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Metro Detroit

December 19, 2012

Holiday time management

Working, or not, during winter break varies from team to team

By Mike Moore
C & G Sports Writer

» click to enlarge «
Brother Rice’s Blake Bazzi moves the puck around a U of D defender earlier this season. With the holiday break in full force, coaches of all teams and all sports must decide how to handle a lengthy layoff.

When it comes to the sports calendar and its three separate seasons, there’s none more unique than the one falling in the winter months.

And navigating through said time can be a tricky chore for coaches, young and old.

While the fall season kicks off in August and rolls straight through Thanksgiving, and the spring season has a small break for the Easter Holiday, winter teams begin their season, play for a few weeks, and then have to seemingly slam on the breaks for 17 days or so while the calendar shifts from one year to the next.

Handling this change in gears differs from one team and program to the next.

Everyone has a theory.

The argument can be made that none are perfect and none are flawed.

Catch you on the flip side

At most schools, doors close after the third week of December and won’t open until the second week of January.

With classrooms empty, some coaches follow suit, all but bidding their athletes farewell until 2013.

Such is the case for the Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood hockey team, which plays Dec. 21 and won’t see game action again until Jan. 12.

Coach Andy Weidenbach more or less shuts things down until Jan. 7.

“It’s a little different with us because we have kids that live out of state or out of country,” he said. “So we’ve always tried to break the season into two halves — leading up to that final game and then starting back up in January, when everyone is back in town. … For the most part, we’re away for more than two weeks.”

Weidenbach laughed when asked about the first few days back.

“You can tell,” he said. “It takes some time to get their legs back.”

Farmington Unified hockey coach Ken Anderson uses a similar tactic, giving his guys anywhere from nine to 10 days off.

“I like to get them off the ice and away from things entirely,” he said. “It’s the perfect time to get your body healed up and your mind off the game. It’s worked pretty well for us in the past.”

“They need the time away,” said Southfield Christian girls basketball coach Seena Allen, who gives her team roughly a week off. “They’re coming off exams, and there’s so much stress associated with finishing school and the holidays.”

Birmingham Brother Rice hockey coach Lou Schmidt Jr. admits that stepping away for that long isn’t exactly ideal. “It certainly takes the edge off what we’ve built up,” he said, yet he’s never been afraid to do it.

“They need it. … They need to get away,” he added.

A mini vacation

While granting total immunity from practice or gameplay is one extreme, and keeping the schedule all but the same may be another, most coaches seem to find themselves somewhere in between — easing off, but staying active.

St. Clair Shores South Lake girls basketball coach Shay Lewis, for example, has spent her two years with the Cavaliers using the holiday break to build relationships with players on and off the court.

Lewis said her girls participate in various outings, as well as practice, as a way to keep basketball on their minds, all the while changing things up a bit.

The Berkley-Ferndale Unified hockey team has two full weeks between games during the break, but coach Jeff Fleming makes sure the ice isn’t left bare.

“The guys still stay involved,” he said. “We don’t exactly maintain the same practice schedule, but they take it upon themselves to stay active. A lot of them will show up to the rink and take part in drop-in with the public. Others will get together with alumni to play games and keep busy.”

North Farmington girls hoops coach Tim Carruthers said he’s done things both ways, taking time off and keeping the schedule nearly unchanged.

This year, for the third straight winter, he’s working with a mix of each.

“We’ll practice a bit, take some time off and play some games,” Carruthers said.

His team is one of dozens from across the area taking part in the Motor City Roundball Classic Dec. 26-30 at Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day.

“Having a few practices, and especially having a game, during break does a lot for our girls,” he added. “It gives you a little extra focus.”

“We keep it light, but we keep going,” Warren De La Salle hockey coach Dan Barry said. The first week of break is optional, with an alumni game in the mix. “That second week, though, we’re back to business as usual.”

Time to improve

While it’s not exactly an Ebenezer Scrooge mindset — there aren’t any practices or workouts scheduled for Christmas Eve — some coaches do try to keep the routine normal.

The St. Clair Shores Lake Shore wrestling team does its best to keep things more or less unchanged, according to coach Dominic Zombo.

With scheduled practices, Zombo puts more emphasis on individual time, while staying loose with games of basketball, football or soccer worked in.

“I’m a firm believer that a strong physical education program that is built around lifelong fitness is one of the very best options any student can make in this technical era,” Zombo said of not being away very long.

“There’s a couple kids from out of state who miss a few days, but the rest of the guys will be here working the same we have been,” said Orchard Lake St. Mary’s hockey coach Brian Klanow. “It’s too important to keep that edge. You have to stick with it.”

Back off.

Keep it casual.

Business as usual.

Nothing perfect, nothing flawed.

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Mike Moore at mmoore@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1038. Twitter Follow Mike on Twitter.