BELLVILLE — Clear Fork High School’s girls basketball season ended last week with a 69-29 loss to Norwalk in a sectional tournament game.
But already, Chuck Schmitt is looking ahead to next season.
“First of all, we have great kids. The girls have been great,” he said. “We have not had a bad practice all year. They gave us everything they had. They worked hard, they learned that they can give more and they did.”
Our girls learned what tough practices are … the sacrifice, commitment and attitude you have to have to be a good team,” Schmitt added. “They learned how hard you have to work if you want to be a good team.”
He explained what it will take for the program to become competitive.
“We are in the next phase (of building a program). The next phase is a long phase,” he said. “It’s open gym in May. It’s open gym with four players and our 10 days of practice in June. It’ll then be a continuation of open gym and conditioning in the fall. How they accept that and the commitment to that, that’s the next step for us.”
Schmitt understands the need to balance basketball skill development with participation in multiple sports.
“They (athletes) have to work it out with other coaches, and we have to be flexible as coaches and understand that these girls have other things going on in the summer.”
But more work on basketball is a necessity for more success on the court.
“They haven’t had the dedication to getting better in the offseason,” Schmitt said. “That shows in our skills, our fundamentals and our knowledge of the game. Each girl has to figure out how can (she) play basketball and get better with skills and fundamentals when (she’s) getting ready for volleyball, soccer or softball.”
He challenged next year’s players.
“We told them ball is in your court now. Our job is to provide opportunities to grow and learn. We will have those opportunities. It’s up to you, will you come or not. We’ll see how the girls commit.”
As far as the loss to Norwalk, Schmitt was succinct in his analysis of the game.
“It was a mismatch. They’re a top team, a veteran team, with probably the best player (Jiselle Thomas) in the district,” Schmitt said. “They forced pressure on us and they took the ball away.
“Norwalk played hard all game. They had the advantage on the boards and made their shots. I was impressed with them, they’re a good team. They’re good and we’re inexperienced. We’re not of their level. It was a classic No. 4 vs No. 12 matchup. Our inexperience continues to haunt us.”
Despite a 1-22 record the coaching staff was pleased with the progress the girls basketball program made this season.
“We are making progress. Our girls improved tremendously from the beginning to the end of the season. It doesn’t show in our record, but it does in the learning process.”
“Our basketball IQ needs to continue to grow. They have to learn the mental strategy of the game, along with shooting, dribbling and all of the things you have to do to play effective defense.”
“This season we went through a long list of what you have to do to play good basketball,” Schmitt said. “We threw a lot at the girls. We went through periods where we would concentrate on one aspect of the game for two or three weeks, then we throw something else at them and concentrate on that for weeks. They did a good job.”
“Change is not overnight.”
Schmitt is also looking at Clear Fork’s younger athletes for future success. Player development at middle school is crucial for any program to succeed, he said,
“We had new coaches at seventh- and eight- grade this year. We instituted fundamentals. We wanted the girls to play man-to man defense, something they haven’t done in the past. We taught the transition game, getting up and down the floor. It was a learning experience, and we made inroads. We will have good freshmen coming in with us next year.”
Next season the Lady Colts face another challenge. Clear Fork begins play in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference in 2017-2018.
“We really can’t do anything about who we play. We have to get better,” he said. “We won’t be playing a large number of Division I schools, but we are going to be playing awfully good Division II schools. Ontario is there. River Valley is there. Buckeye Valley is good.”