Student athletes are constantly locked in battle with the easy satisfaction fast food and snack companies gear toward their demographic, whether in the middle of a season or the middle of the night. But while it might be easier to push away from a pile of unhealthy food when you’ve got a game right around the corner, is it more difficult to resist?
One way the teams keep in tip-top shape is by keeping active. In addition to a game or two, both the boys’ and girls’ squads have several practices scheduled while school is closed. And even when the snow might keep them from getting together in an organized sanctioned manner, there’s always room for shooting around. Sometimes the players actually get out and play after already playing.
“The team usually goes to play ball after practices at the local YMCA just to get up extra shots and stay on top of their game,” said point guard Justin Robinson, a sophomore member of the boys’ varsity Tigers.
The boys last played before the Christmas break on Monday, Dec. 20, when they traveled to Pine Bush and overcame a sluggish opening to earn a 64-57 win. Eight nights later, they again fought back late against visiting Cornwall for a 69-47 victory on the strength of a 39-17 second-half scoring advantage. Robinson scored 20 and dished out 10 assists in the win, while Jeff McQueen added 11 points.
“We practice every day and we don’t really have the time to eat too much because it shows when we do conditioning drills and game situations,” said Robinson, about avoiding holiday-induced lethargy.
Whether the slow start had anything to do with yuletide party fare is unknown, but while the team admitted to enjoying themselves responsibly.
“I mean we don’t completely miss out on all the fun, but we do make sure we have the mindset that we have two games over break and want to go in the new year 6-3 and 3-0 in our division,” said McQueen. “We have practice and make sure that everything we do in practice we do 110 percent and never slack because you play how you practice.”
It’s all about discipline, McQueen said, and realizing that a break from school shouldn’t mean a break from basketball focus.
“We will be in game condition no matter what,” he said, adding that the team is fully aware of the importance of a home matchup against Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association rival Newburgh on Wednesday, Jan. 5. “We will make sure we are all focused and ready for our upcoming games, then go into the new year playing Newburgh with our confidence and emotions high. Newburgh is a talented team but we work hard, and ‘Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.’ That’s a quote from (Oklahoma City Thunder small forward) Kevin Durant, and I live by it.”
Longer layoff for ladies
While the boys’ team had a pair of games scheduled during the winter break, the girls’ team had a considerably longer stretch between games. The Tiger girls last played on Thursday, Dec. 16, when they annihilated Middletown 57-25 in an OCIAA road victory, with Sarah Longto’s 11-point, 10-board performance leading the way. Heavenly Rayford, Shamari Brodhead, Sarah Galloway and Lauren Melville each pitched in with six points. The Tigers won’t play again until Tuesday, Jan. 4 when they host Pine Bush in Kate Walton Field House.
Like the boys, the girls’ team knows they have to work hard to keep focus when the holidays offer so much temptation.
“I wouldn’t say I do resist,” said Brodhead. “I eat until I’m full and eat whatever I want. During our winter break, we’re supposed to practice at least seven out of the 11 days we have off, and I have a lot of opportunities to unofficially keep in game condition since my dad is a trainer and I can work with him. And there’s also a YMCA in Kingston, so I can go there and play. I know the team on days off picks up a ball at least once a day and works on dribbling drills and other things because how dedicated we are. To make sure I’m still in shape for the mid-season I’ll just keep working hard during practices and take time out of my own day to go running and work on things with and without the ball.”
Longto also said that she expected to enjoy herself, but also keep the fact that the Tigers are in the middle of the season fresh in her mind.
“We try to hold back a little but we’re kids so of course we are going to enjoy ourselves,” she said. “We practice and I sometimes think that a short break is good so when we start up again we have a new mindset.”
Longto added that the team had a scrimmage planned during the break in an effort to put all the conditioning on the floor.
“This game should be a fun one, and we will bring a lot of energy,” she said. “Because our next game is so far away, all of these practices will get us back in shape for our next official game in January.”
Rayford said that because of the length of the break and the layover between actual games, she feels compelled to take matters into her own hands when the team isn’t in the gym practicing or scrimmaging.
“I keep myself active playing with a basketball in my hand every day, or I’ll stretch if I can’t make it to the gym anywhere,” she said. “I plan to condition by doing daily stretches and left hand dribbling drills in my garage. I don’t have many opportunities to keep my game in position because I’m away visiting my family. I will continue to try and work hard for the upcoming wins.”