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The North Bend Eagle


Time to relieve cramped gym

Commentary by Nathan Arneal
Published 12/8/10

North Bend Central needs a second gym.

While this issue has pops up every once in a while, I’ve been on the fence. Another gym would certainly be nice, I thought, but maybe it would be a bit of a luxury. We seem to be getting along pretty good with the one gym.

That was my perspective from the outside. Now that I am helping coach the NBC girls basketball team, I am seeing just what the players and coaches have to put up with as two basketball teams, a one-act play production and musical concerts fight for space and time in the lone NBC gymnasium.

The NSAA mandated Nov. 15 as the earliest date winter sports teams can begin practice. Before the NBC basketball teams opened their seasons against Yutan Dec. 2, there were 10 school days available for practice, not including Thanksgiving break.

Of those 10 days, the girls and boys team each had the opportunity to practice after school with the whole gym to themselves exactly twice.

On four of those 10 days, the boys and girls teams had to split the gym and practice at the same time. That means all 21 boys basketball players are sharing one end of the gym and three baskets while the entire girls team is on the other end.

On one of the 10 days, neither team was allowed to practice at all because the gym was set up for the one-act play performance. On another day, practices were cut short because of the fall jamboree.

Four of the girls practices were at 6 a.m., and two of those were split court with the boys.

The split-court practices are the worst. Your drill options and repetitions are limited when the whole team has to share three baskets. Not a lot of free throw shooting can be done. By the way, the boys team shot 55 percent from the free throw line in their first two games. Think they couldn’t use some extra practice at the line? Meanwhile, the girls had problems dealing with full-court presses in their early games. Of course, it’s hard to practice against a full-court press when you only have half a court to work with.

Another problem with the split court is the sheer noise created by two teams practicing at once. The other day I was standing 20 feet away while coach Sterup was giving some instructions to the girls team. I couldn’t hear a word he said. I hope the girls are good lip readers.

One option that both coaches have employed to alleviate the crowded conditions of a split-court practice is to bring in only the varsity players. That helps, but of course it also means your younger players are missing out on reps and opportunities for improvement.

Even when things work out like they are supposed to, with one team practicing from 3:45-5:45 and the other team from 5:45-7:45 (which happened exactly three times in the 10 school days leading up to the first game), our players are still missing out on the opportunity to reach their full potential.

So much individual improvement happens when a player stays after practice to work one-on-one with a coach for a few minutes. With our schedule, that is impossible. As soon as practice is over, you have to clear the gym to make way for the other team or the one-act cast.

The original practice schedule had the girls team playing an exhibition game at Howells last Monday, then returning to school less than 10 hours later for a 6 a.m. practice. Luckily, weather postponed the game until Tuesday so Tuesday’s planned short-turn-around morning practice was replaced with... a split-court practice with the boys Monday.

Like many of you readers, I went through the same thing when I was a student-athlete at NBC. It might be easy to say, “Well, if I got through it, the kids today can get through it.” That’s true. But if people always had that mindset, we’d still be playing varsity basketball at the city auditorium. After all, that space did “just fine” for two generations of North Bend players.

A second gym is no longer a luxury. Just looks around the East Husker Conference. Pender, West Point, Wisner-Pilger and Stanton all have two gyms within their school building. Oakland-Craig has full gyms in both their high school and elementary buildings, which are across the street from each other.

The North Bend community takes great pride in its schools, as it should. We brag about having one of the lowest tax levies in the state. But are our students really given the best opportunity to reach their full potential?

Not if they’re on the basketball team or in the one-act play cast. Many students are in both, which leads to many a 14-hour day in the school building for those young people.

Do the people of the district care about the less-than-ideal practice conditions we force upon our student-athletes? I know the ones that show up to games and shout “advice” from the stands do. If we expect our student-athletes to show improvement and remain competitive with other schools, then we should give them every reasonable opportunity to do so.

We finally got the wrestling team out of the cafeteria and the weight room off the stage, now it’s time to do the same for our overworked gymnasium.

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