Baker girls add strengthtraining to basketball practice
By GERRY STEELE
Senior Jessie Wittich sat off to one side of the Baker High School weight room resting a tender foot while her teammates on the girls basketball team worked up a sweat with a variety of lifts.
Kate Vaughan, Katy Sullivan, Haley McEnroe and Nellie Bailey lunged around the weight machines using free weights to strengthen their legs.
Nearby Tanna Jayo and Laura Helgerson worked on the bench press.
Across the room, Tara Talbott, Kerbie Morgan and Julia Vaughan used machines that strengthened other parts of their bodies.
This was not a P.E. class during the regular school day, but a normal workout for the third-ranked Bulldogs as they prepare for the Greater Oregon League season.
"I've gotten a lot stronger since last year," Wittich said. "It feels like I have a lot more stamina. It's really good for me. It feels like I have a lot more power this year."
Sullivan said the weights have increased the strength in her arms and legs.
"Even though I'm sore, it has helped," said Sullivan, who will play college ball at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa next season.
"I've been working pretty hard on my shooting. It's helped me a lot. I'm a lot fresher in the fourth quarter."
The Baker girls have "bought in" to the lifting program.
"I think it's benefitted us a lot," Jayo said. "I think the soreness and running really builds muscles. I don't mind getting sore when I can see the results."
And those results are noticeable to the players.
"When we're shooting shots in the fourth quarter, it's not like last year when a lot of those shots would fall short. This year we're making more of those shots," Kate Vaughan said.
And, Vaughan said, the lifting has become easier as the season has progressed.
"We thought it would be exhausting, but after a few weeks of doing it we've gotten use to it," she said.
"We know college programs are doing it, so we figured we could do it too," Jayo said.
Improved strength seems to be the main addition to the Baker program.
"In the fourth quarter I'm not tired. I can tell a big difference," Morgan said.
"I think we're all stronger," Helgerson said.
"We work harder under the net, and being a lot stronger, we can handle it better," Bailey said.
"In the fourth quarter we're able to play like it's the first quarter," McEnroe said. "Now that we're used to it, we can push each other harder in practice."
Julia Vaughan, who rejoined the team shortly after Christmas after recovering from fall knee surgery, said a lot of the weight workouts are familiar to her because she did similar things during her rehab.
"It has had a huge effect. A lot of what we do is what I've been doing. The doctor says my knee is stronger now than it was before my accident," she said.
How it started
The lifting program is the brain child of Baker volunteer assistant coach Scott Thatcher.
"I first started thinking about it after the state tournament last year," Thatcher said.
He said that when Baker played Douglas in the third-place game at the tournament, the Bulldogs held a lead most of the way into the second half, "then we flat ran out of gas.
"Then this preseason, I started thinking about lifting. I told Tim (Baker coach Tim Smith) our skill level would be very good, but we needed to be as strong in the fourth quarter as we are in the first."
So, a half-hour of each Baker practice is dedicated to lifting.
"Some of the preseason games we could tell the difference," Thatcher said. "Now is when it's starting to pay off."
Thatcher said the Bulldogs work hard during their lifting sessions.
"We lift pretty hard. Our recovery time is better as our muscles get use to it," he said.
"We're very pleased with what we've seen on the court. The girls have bought into our defense. They can perform at a higher level because their bodies are in tune with the program."
Thatcher said the team does not lift weights on game days.
"Depending on game schedules we try to do it two or three times a week," he said.
"We've even been up here twice at 6 a.m., and every girl was here each time. The kids have bought into the program, and I think it's going to pay off big."
What are they doing?
Thatcher said the Bulldogs use six exercises in their lifting program.
For their legs, the Bulldogs do squats with a free bar, leg extensions, leg curls and lunges and use a machine that works the calf muscles.
For the upper body, the girls use the bench press, chest flies, shoulder press and pull downs on a weight machine for back muscles.
And they do a daily abdominal workout.
"We try to mix it up enough to keep it interesting," Thatcher said. "The girls work in pairs to spot each other and challenge each other."
Smith said the way the girls have accepted the program is a plus.
"It's been nice to see the buy in, the dedication of the players," Smith said.
"They're tired some days, but they still go at it. It gives us a lot more benefit in practice with tired legs. It shows their stamina.
"It was a chance that Scott and I took. We thought if it doesn't work we're going to bag it," Smith said.
"We have really involved the girls in it. It let's them sort of self-motivate themselves."