Ability, attitude, grades, team chemistry all part of making prep rosters

FMHS caoch Dan Schmalz looks at his players at practice

FMHS coach Dave Fox sizes up players at practice. He includes freshman, JV and varsity in these early practices

Dave Fox breaks for practice. He includes freshman, JV and varsity in these early practices

A lot of titles can go along with being a high school coach: teacher, athletic trainer, bus driver and equipment repairman.

But for the first week of basketball practice, coaches become general managers, attempting to put together their team for the season.

What are the coaches looking for when trying to assemble a team?

One aspect is if a player can put the ball in the hoop, but what else goes into it?

How much of the decision goes beyond pure basketball ability?

There’s a lot that goes into putting a team together in three weeks. The first games tip off Dec. 2.

Fruita Monument High School boys basketball coach Dave Fox has been through plenty of tryouts. This is only his third year as the head coach of the boys, but he has won state championships as a girls basketball coach and baseball coach at Fruita.

Fox said it starts with finding a group that will play well together.

“You try to get the chemistry right,” Fox said. “One thing you are looking for is getting a group of kids that can care for one another, trust each other and help each other.”

Fox’s job of trying to pick the right players can be a tricky one. From finding unknown kids with a lot of potential to avoiding players that could hurt team chemistry, it’s all about assembling the right pieces.

“Sometimes your 30 best basketball players aren’t always the best citizens,” Fox said. “You are looking for kids who fit your program the best and can be the most coachable kids.”

Dan Schmalz is in his second year as the Wildcats’ girls coach. He breaks down building the right team into three categories.

“We grade them on basketball ability first, then athletic ability and then ‘other,’ ” Schmalz said. “Hard work, attitude goes with that ‘other,’ but if they can’t play basketball, they can’t play for us.”

Schmalz added that it’s important to have a few players on the team who specialize in the “other” category.

“You have to have a couple of those kids on your team because they will make practices and games better for you,” Schmalz said.

For Fox, the intangibles might be how a player can hold up to the stress and uncertainty of a tryout situation. He said that’s a good way to get a gauge on a player.

“Sometimes with the stress of a busy gym with a lot of coaches coaching and a lot of people getting after it, you see a lot about a kid,” Fox said. “How they react when they get criticized, how they react when they do something well. You learn a lot about those situations and how they handle the highs and lows.”

Tryouts aren’t stressful for everyone. There are the kids who have earned their spot on the team through previous years’ success and as an upperclassman, are required in Fox’s eyes to take on a different role.

“They know the expectations and they know how to be leaders because they have seen good and bad leaders throughout the years,” Fox said. “You are looking for kids that have been through your coaching so they know the program.”

Knowing the program extends to off the court as well. A player coming up ineligible at midseason can be disastrous for a team, especially if he or she is a main cog on the team. Schmalz said he looks at each
player’s grades before the start of the season.

“We check to make sure their grades are up to snuff and make sure they are student first, athlete second,” Schmalz said. “They can be a great basketball player, but if they don’t take care of business in the classroom, they can’t play.”


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