Nov. 1, 2011
Junior guard Molly Yardley will take Army women's basketball fans on a journey throughout the 2011-12 season through her blog The Whole Nine Yards. Yardley is the Black Knights' top returning scorer from a year ago and only returning starter. Check back weekly to follow along with the inside happenings of the Army women's basketball team.
Hey there Army women's basketball fans! We're deep into Week four of practice, and just finished up our first scrimmage at the University of New Hampshire. So far, so good. We're getting a little bit better every day. We're having a bit of a problem with injuries, however. We're down to about 12 or 13 practicing bodies on any given day, and let me tell you, running the five-man weave with that many people is just no fun. It's also led to some pretty interesting position changes; for example, yours truly has had the unique privilege of being a ball handler at points and times. No worries, though, that idea didn't last long once I reminded everyone that I wasn't much for dribbling.
As I mentioned earlier, there is a lot of new at practice. One new thing has quickly become the bane of my existence, and I'm sure most of the girls would agree with me. It's called the Perfect Defense Drill. We have coaches Erin Millsand Jay Marshall to thank for adding the drill to our daily practice routine. Feel free to take it back anytime you'd like, coaches...Perfect Defense is sort of like a Chinese fire drill, with yelling and whistles, and more confusion than I've ever seen in my life. I'm not sure that after four weeks I completely understand the rules, but I'll try and explain how the drill works.
There are three teams of four girls. One starts on offense, one on defense, and one team waiting at half court to run on and replace the offense. The overall objective is to get two consecutive stops on defense, and for that you get a point. As Coach Mullen reminds us frequently, it's pretty pathetic if you can't get 2 straight stops in a basketball game but there's just something about Perfect Defense that isn't quite so simple. Maybe it's the arbitrary judgment of what "perfect defense" is. Maybe it's the confusion of who is on offense or defense. Maybe it's the way that the drill makes me feel like I've been taken prisoner of war by aliens. Something about it just isn't quite straightforward.
Now, being big believers in the benefits of a young life lived under extreme stress (after all, that's why we're cadets), you would think that the drill would be right up our alley. You'd be wrong. We revere objectivity and methodical processes. Maybe if we could be given a grading rubric before the drill started, things would be clearer. So far though, we've been able to put together the following components of "perfect defense"...
For it to be considered a defensive stop you must:
-BOX EVERYONE OUT (or make sure you get the rebound at all costs)
-not get face cut or back cut
-rotate perfectly into help spots 1, 2, and 3 (and verbally articulate which one you are in, quite confusing for those of us who struggle to think and move at the same time)
-sprint on and off the floor, or Coach Mullen will sound the most demoralizing whistle you've ever heard in your life and we will run
-make sure that you come up the lane on the ball side when you are in help side defense and talk to your partner about it (again, a challenge)
-it always works in your favor if you take a charge -not allow anyone to drive middle
Sometimes the drill goes for five minutes (yay!) and other times, 20 minutes will go on the clock, but we'll play it out until the cows come home. At the end of the drill, whichever team has the most points wins, and the losers run. Then there are times when nobody wins...so we all run. Talk about creating an environment where winning means everything. The strange thing is we're actually getting a lot better, even though my stress level has not lessened whatsoever. The other great thing about the Perfect Defense drill is it has provided us with some intense moments and quotes. For example, after a string of no box outs by several people, Coach Mullen gave such an impassioned speech that I'm sure most of us dreamed of box outs that night. "It takes absolutely no talent to box out. It takes absolutely no talent! You don't have to be talented to talk or get into the right help spots or take a charge. That's just being lazy if you don't." Makes you kind of never want to miss a box out again though, hey?
On a lighter note, fall (or winter, apparently) is in full swing here at school. We decided to celebrate last weekend by having a pumpkin carving competition. Check out some pictures from the festivities!
We are under the two-week mark until tip-off for our first game against Wagner on November 11. This wintry weekend was spent in New Hampshire as we took on former Army assistant coach Maureen Magarity's Wildcats. It was a family rivalry, not just because Coach Mo used to work here, but because Coach Mullen is a former Wildcat herself. Winning was not optional.
Because West Point's primary governing code is Murphy's Law--anything that can go wrong will--boy, did it ever for our trip up to UNH. We left late for the trip (reasons unknown...) which then led to our bus driving directly into the Hallowinter blizzard. The typically four or five hour drive took us a marvelous eight hours to complete. What glorious comforts awaited us at the hotel, you're probably wondering? Surely some hot cocoa and warm beds and down time watching some TV? Of course not. After our scout meeting and hotel etiquette briefing, we were left with five minutes of electricity, and then the power went out...for the rest of the weekend. Thank goodness that Erin Anthony used her Sapper skills and found a Panera to grab some breakfast for all of us.
It's a good thing that we thrive in conditions of depravation. We took our hungry, cold selves to UNH Sunday morning, and according to Meg Doucette's score-keeping, we WON! Special credit goes to Anna Simmers and Meg, who shut down UNH's main perimeter scorers and showed us all how to get out and defend. Plebe Janelle Travisalso deserves a shout out for running the point very well in her first collegiate competition. We didn't shoot as well as we could have or defend that consistently throughout the game. But in the midst of the chaotic weekend, we solidified our identity as a team: we're a group that just doesn't quit, not for snow, not for power outages, not for hour-long segments of Perfect Defense.
As previously established, none of us really likes the Perfect Defense drill. None of us particularly cares for the sprints that the losers have to run. I personally hate defensive things in general. That being said, I was reading something the other day (shocker, I know) about the "culture of winning," and the essay quoted author Albert Gray and his thoughts on what it takes to succeed. Here's your Quote of the Day:
"Winners have simply formed the habit of doing things losers don't like to do."
Winning is a habit. The list of things I don't like to do could probably go on forever if I sat and thought about it, but I think I speak for the rest of the team when I say that the thing we like most, winning, is worth all those practices that include a 20-minute segment of Perfect Defense and any eight-hour bus ride Mother Nature can serve us with.
GO ARMY! BEAT THE SNOW!