Area basketball teams are in the heart of tournament season.
This week alone, boys teams are playing in tournaments in Minden, Many, Loyola and North DeSoto. That means days packed with games for fans, and plenty of opportunities for coaches to test their squads.
“It’s a benefit, because you are getting a lot of games in a short period of time,” Calvary coach Chris Thompson said. “It gives you a chance to play more people and look at other kids that, if you were playing just twice a week, you wouldn’t get in the game.”
Calvary has experienced growing pains early this season. The Cavaliers entered Thursday night’s Loyola tournament game against Northwood with a 1-8 record.
“We are young, and we are playing a lot of guys,” Thompson said. “We are still trying to learn how to win.”
Thompson starts four sophomores, and his team’s lone senior is Daniel Fitzwater, who was attending school in the Houston area last year.
“We need to be playing as much as we can,” Thompson said. “And we don’t want to play in tournaments that if you lose the first game you are out. We need multiple games. When we go into a tournament and know we will get a guaranteed three games, that’s good for us.”
The Loyola tournament is Calvary’s third this year. While the Cavaliers’ record doesn’t reflect it, the extra games are helping.
“These young guys are getting more time out there,” Thompson said. “We’ve been in a lot of games, but we’re not doing the little things it takes to win. I think when they have to go back out there the next day, the players’ minds can correct things quicker.”
For Booker T. Washington, which is playing in the North DeSoto tourney this week, tournaments offer a chance to play a variety of competition.
“We are playing Southwood and Byrd this weekend, two 5A schools we wouldn’t play except for a tournament,” BTW coach Tony Reliford said. “Those games will be really good tests for us. We are also getting to play a team from Arkansas because of a tournament, so they give our guys a chance to be in different environments.”
The Lions are 4-3 and, like Calvary, trying to gain experience.
“I hope we can learn some things and win more games than we lose,” Reliford said. “We are just trying to come out ahead.”
Playing back-to-back games, sometimes in the same day, can be tough for inexperienced teams, however.
“I don’t think tournaments have as much of a physical toll on these young guys as they do mentally,” said Reliford, whose team will play twice Saturday. “I think, sometimes, it’s tough to get up mentally twice to play in one day.”
Unlike Thompson at Calvary, Reliford said back-to-back games can hinder learning.
“When you are playing game after game, you don’t have time to go back and work on the mistakes,” he said. “So, if I see a mistake (Thursday), I will most likely see it again Friday and Saturday.”
It’s not just the players who are tested by tournaments. Coaches can also be worn down, especially if their team is hosting.
“The first thing you have to make sure you have is the gym space,” said Minden coach Alan Shaw, who is in charge of the Minden Holiday Tournament, which features 43 games in three gyms.
“Then you have to make sure you have enough workers,” Shaw said. “You have to have people to run the clock and keep the stat books, and not just anybody can do those things. Another issue is the schedule. You have to make sure that you don’t have teams from the same districts, or classes if possible, playing each other. And you have to make sure a school’s boys and girls teams aren’t playing at the same time in different gyms.”
The tournament started Wednesday and will wrap up Saturday.
“It’s stressful absolutely,” said Shaw, whose team had an 8-2 record heading into Thursday’s game against Haynesville. “You’re trying to make sure the tournament runs smoothly and get your team ready to play at the same time. A lot of times, that has to fall on your assistant coach. It’s difficult to balance everything.”
But Shaw doesn’t mind the responsibility. His team gets a big lift from its tournament.
“For us, this tournament is kind of our fundraiser for the year,” Shaw said. “It’s where we get the bulk of our money for the year. We usually have good crowds, and if we make the finals, it’s good for us.
“It’s also become a tradition and an event in Minden. During the rest of the season, you don’t really get to talk to other coaches, but over the course of four days here in Minden, you get to see some other teams play and fellowship with the coaches and referees. That’s what I like about it.”
Connect with Brent Shirley on Twitter at @bshirley08.