Aug. 23, 2010
The Dreaded Sand Burr Shot
-Gene Steinmeyer, Northwest Head Women's Basketball Coach
In 1964, I was a 125-pound freshman and about to enter ninth grade at Clatonia High School. Clatonia had an enrollment of about 40 boys and girls, grades 9-12. I'm not sure, but I think every single one of the 18 boys went out for football. It was expected.
There always were a few rituals that all freshmen must go through. The most traumatic for me was the first physical examination. It is true that Dr. Travnicek was as mean as his name would indicate, but it was the rumors of what that exam consisted of that had me terrified. The older football players started an age old rumor about "Sand Burr Shots." It's sort of on the line of going Snipe hunting with a whistle and a paper bag. However, these older boys made the Sand Burr shot seem very real. I could picture the six-inch, square needle as it was forced into the bony part of my rear end. I could feel the pain that was rumored to last until Christmas. Of course, it turned out to be a false rumor. As relieved as I was after that physical exam, I inflicted the same pain on the next year's freshmen class. Urban legions cause great pain.
This week, I'll welcome four new freshmen into our program. There won't be any rumors of long, square needles or hunting with paper bags. However, there are a few rituals that might give you some insight into what freshmen must endure to become comfortable and eligible at Northwest.
By Thursday evening, all the freshmen should be comfortably situated in their dorm rooms, facing a total stranger that will probably be their roommate for the next nine months. Sometimes, students will room with their best friends from high school. Sometimes, you take your chances. Usually opposites work out the best. I had a real introverted player by the name of Merri Kaye Bell. Her dad even told me he didn't think she'd stick around more than a week. However, her roommate never shut up. They didn't know each other before that move-in day, but they became best friends and roomed together for three years. Merri Kaye also became the all-time leading scorer at Doane College. I also have seen best friends that can't stand to be anywhere near each other after rooming together for a mere nine months. It's a crap shoot.
The University will keep the freshmen busy all day Friday. Sometime in the afternoon, the freshmen basketball players will get a visit from a group of curious upper classmen basketball players. This Welcome Wagon is really good for the young and old players alike. The older players start the bonding process with the new players. They also size up their competition.
One very cool service that Northwest provides is free books. On Friday, the students all go to a big warehouse and hand the man in charge your schedule. He then searches among the nearly 6,000 bags of books for your specific order. The bags are all alphabetized and before you know it, you are well stocked for Monday morning classes.
Before you can begin classes, being a basketball player pays off. Sunday afternoon, the Bearcat Booster Club has a picnic for all the athletes. Everyone eats a great meal that is provided by the Booster Club. They always have great cookies and I personally take advantage of all that health food. The four freshmen can now try to guess all the upper classmen's names. They also can eye ball potential "friends" from the 100 or so football players that are crowding into the eating line. Coach Tjeerdsma's practices usually work up a pretty good appetite for his preseason number one ranked team.
After one very long weekend, classes begin at 8 a.m. for the unlucky ones that have the earliest morning class. You are now officially a Bearcat and a member of the Northwest Women's Basketball team. It's a very hectic first week for the freshmen. I break them in a little slow that first day. They don't have anything but classes until I invite them over to my house for a 5:30 barbecue. Well, it's not really a barbecue since the main dish is pasta, but barbecue sounds better than Italian Night. If the freshmen are late and get left at the circle drive, getting to my house can be a real challenge. I once had a player take 45 minutes to find my house, which sits on an acreage just off Business 71 north. She was even given directions by an upper classmen on her cell phone. You don't think they had her hunting snipe, do you? She shouldn't have felt badly. HyVee once catered the meal and it took three trips back to the store for directions before we could eat.
After the meal, there's the very serious first meeting. Class schedules are due. About half of them will forget. It's usually the same half each year. If a freshman forgets to bring a copy of her class schedule to the first meeting, you can go to Las Vegas and bet she'll forget the next year. No one is supposed to take 8 a.m. classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We run our preseason drills from 7 -9 a.m. We'll always find someone who has forgotten that and will have to go through drop and add and this person doesn't have to be a freshman. Upperclassmen have short memories, too.
It begins to get interesting for the new players on Tuesday. The only thing scheduled is the required NCAA meeting with Lori Hopkins. Lori was my assistant coach the past eight years, but moved into administration when the opportunity presented itself last spring. Basically, Lori went from having me as her boss to becoming my boss as the Senior Women's Administrator and Compliance Officer. One of the functions of the Compliance Officer is to make sure every athlete, young and old, go through the NCAA meeting.
