Whiteland Community High School boys basketball coach Matt Wadsworth remembers how open gyms were when he was a high school basketball player.
This is one case where Wadsworth doesn’t say the good old days were better.
“I wish we had this setup,” said Wadsworth, who graduated from North Daviess in 1997. “We just played pick-up, and we didn’t even have any organized weight-lifting program.”
Coaches weren’t permitted to watch their players before the IHSAA relaxed the summer participation rules several years ago.
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“A junior high coach would get the basketballs out for us and sat in the office while we played,” Wadsworth said. “If you look at that structure now, it wouldn’t work even from a liability standpoint.”
Now if you come to one of Whiteland’s open gyms, Wadsworth said it is not too much different from a January practice. The only difference is it might be a bit shorter and there might be an absence or two for players competing in other sports.
“When (the IHSAA) made the change to give high school coaches access to players in the summer, the old model of open gym began to disappear,” Wadsworth said.
“You don’t see as many teams having their teams play pick-up games anymore.”
Wadsworth said his program’s plan is very structured in June.
“On Mondays and Tuesdays, the focus is on team development, and we scrimmage against other teams,” Wadsworth said. “On Wednesdays and Thursdays, there are morning individual development workouts on the court and in the weight room.”
For instance on Tuesday, Whiteland scrimmaged against Brownsburg and Rushville.
“Most of the time we are playing teams we don’t see in the season,” said Wadsworth, who is starting his fourth season.
Whiteland graduated only one senior, Bryce Staker, a part-time starter.
In contrast, Center Grove girls basketball coach Shawn Sanders is seeking to replace four starters.
The Trojans return only senior point guard Lauren Rau from last season’s sectional championship team. However, Center Grove also brings back Cassidy Hardin, who was the first player off the bench as a freshman and has offers from Purdue, Missouri and Northwestern.
Sanders said summer play has changed drastically since his playing days.
“You just played, whether it was 3-on-3 or 5-on-5, ” said Sanders, who played at South Ripley High School.
“I played a lot in hot gyms. Nowadays, coaches treat it more like a practice. I’m sure there are lot of coaches who don’t do anything with an open gym where they just play. Some treat it just as a practice in January or whatever.”
Sanders said he tries to do a little of both during June.
“You can do a lot more teaching and breaking things down now,” said Sanders, who is heading into his seventh season as Trojans coach.
Sanders also will let players play uninterrupted for longer stretches.
“You could stop it if they are making the same mistake over and over again. But I do let them get in a flow and be competitive,” he said.
“The summer is the first time you can get your group together and start to develop what kind of roles they’re going to serve. After you’ve graduated kids, you start to see who is going to do this and who is going to do that.”
Sanders said a big difference is adults seem to run more things now than when he played.
“The players decided who was going to be on each team,” Sanders said. “The players decided whether it was a foul or not or a travel. Players developed some of the leadership roles then.”
So Sanders said it is important to let the players take control part of the open gym to learn those leadership skills.
“You find out who are the leaders of the team in the locker room or on the bus in an open gym situation,” Sanders said.
After next week’s moratorium week where there can be no school organized practices, Sanders said the summer changes quite a bit.
“It will be more individual development and shooting workouts,” said Sanders, whose varsity played in a Mooresville league this month.
“We don’t do many open gyms because we don’t have the same numbers. A lot of girls are traveling out of town with their AAU teams. June is a lot heavier high school month than July.”