Girls basketball coaches don't get a lot of sleep these days.
Most of them are teachers, so in addition to doing their "real" job, this is the time of year that as long as their team is still alive in the state tournament, they spend even more time than usual with their coaching duties. More scouting, more intense practices, more late nights watching film.
This is the time of year when you truly appreciate the dedication a high school coach has, because they certainly aren't in it for what works out to abut 25 cents an hour if you're doing the job right.
In the Fox Valley area we have four girls teams still alive in the state tournament -- Bartlett, Cary-Grove and Huntley in Class 4A and Hampshire in Class 3A. All four play Tuesday night in their respective sectionals with C-G and Huntley meeting each other at Jacobs, Bartlett taking on Trinity at York and Hampshire battling Class 3A defending state champ and top-ranked Montini at Burlington Central.
Having dabbled a little in coaching, and having coaching mentality ingrained in me after 36 years in this business, I was thinking Saturday what my thoughts would be if I were any of the four area coaches who are pondering their respective team's next step.
And here's what I came up with.
If I were Bartlett coach Denise Sarna, I'd try to take a nap, beause I'd know that come practice time on Monday I'd be preparing my team to play in the toughest Class 4A sectional in the state. Four teams --Bartlett, Trinity, Proviso East and Fenwick -- with a combined 10 losses between them descend on York High School in Elmhurst Tuesday night in a semifinal doubleheader that should pack the stands as well as any night of girls basketball anywhere this postseason (including the state tournament).
I'd also be hoping my team got its 25-turnover night out of its system Friday night in the regional title win over Rolling Meadows.
I sure wouldn't be putting any stock in my team's 11-point win over Trinity in November and I'd make sure my kids weren't either.
And as I fell asleep for that nap I'd probably be dreaming that Lindsay Schrader was a senior again.
OK, wide awake now, and now I'm Huntley coach Steve Raethz.
Hmm, Cary-Grove again huh? Well, first I'd be hoping everyone with a Trojans uniform on would think more about the last game we played. You know, the one when my senior point guard, Carly Goede, was out injured and C-G spanked us 59-18. Maybe if that's all they think about they'll forget that on Jan. 12 we had 'em beat in their gym before falling apart late and losing by 6.
I'd make sure my kids were watching a lot of tape of that game and I'd burn the tape from the 59-18 game.
I'd also make sure the strongest ankle brace known to medical science was firmly attached to Goede's ankle.
I'd also probably send each of my kids home from practice Monday with a big Post-it note on their foreheads that says D-E-F-E-N-S-E.
Then I'd try to take a nap, which would be cut short by dreams of Claire Jakubicek, Meg Straumann and company having the games of their lives.
Now I'm Cary-Grove coach Rod Saffert. And I'm nervous.
Why? Well, my team is 26-3 and I have to beat the runner-up in my conference for the third time this season if we're going to be 27-3.
Any coach knows it's tough to beat a team three times in a season, especially when that third time has the pressure of a sectional semifinal as its backdrop.
But then, I'd also be confident. I'd recognize that as nice a player as Carly Goede is, she probably wouldn't have scored 31 points in the game she sat out.
I'd be confident because I started the season with eight players, knowing we'd have to stay healthy and together and we have. All eight are healthy and that's a bonus by itself.
And then I'd take a nap and try not to dream too much about Geneva or Hononegah.
Finally, there's Hampshire's Ed Haugens.
And If I'm Haugens my first thought is, "Why me?" I coach Jacobs downstate and I get to play Fenwick. In my first year at Hampshire we win a regional and we get to play Montini. What the heck? Thanks, IHSA.
But then I'd think about where I am -- Hampshire -- and I'd realize there's no program anywhere with more sustained pride than the one I'm coaching. OK, so I have to face a team that beats everybody by 40, a team that won the state title last year and whose only loss this season is to defending 4A champ Bolingbrook. But I know this much. My kids will play with heart and they won't quit.
I'd also think about what's really important in life, and that's the impending birth of my first child.
And then I'd take a nap and think about how I know where Burlington Central is, but maybe the Montini bus driver doesn't.
So there's my look inside the heads of the four coaches whose teams go to sectional battle Tuesday night. And I'm exhausted just thinking about thinking like a basketball coach right now.
So I think I'll take a nap.
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