SHERIDAN — Winter break for students at the collegiate and high school levels present a time for each individual to decompress from schoolwork and interact with family more. For student-athletes, the break provides a chance to recharge the competitive batteries and gear up for the remainder of the season.
“It’s huge,” Sheridan College head men’s basketball coach Matt Hammer said. “… They come back different guys, especially with our team being so young. We have so many freshmen, and this is the first time for most of them to get away from home. And when they are gone for that long, and they go back home, they see family, friends, I’m sure they’re enjoying the first few days. But after that they start missing their teammates and start to miss being around that competitiveness.”
Most of the Generals and Lady Generals left Sheridan and returned home Dec. 21 or 22 after their last final of the fall semester. Many of the players will arrive back in Sheridan just after New Year’s Day and get back on the practice floor a few days before lacing up the game shoes once again.
In an attempt to keep his players in shape, Hammer gives each of the Generals a to-do list of sorts. The list includes workouts that players can do from the comfort of their own homes. The workouts are mainly conditioning based. Hammer urges his players — to reduce the chance of injury — to avoid participating in five-on-five or any competitive basketball that involves other players. If the players want to do more than just the conditioning aspect, Hammer encourages them to work on sharpening fundamental skills such as shooting and dribbling.
Hammer has no way to monitor whether or not his players stay true to the workouts he gives each of them, and there have been instances in the past where Hammer can tell if his players have been self-disciplined enough to remain in basketball shape.
“It happens quite frequently, and our first practice back is not really a regular basketball practice, but it’s more of a conditioning session to try and work their way back into it,” Hammer said. “We don’t want to come back, throw the ball out and start going five-on-five.”
That mindset reflects within the game schedule, as well. The No. 17 Generals battle the Wyoming All-Stars Jan. 5 before delving into Region IX play.
“It’s a game for the guys to get their legs back under them and get the rust off, so to speak,” Hammer said.
The Sheridan High School boys basketball team will play multiple nonconference games before diving head first into the games that really matter.
The Broncs didn’t have as many days away from basketball as the Generals. Six days stretched between the Broncs’ game against Natrona Dec. 22 and their first open gym Thursday morning.
The open gyms are voluntary. Some of the Broncs didn’t attend Thursday’s or Friday’s open gyms because they remained out of town visiting family.
Sheridan head boys basketball coach Jeff Martini believes the break, albeit small, will be beneficial to his team down the road.
“It’s kind of good for the guys to get away and get their mind off it a little bit,” Martini said. “Then when they come back, they feel more refreshed, and that’s good because it gets real crammed when we get back in January.”
Last season, Martini thought his team got a little fatigued in the middle of conference play. Part of that could have been due to the fact that the Broncs got next to no time off around the holidays because they took part in a big tournament in Gillette alongside teams from Nevada and California.
This year’s six-day holiday break is more commonplace than the 2016 holiday schedule. Last season, not only did the entire team not get a break, but the football players — who were fresh off winning their second straight state title — didn’t get a shred of time off. The six-day hiatus this season provided those football players, four of whom are starters on the basketball team, a chance to let the competitive waters calm.
“… It’s kind of a good time for them to rest up and get some of those old wounds healed up,” Martini said.
Soon enough, the Broncs and Generals will be back on the hardwood full-time for the grueling conference portion of the season. The holiday break, while welcomed at the time, will be in the rearview mirror until next season.