MORSE HIGH SCHOOL wrestler Corey Lent (left) works on his spin moves, while teammate Chad Bonti goes through his mat skills routine during Monday’s practice at “The Pit.’ Yesterday was the first official practice day for basketball, wrestling, indoor track, swimming and boys ice hockey.

MORSE HIGH SCHOOL wrestler Corey Lent (left) works on his spin moves, while teammate Chad Bonti goes through his mat skills routine during Monday’s practice at “The Pit.’ Yesterday was the first official practice day for basketball, wrestling, indoor track, swimming and boys ice hockey.


High School football championships still have to be decided, but the 2013-14 winter season got under way in earnest on Monday with the first day of practice for basketball, boys ice hockey, swimming, indoor track and wrestling.



Girls ice hockey started on Nov. 4 with the first countable games to begin on Friday as the Mt. Ararat girls visit Lewiston, 8 p.m.• The first week is usually a mixture of tryouts, evaluations, and conditioning for most programs.

“The first two days are spent evaluating the players and figuring out which team to place them on based on their skill level,” said Mt. Ararat girls basketball coach Kelly LaFountain.

“This year we will have three full practices before playing in a preseason tourney so that is actually more than in years past. Those three days will be spent going over defensive concepts, an offensive set or two and some out-of-bounds plays along with basic skills and conditioning. Our goal is to see what the players are capable of and build from there.”

“Our first priority is to make sure everyone understands our expectations, with sportsmanship, work ethics, and grades,” said Mark Stevens, Lisbon wrestling coach.

“We teach our kids regardless if they win or lose the expression should not show on their face. There will be time to celebrate or show the agony of defeat when we are on the bus or back at our gym. Want better results, work harder than your opponent.

“If you lose to a better opponent, but prepared yourself the best you could, then you’re still a winner … there are better wrestlers out there.”

Lots to get done

While it is hoped most student/ athletes keep in shape, cardio training is always a important facet. Still, there’s lots to be done.

“We will do conditioning every practice for about one-third of the practice,” offered LaFountain. “The drills are going to build conditioning as well it is just a lot more fun with the ball. Many of the players have done a fall sport so should have a decent base to build on. No matter what fall sport they play there is no way to truly be in basketball shape unless you are playing basketball.”

“One of the goals I set for my girls is to get back to the basics of basketball,” said Lisbon High School girls basketball coach Julie Wescott. “Work as a team, work hard, and get focused. Cardio is important, but so are all of the other basic skills. I try to incorporate cardio into drills that we can have a ball in our hands and working on the fundamentals of the game.”

“Goals are to get as many kids sign up as possible, make sure we will all fit in the pool and who will swim in what lanes,” said Morse swim coach Todd Marco. “Cardio, good technique and core muscles are what we work on the first few weeks.”

“Basically, we have changed things over the last couple of years in the first weeks,” said Morse wrestling coach Shawn Guest. “We’ve always tried really hard to get our kids in shape early, but we have come to the conclusion that kids will not come out because we work so hard early.

“We have backed off on the conditioning aspect of practice for the first couple of weeks in order to get kids and keep kids on the team. We try to get numbers and keep the ones who have come out. Kind of goes against my philosophy, but we are not coaching the same kids as 30 years ago. We start working on technique on the first day.

“We spend the first week almost entirely working on our feet with takedowns and setups. We do some cardio, but not as much as later on in the season.”

“We do a standard 10-minute jog, tumbling warm-up, 20-30 minutes of cardio/agilities each practice,” allowed Stevens. “Also, 10-15 minutes of set-up footwork, 10 minutes drilling in each of the three positions, 15 minutes of reviewing, 20 minutes learning new moves or variations of old moves, along with 20-30 minutes live wrestling. And, 15 minutes of sprints at the end of practice.

“Training and practices Monday through Friday on our mats are where matches are won. We train for third-period success. Lisbon has a tough, but fair eligibility policy. Pass five classes and you’re awarded by being eligible for all sports/activities.”

Preseason means different things for different coaches. Some like to train, other like outside competition.

“The focus at the beginning of preseason for us is always defense,” said LaFountain. “You can stay with a lot of teams if you can defend well. After the first set of preseason games we will have a better idea of some of the things we should be able to do offensively.

“We try to put a couple new things in each session. We will keep things simple and tweak them as we need to during the season.”

