Frasier HortonFriday, October 22, 2021
The Hill: the two-word phrase which, if you mention it to any Altamont basketball player, they'll know exactly what you mean. This long stretch of asphalt on Altamont Road South is home to some of the more grueling workouts that basketball players will go through as they prepare for the season. Many a player can recall the timed sprints up the steep incline, the sweat cascading from their bodies as they rush to beat the person next to them. In their minds, they're praying for a car to come down, forcing them to go off to the side and get the break they so desperately desire. They know what comes at the top, though – that terrible burn that never seems to fade away, even as they slowly walk down to start the exhausting process again.
That was an overdramatic version of what really goes down for the basketball players of The Altamont School, but you get the idea of what we are shooting for. With hard work, a change is coming to Altamont’s basketball program.
Let's get one thing straight: last year was not our year. For those of you who don't know, the basketball team played only seven out of all the games we'd been scheduled to play, mostly because of the COVID protocols of rival schools. It was painful every time. We would finish our two or three hours of practice and sit around the middle of the gym and hear our coaches tell us once again that our game was canceled, which hurt because we genuinely loved the sport.
After a while, we just started to become numb to it. We started adopting the mantra "head down, come to work tomorrow.” In the end, it resulted in us winning only one of the games we played and ultimately looking forward to next year for a better year. A year when we wouldn’t have to worry about practicing all week and it coming to nothing. One when we had seniors to look up to, to lead us and encourage us to keep going. (We had none last year). Now with six seniors (and a more adapted COVID schedule), the basketball team begins the practice before the practices, a.k.a. conditioning.
AHSSA rules allows players to practice for only two hours a week before the season starts. With the addition of the new volleyball team, those hours were rarely used. Coaches Steve Mitchell and Richard Ford came up with new ways to get players ready for the upcoming season. The most common tactic is the trip to the cannon. We all line up behind the school and run from there to the cannon on Altamont Road. The catch is we all must run as fast as our fastest person, so you can imagine how fast our pace is. No one can fall behind; if they do it's up to the team to motivate and encourage them until they catch up. Tardiness is met with extra laps around track, and yes, I’m referring to me. Coaches say that this builds teamwork, character, and a sense of camaraderie.
Other forms of conditioning include timed miles around the track and going up the steps to the soccer field as fast as they can. In some bizarre cases, players have had to run through cycles of running up the stairs, straight to jumping rope, to doing push-ups, finishing with going through the agility ladder, all in the hallway behind the gym. The coaches believe in doing the best they can, for as long as they can, with as much as they can. And so do we.
“Games start in the fourth quarter." That’s the line you're sure to hear from Coach Mitchell when you’re crouched on your knees about to throw up. Of course, games don’t truly start in the fourth quarter, but it is the last chance a player can have to make a real impact on the game. The last eight or so minutes define how people will remember you in that game, and your best effort is required to get the job done. When you join the Altamont basketball team, you’re preparing yourself for war, and need to be ready for anything, for all the challenges it can bring. Preparing with my fellow teammates has truly been an honor, and as the real work starts, I’m excited for the championships we plan to bring to Altamont.