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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Gyms for Girls Teams

Over the last 40 years, a question that has faced schools is how to get all of their basketball teams into gyms for practice and how to get all the teams a spot to play the games.

At GHS when girls basketball was just getting started in the early 1970's, the varsity and soph boys teams practiced in Thiel Gym, and played their games there. Usually the boys varsity started practice at 1:30pm as part of "athletic PE." Then the sophs would come in for practice around 4:00 or 4:30pm. The girls teams went to Hitchcock school that had a small wooden court- today it is the Hitchcock apartments. Once a week, the girls would come in during the evening and practice in Thiel. Most of the girls games were played in Thiel but if there were conflicts, they played a few games at Churchill.


By the time I started coaching girls in the late 1970's, all of our practices were scheduled for Thiel Gym, and all of our games were played at Thiel Gym. But in the mid-1980's conflicts increased as we went from a 3 year to 4 year high school. That meant there were three girls teams and three boys teams fighting for gym time and game time in one gym. Usually practiced were planned so that we had 3 practice shifts each day- 3:00-5:15pm, 5:15-7:30pm, and 7:30-9:30pm. Usually varsity boys would take one shift, soph boys one shift, and the soph/varsity girls would share a shift. The night before teams played, they always had the earliest shift. The two freshmen teams would scramble to either fit into one of these slots if other teams were on the road, or usually frosh boys would go evenings at Lombard and frosh girls evenings at Churchill.

When freshmen played, then one team got to go after school and all other teams had to go to the junior highs. When wrestling had home games, one team practiced. When there were home jv boys games, only one team practiced.

Something that really opened things up a little was when the school district gained access to the Hawthorne Center gym. This allowed our freshmen teams a place to practice. Usually one team would be bused there right after school and the other frosh team would practice there at 5pm.

So a typical varsity girls practice schedule in the late 1980's and thru much of the 1990's, looked something like this:
Mondays- one week at Thiel after school, the other week at the Hawthorne Center with the soph girls.
Tuesdays- one week at Lombard or Churchill at 7:30-9:30pm, the other week at Thiel from 7:30-9:30pm.
Wednesdays- after school in Thiel
Thursdays- games.
Fridays- after school in Thiel.
Saturdays- games.

Something that really helped us both competitively and with gym time was when we cleaned up the girls schedule and played all conference games on Thursdays and all nonconference games on Saturdays. Before that time, we might have played any day of the week, except Wednesday. So you might have a big conference game on Tuesday and a nonconference game on Monday. We were the first conference school to go exclusively to Thursday-Saturday. And for a good number of years I felt it gave us a competitive advantage when we had Monday thru Wednesday for practice and many of our conference opponents were in a Tuesday and Thursday routine for games.

The building of Wicall eliminated the need for regular 7:30-9:30pm practice shifts. It has freed up our schedule tremendously. Now only once in awhile do we need to send a team someplace else to practice. And usually it is a matter of sending boys or girls varsity to Knox College.

When they were in the process of building Wicall Gym, I was asked if I thought it would be a good idea to build it as a "girls gym." I was told it would be a great deal, we would control the time for practices and have not conflicts. I didn't hesitate to say I thought it was a bad idea. My thought was that if we got good, if we began to draw crowds then we would be forced to go play in a different gym. And my logic was, why would we want our teams not to play in the best gym and best facility the school had to offer. I honestly did not like the possible message playing in a second gym would send to our athletes as female athletes.

Where schools choose to play their games is always an interesting issue. At Galesburg, we have always played our games in Thiel Gym. Alleman and Moline have always both played their soph and varsity games in the same gym used for soph and varsity boys games.

Quincy originally in the 1970's played their girls games in Baldwin Gym where their boys play, then went to the smaller gym in the high school, then in the early 2000's went back to Baldwin, and now is back in the smaller gym.

Rocky has always chosen to play their games. Only twice have we ever played in the "Rock Garden." In the late 1990's when Rock Island hosted a Sectional, they moved the Sectional into the boys gym.

UTHS hosted a Sectional in their bigger gym, but until this year has played all of their games in a second gym. So until this year, 50% of the WB6 teams played their girls games in a second gym.

Back in the 1970's and 1980's, when we played Morton and Richwoods, we played in a second gym that they had. In fact one year when we played Richwoods, our lockeroom was next to the main gym and we then had to go to the other gym to play. I got lost getting back at half time and missed the first three minutes of the third quarter.

Canton had a major controversy in the last five years in regards to parents of girls basketball players wanting their daughters to get to play in Ingersoll Gym. We benefited from a decision to move our game to Ingersoll as it was not a court the Canton girls had a chance to practice on.

In the 1980's, Graylin McLeod as Woodruff girls coach chose to practice and play games in a court in the balcony. He told me he chose to play and practice there because he had total control of when he practiced, and for games he thought it through off opposing coaches because they just were so angry about playing in a balcony with just chairs around the court.

Certainly every school has to do what is best for their programs and for their students. Some schools like Metamora and IVC have two pretty nice spectator gyms. But that is rare.

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