For the returning players, the NCAA meeting is a necessary evil. First, you are lectured about the evils of drugs, gambling and social networks. Then you're asked to sign a large number of forms allowing anything from permission to view your grades to testing your urine. I'd rather look at the grades. It's a little bit like after you have borrowed money for a house the third or fourth time. You just sign the papers the mortgage people put in front of you without asking what they say or reading them before signing them. However, that first time you sign it, you wonder just what you have given away. The freshmen aren't sure if they will be strip searched before every practice or made to pee in a jar after every game. Neither is true, but for a while they aren't real sure.
Wednesday is a very busy day. At 3 p.m., the players are to meet at the east end of the administration building, on the second floor for individual pictures taken by the school photographer, Darren Whitley. Darren has to be the most overworked employee of Northwest Missouri State University. He has to provide pictures for everything, including the monthly magazine and the football wall paper that is now proudly displayed at the end of the hall on the top level of Lamkin Activity Center. Darren has to make people look good when they're sweating, talking, yelling, jumping up and down, or just sitting there. Wednesday afternoon is one of those sitting sessions.
What's tough on the team is I allow them to decide what wardrobe to wear for this picture. Since I haven't assigned all the numbers yet, they can't wear their uniforms. They can wear last year's shooting shirts. Once they all decided to wear black tops. Only the player's upper body shows on this mug shot. You should have seen the different black tops. We had turtle necks, crew necks, v-necks, plunging necklines, and other assorted type of "lines." I think we did that in white one year, too. At Monday's meeting we'll decide on the wardrobe. I don't think the freshmen will have much say in it. However, they could be checking out WalMart for a top with a v-neck, crew neck, etc.
That's just the beginning of Wednesday activities. Before they can change their tops, they are due at the "Impact Meeting." This is an information session on concussions. All the publicity of head injuries from the NFL has trickled down to colleges. Just like with the NCAA meeting, every athlete once a year must go through the impact meeting. I have never attended, but I think it alerts you what to look for if you have any head trauma. Personally, if I see any head trauma, I look for Kelly Quinlin, our head trainer, or any other trainer in the vicinity. If becoming forgetful is one of the concussion symptoms, I must have had a few too many knocks to my coconut already.
Finally, it's a 5 p.m. appointment at the Health Center for the player's annual physical. Upper classmen only have to be interviewed by Kelly (our trainer) to complete their physical. However, freshmen have to have the complete physical. You would think I couldn't get in trouble over this activity, but a couple of years ago Dr. Harr and Dr. Wilmes weren't very happy with me. The players decided to scrimmage before their physical. We had a lot of freshmen that year, so a lot of complete physicals needed to be conducted. The problem occurred when the players decided to scrimmage right up to the physical appointment. They didn't shower. That's not a pretty picture for the two doctors. They made it clear that they wanted nice, clean, smell-acceptable players, not sweaty players coming off the court. By the way, they weren't even suppose to scrimmage until after the physical - oops!
Just about the time you think the players have attended every type of meeting, you are reminded of the most physical type of test - conditioning testing with Joe Quinlin, our strength and conditioning coach. Starting Thursday afternoon and going into Friday, Joe has the players do timed tests for shuttle runs, longer sprints, vertical leaping ability, standing long jumps and a couple of maximums in the weight room. The most hated test is the mile-and-a-half run. I'm not real sure what the mile-and-a-half tells about basketball conditioning, but I don't argue anymore. One year, with a strength coach other than Joe, I told the players they didn't have to test out on the mile-and-a-half run on that particular afternoon. High temperatures were promised to be in triple digits and I didn't want to lose any players. However, the strength coach snuck in the test anyway. As you might imagine, I wasn't a happy coach. I learned a very valuable lesson that day - don't question someone in a field you know nothing about. If you were to look at me, you can see I'm not a physical specimen. Most strength and conditioning coaches are in great shape. After I had words about the distance running test, the strength coach gave the team very little effort the rest of the year. The lesson to learn is don't ask the strength and conditioning coach if you want to change defenses in the middle of a basketball game and don't tell strength coaches how to conduct their tests. It only took one time for me to learn this valuable lesson, so get ready players - Friday is probably the day for the mile-and-a-half.
Labor Day is the following Monday. We begin a regular routine of what we call "Individuals" that will go until October 15. The players will go to the weight room three times per week. The coaches will strongly demand at least two hours per week of offensive work individually or in small groups. The players will find time to play pick-up, out of sight of the coaches. It is an NCAA rule.
You now have received a look into the crystal ball of the first week of basketball. I hope the freshmen don't read this blog. I'd hate to lose anyone before the first practice.
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