As the girls varsity basketball coach Lauren Lawrence finishes her pep talk with an “East on three,” the team breaks from their huddle and the starters walk out onto the court. The five players on the floor consist of two juniors, one sophomore, and two freshmen. The referee blows the whistle and freshman Sarah Bingham tips the ball off to sophomore Kathleen Stanley. Lawrence looks down the bench filled with seven seniors, all on their feet cheering, happy to be their underclassmen teammates’ loudest fans.
This year, despite not having starting positions, these seven seniors have wholeheartedly stepped into their leadership roles. With three new freshmen coming straight out of high level club basketball, the seniors expected a challenge for playing time, according to senior co-captain Libby Frye. But what came as a surprise to Frye was the fact that this year their senior status wouldn’t secure them a starting position.
According to Lawrence, every year the starting five are consistently the most beneficial for the team no matter grade they are in. Seniors may have started last year, but this season brings in new players with new openings for starting positions.
“It’s not an offense to [the seniors], it’s more like whoever is going to be best for the team and whoever is going to help us win, that’s who we want [starting],” senior Caroline Blubaugh said.
Based off of their experience on the team and their maturity, Lawrence expected the seniors this season to take leadership roles and guide the younger players. After three to four years of practicing the same plays and playing the same teams, the seniors feel they possess the most expertise on the team.
In the locker room during halftime, the seniors give the team pep talks. At timeouts and dead balls they point out players to mark and shout to “watch the back-door” plays. Before games, they inform their teammates of their opponents strongest players and how to defend against their offense.
Even though they aren’t always out there with them, they make sure to pass on their knowledge and coach the new players.
These new players include freshmen Annabelle Merchant, Reese Althouse and Sarah Bingham. Wanting to make these new faces feel welcome, the seniors made sure to give them rides to games and team dinners or offer to be their partner in practice drills. For them, part of being a leader meant making sure everyone felt included and like a team.
“[The seniors] are very accepting and their attitude is like ‘they’re part of the team just as much as we are,’” Bingham said. “Even though they’re older than us there’s not much of a difference [in attitude].”
Every game a couple of the seniors pick one or two players on the court to cheer for. Throughout the game they will scream things like “you’re doing great” or “keep your head up” while also jumping and clapping at every basket they make or good play they carry out. No great pass or layup goes unpraised, and no players are left unsupported, despite their age or “fresh meat” status.
Once a week during practice the team gathers to share their “highs and lows.” All the players share one good thing in their life at the time, and one thing they’re struggling with. All of the seniors know what is going on in their teammates lives, allowing them to offer support whenever someone is having a rough day. For example, if someone is feeling stressed about school, their “secret sister” can write a letter of encouragement or buy them a comforting chocolate bar.
None of it relates to the upcoming game or what play they need to work on, but Lawrence believes it brings the team closer and helps bridge the age gaps.
“When everyone is getting along off of the court it translates to how the girls are playing on the court,” Lawrence said. “You can tell they’re comfortable with each other and are playing like a team.”