by Joey Crandall

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January 25, 2013
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Girls Basketball: Conditioning program boosts Lady Tigers


The word carries with it the equal amounts of pride and dread in the Douglas High School girls basketball program.

When head coach Werner Christen brought Joe Andrews on as the team's strength and conditioning coach four seasons ago, Sparta quickly became an important part of the Lady Tiger basketball lexicon.

"We started it my freshman year," said four-year varsity forward Diana Regalado. "We've always called it 'Sparta' but it's been different every year.

"It's pretty intense. It's kind of defined the style we play."

Christen started talking with Andrews, a longtime coach in the football program, about helping out with the basketball program about five years ago.

"We'd always done a little something in the weight room, had our conditioning portion," Christen said. "I'd almost call it informal. But I wanted to add to it and started thinking of bringing Joe in. Mike Rippee was the head coach of the football team at the time. I checked it out with him, because I saw how well Joe worked with the football kids. Then I started talking with Joe. Joe has always loved basketball and he loved the idea of helping out and getting involved with the program."

In the years since, Andrews has continuously evolved his approach toward getting the varsity girls team in basketball condition.

"A lot of the core of the program is stuff I got from coach Rippee," said Andrews, who played and coached football under Rippee and also played for the University of Nevada. "That was where I got a lot of the core Olympic lifts and things like that.

"Last year, I started to think about adding some more cross-fit principles in. I attended a great conference with San Antonio Strength and Conditioning and came back with some ideas on refining technique and using intervals to ramp up the workout."

The watershed moment came over the summer, as Andrews worked with Douglas grad Katie Dry as she prepared for her freshman soccer season at Wake Forest University.

"I got familiar with the Wake Forest summer workout and there was a lot of good stuff there,"

Andrews said. "That was a big influencing factor in changing things up for this basketball season.

"I wanted to have a good blend of the best things I have seen and learned along the way."

That combined with the school's remodeled weight room, which allows for the entire team to be doing the same lifts at once, changed nearly everything about the conditioning program.

"Joe approached me in the fall about some of these idea and I asked him if he loved it," Christen said. "He said 'Absolutely,'

What has greeted the team every other day since the start of the season has been a 45-minute session including seemingly any and every type of fitness element, from dead lifts and jump ropes to medicine balls and chin-ups.

"The girls didn't flinch a bit," Andrews, who goes through the entire circuit of exercises with the team, said. "It's 45 minutes of intense work and then they go out and have a full practice.

They work so hard and they've bough into everything I put in front of them. Physically, you can see the difference it makes when they are in a game. They don't wear down or get tired. They don't get out-worked."

Regalado said it took some time to get used to the new program, but that she has seen benefits in every part of the game.

"At first, you get through the first two sets and you're feeling pretty tired," she said. "You keep pushing yourself through it, though, and you feel like you can do anything by the end.

"It's really helped us get stronger. Our style of play, we like to push the ball up the court, and this has really helped us be able to do that for four quarters. We've been in games where we are tiring the other team out. We're fine."

She said it's helped the team chemistry as well.

"We're in there pushing each other and making each other laugh," she said. "It's a situation where we know we are all in it together and we try to make the best of it. Girls will be singing or being goofy, like Katie McCullough rapping 'Ice, Ice Baby' while we are doing plank exercises. It's fun."

Andrews said he feels the program helps give the team a mental edge.

"There's that element of mental toughness that they develop," he said. "If you can get through a tough workout, then practice and perform at a high level, you feel well equipped for the games."

Christen agreed.

"As far as being physically fit and being ready to compete with anyone, we're fine," Christen said. "That's a credit to Joe and it's a credit to the kids for putting the work in. If you are physically fit and you feel good about yourself, I think there is a higher level of confidence.

They get out there and play with a bit of a chip on their shoulder."

Douglas has almost lived off of running in transition offensively this season, and has done a good job of it - topping the 50-point mark six times this year after doing so just seven times over the previous three seasons. The increased level of fitness has played a large part in that. The Tigers are also within striking distance of clinching a home playoff game for the first time since 2008.

"They go in that weight room to work," Christen said. "There's not a lot of chit-chat that goes on. They've bought in 100 percent and I think we've started to see the results."

Douglas next hosts Galena tonight at 5:15 p.m.

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The Record Courier Updated Jan 25, 2013 04:50PM Published Jan 25, 2013 04:48PM Copyright 2013 The Record Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.