In the olden days, "midnight madness" marked the earliest possible starting time for basketball preseason practice. The date applied to every school in the country. At the stroke of midnight, teams were allowed to practice, giving rise to "midnight madness" events across the country.
Tmes have changed since then. Current NCAA rules tie the date of the first permissible practice to a team's first regular season game. In the 40 days before the date of that first game, a team can have 30 practices. Even if every coach in the country decides to hold the first practice on the first allowable day, the dates will differ due to the different dates of their first regular season games.
In addition, prior to the first official team practice in the good old days, the contact between coaches and players was strictly limited to small groups in "individual skills workouts." Nowadays, teams are allowed limited team workouts before the start of official team practices, so most teams have already been on the court together before the first official practice.
While the NCAA rules changes have taken some of the punch out of traditional "midnight madness" hoopla, they give coaches the opportunity to see their players together earlier in the season and additional flexibility in how they prepare their teams for the upcoming season.
"We’ve practiced before; we just don’t call it an official practice," said Coach Melanie Balcomb before practice began on Friday. "We build up. We do an hour of team workouts, do individuals, then an hour of team workouts, then two-hour team workouts and then we’ve been stretching them, letting them scrimmage this last week."
"I don’t want our kids to get burned out," she continued. "I don’t want them to get bored, and right now, they’re ready. We haven’t been doing a lot of breakdowns. We haven’t been doing a lot of competitive drills, so there’s a lot of new stuff we will do starting today. The girls had all fall break off, so we probably won’t even use all thirty days, and we did not use it last year."
As the team shifts into the high gear of official practice, the emphasis changes from the previous team workouts. Coach Balcomb said that there will be a lot more competing, and a lot more up and down the court.
"We’ve done a lot of half court and a lot of talking and teaching things, a lot of standing around that you don’t want once you get to practice," she said. "You want practice to go quickly, be sharp, intense and you can’t do that when you have to put things in. So we’ve used a lot of that team time to put things in and talk more. We’re not going to do a lot of talking today, we’re going to do a lot of competing."
Despite the fact that Friday was the team's first official practice, the teammates, both old and new, have had a chance to get to know each other on and off the court. All of the players, newcomers and returners alike, were on campus all summer for summer school. They worked out together in strength and conditioning workouts and in pickup games at Memorial Gym, and most of them also played in the Island Sports Summer Collegiate Basketball League in Antioch.
"That helped with team chemistry right off the bat with them being here and us being able to get to know them, starting workouts earlier and us teaching them plays, that really helped a lot," said junior point guard Jasmine Lister.
Junior guard Christina Foggie, the team's leading scorer last year, agreed on the benefits of having the freshmen join the team early on.
"To go along with what Jaz said," she said, "I think for them to get acclimated to college quicker, it was good for them to be here a month early and also just getting into the groove athletically, too. They got an extra month to get stronger and get a college physical body, so that’s always good."
The result of the gradual buildup over the course of the summer and the first couple of months of the fall semester is apparent in the attitude of freshman point guard Jasmine Jenkins.
"It's the first day of practice, but I feel like we've been practicing so it shouldn't be anything different," she said. "We just continue to do what we do, just work hard and stay committed to our new philosophy of defense. It should be fun."
* * * * *
Workers were working with the new video board before practice began. At court level, it looks huge! But it didn't interfere with practice; they raised it back to its place as the players trickled out from the locker room.
Strength and conditioning coach supervises the players as they go through their stretching routine prior to practice.
Each year the slogan on the back of the practice jersey changes. This year's slogan is "Next Play." It's a reminder to put the last play behind you and move on to the next play. If you make a mistake on defense, make a turnover, miss a shot, put it behind you and focus solely on the NEXT PLAY.
Freshman post Kendall Shaw
Point guard Maggie Morrison, who tore her ACL last December and missed most of the 2011-12 is back on the court.
Nadine Ndip is the team's walk-on, returning for her second year.
Christina Foggie suffered two concussions during her freshmen season with symptoms so serious that they threatened her basketball career. Fortunately she hasn't had any subsequent concussions, but this season she'll wear a protective helmet during practice as a precaution.
Tiffany Clarke and Jasmine Jenkins
Elan Brown and Morgan Batey
Maggie Morrison and Heather Bowe
* * * * *
Photos copyright 2012 by Whitney D. for VandyMania.com