High school athletes practice without coaches during holidays | SteamboatToday.com

High school athletes practice without coaches during holidays

Luke Graham
Former Steamboat Springs High School basketball player Cameron Burney, who graduated in 2005 and is playing for Western State, walks across the gym after playing with the Sailors on Tuesday.
Matt Stensland

The Christmas break presents a dilemma for high school coaches.

The break is certainly good for players to get away, heal and prepare for the league portion of the schedule. But at the same time, if the break isn’t treated with some level of attention, it can be detrimental as teams prepare for the most integral parts of their schedules.

“I think it’s a time where we can get better and sort of push over the hump,” Steamboat boys basketball coach Luke DeWolfe said. “Or, if we don’t have kids applying themselves, we really step backward.”

The Colorado High School Activities Association’s guidelines make matters interesting during the break.

Paid coaches are not allowed to attend practices from Dec. 24 through Jan. 1. Official practices can begin again Friday.

“They have to stay active,” Steamboat girls basketball coach John Ameen said. “They’re going to lose something. It only takes three days to lose about half your conditioning, and it takes a couple days to get it back. I can’t emphasize enough being in shape and coming to the open gyms. Getting a ball in your hands, not to mention the skill level that starts to slip if you’re not in the gym.”

For most teams in the county, open gyms and player-run practices are the norm. Often, volunteer coaches will come in to oversee practices.

For instance, on Tuesday the Steamboat Springs High School hockey team had a power skating instructor run practice. And the Sailors boys basketball team had a familiar face, with former Steamboat coach Kelly Meek overseeing an open gym session.

“You’ve got to keep yourself mentally and physically fit,” Steamboat boys basketball player Alex Wood said. “It’s not like any other sport. You have to make open gym as hard as you can for yourself. I’ve had both types of vacation. My freshman year, I was laid back and came back a different player. It was a player I didn’t want to be.”

For the Sailors hockey team, the break comes at a unique time. Before the holidays, the Sailors jumped out to a 6-1-0 start and looked like one of the top teams in the state. While the break may disrupt some of the continuity, it does allow several players to get back to health.

“You try and find the positives,” Steamboat hockey coach Jeff Ruff said. “But would I rather be playing? Yeah.”

High school teams resume games Jan. 9.

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