as possible, and those are easy to deal with. I believe that for the big picture of the well being of both the athletes and the program, if they ask for a couple of days off before starting practice, you will be better of in the long run for granting them. Basketball is a long season and the coach is not giving up much by allowing a little rest and recovery. I do think it is important that you communicate to the other players when that player will be joining the team and why they want or need the days off.
I wish you the best as you try to sort through these types of situations.
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