“Even having three weeks is not enough,” said Wescott. “You do your best to get your kids as ready as you can for the first game. We would like to come together as a team, play a couple preseason games to see where we are at and work from there to improve in the areas that we need to.

“My hope is that girls will come into the season in reasonable shape but that doesn’t always happen. So, I encourage the girls to participate in the off season and attend the open gyms that my parents supervise.”

“We had a sign-up a few weeks ago and told them all to work on core muscle exercises,” said Marco. “Other than that I can’t do much until we start. LRSC (Long Reach Swim Club) is key … half our team is LRSC swimmers and they come with skill and experience thanks to coaches Jay (Morissette) and Sponge (Brian Savage).”

“Goals and plans change from year to year based on what we have on the mat,” offered Guest. “We are very young this season, so we will be breaking things down much more than in years when we have a lot of experienced wrestlers.

“The only real contact that I have with my wrestlers is the first sign-up meeting and the hydration test. Usually, my captains will try to get the kids running and training for the preseason.”

And what about the freshmen, transfers and relative newcomers … how do they fit in?

“We rely on our returning players a lot to help bring the new girls up to par,” said LaFountain. “Each year brings different challenges because no two teams are the same and players all learn at different speeds. Every team has this to some degree unless they didn’t graduate any seniors and everyone comes back. Sometimes if you get the new players to participate in your summer program this can minimize the gap a bit.”

“Freshman and newcomers always have an adjustment coming up to the varsity level but that is what preseason is for — to get your players ready and adapted to the style and speed of play,” said Wescott. “We are young, so it will take some time, but they are a hardworking group, so I am thrilled to have the girls that I do.”

“We have a lot of freshmen this year who swim for LRSC so they come with a lot of experience all ready,” added Marco.

‘Paid our dues’

“In regards to newcomers and freshmen, we just want them to stay on the team,” said Guest. “We don’t want them to become discouraged and quit. We spend a lot of time dealing with the mental aspect of the sport telling them that ‘we all paid our dues in this game.’

“This sport requires so much mental preparedness and I think that is often overlooked by some coaches. I don’t mean to say that kids should be babied, but today’s high school athletes require more TLC mentally. If the new kids stick it out we believe that eventually they will become medal winners.”

“I don’t contact my kids prior to our sport season begins,” Stevens. “I want them to focus on the sport season they are currently in. Our methods of preseason workouts has seemed to do pretty well as far as getting them prepared for a sixminute match.

“Most incoming freshman understand the drill, as our middle school coaches have spent years on our high school mats. They do start a bit behind and I believe it takes a good year for most freshman to cut their teeth into the high school level.

Team bonding can also help brings together before the regular season curtain falls.

“The first week is hectic and we usually start our team-bonding dinners once the teams are formed,” said LaFountain. “We practice jayvee and varsity together all season long so they get to know each other pretty well.”

“We don’t really do many teambonding events,” said Guest. “One, our kids are so cautious about their diets that those kind of events, pizza parties and such, are off-limits. We do play some floor hockey during the vacations during practice time but that is about it.”

How about opening-week jitters/ nerves?

“I don’t get jitters on the first day, but I get really excited to start a new season,” offered LaFountain. “You have a fresh start with a new group of girls and at our level you never know how things will turn out. That’s what makes it fun and interesting.”

“Jitters? Well, my very first year, yes. Now I am anxious!” said Wescott, who has planned a team brunch for this weekend. “You always want your team to try and buy into your philosophy right off the bat. Positivity, teamwork, hardwork, and heart is what I am preaching for my team this year and my hope is that they buy into it early and we can build from there.”

“Jitters? No, I do not get jitters anymore. This is year number 33 for me coaching and officiating,” said Guest. “Assistants Jim (Coffin) and Tom (Bennett) have been around longer than that. We have an experienced staff here who spend a tremendous amount of time preparing the kids. We believe that when they step on the mat for a match they can compete especially at the season end of the year tournaments.

“The kids that buy into our system have generally had a lot of success. Wrestling is so personal that you can not wait until mid November to start getting ready.

“Those that do the offseason work and go to camps and such will have success. Those that wait will not.

“This is my 20th season, and nothing has changed as far as getting the jitters goes,” added Stevens. “I still get excited to meet the team and get rolling. Wrestling becomes ‘a way of life’ for most kids. Making weight, and preparing to beat your next opponent is all very personal. It will take some time to learn the language but once they do, it will stick with them for a lifetime.”

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