The Sr. Girls Basketball Team: connected, consistent and resilient.

The 2021 senior girl’s basketball team, led by Coach Steve Luukkonen and captains, Nysa Bhatia and Maanasa Muppala, Class of 2022, put in a great amount of time and effort during this pandemic into making the online practices a success. The team meets four times a week (M/W/F/S) with a solid 85-90% attendance rate. The Woodstocker interviewed the team’s captains and coach to hear their story.

How has the pandemic affected the learning process of the team?

Coach L: Greatly! Basketball’s physical game is challenging to learn off the court, if not impossible, for any basketball-related drills and games, so basketball’s physical skills (shooting, passing, decision making, etc.) have been put on hold. The only saving grace right now is a couple of players have been able to find some local five-on-five pick-up games to continue to develop their skills; otherwise, the rest haven’t touched or played basketball in a year.

What are girls currently up to/what are they currently being involved in?

Coach L: I want to give a massive shoutout to the 12 Sr. Girls who are working their tails off in academics and basketball to stay committed to both, something no other student-athlete at Woodstock is doing since we are the only active sport. Again, a huge testament to the girls’ dedication to our team’s 2021 outcome goals. Outside of basketball, they are heavily involved in community and service projects or pursuing hobbies that will help prepare them for their college courses and pursue their passions.

Maanasa Muppala: We are mainly focusing on being in shape and trying to be involved in basketball as much as possible. We workout 4 times a week as a team and it has been a great stress buster for us.

How has the team stayed connected and upheld team spirit? 

Coach Coach L: To compare an online environment to physically in dorms is not a fair comparison. The girls see each other a lot in study halls, advisor groups, homerooms, and anything else 11th graders have to attend, which helps keep the team close and connected throughout the day. We also tried a team study hall when summatives piled up right before our quarter break, which was extremely beneficial. Nothing can compare to physically living in dorms and interacting daily, both in and outside of practices. The team set spring goals of organizing team bonding nights at least once a month, which we have been successful so far this spring. The captains came up with a brilliant idea of accountability partners, splitting up into pairs of two. Ms. Sudha even volunteered her time to help them out in Economics class, so we will add a couple more team study halls in place of fitness practices to make sure they continue to stay on top of their studies throughout the rest of spring. 

Maanasa Muppala: We have been able to be in contact with everyone on the team. To keep the team spirits up, everyone on the team gives their 100% every practice. Since the start of this, every practice has been full of fun, energy, and motivation and the team spirit has been high. 

 What kind of exercises is the team doing?

Coach L: The only basketball skill and exercise they can physically practice during our Zoom practices is defensive positions and movement; all the rest are full-body type exercises with additional communication and cognitive challenges. Any full-body type exercises (burpees, push-ups, dips, squats, lunges, etc.) are heavily incorporated in each practice, I would say 90% of the practices are HIIT (High-Intensity-Interval-Training) style and fast-paced since we only have 30-40 minutes to work with, not including warm-up and cool-down! The girls are exhausted by the end of practice but feeling successful and accomplished, with competitive fun encompassing the entire practice atmosphere! We also incorporate 24-hour challenges, when the students are active on their own but track all of their activity over 24 hours.

How is the team staying competitive with no games/sport events?

Maanasa Muppala: Since there is no aspect of tournaments and games, we have created our own game-like practices. We make teams and compete against each other through workouts. We also strategize our ways and what would help us win. This has definitely helped us bring an aspect of competitiveness. 

Nysa Bhatia: We compete against each other in the team in our daily practices. Our communication and energy are always at a high level and we can feel each other’s spirits lifted as soon as we start the workout. This year really proved that truly nothing can phase Woodstock Tigers. 

Coach L: A perfectly timed question! Our fall semester’s goal was simple: keep students active and engaged while giving them one constant in their life always to fall back on. Competition is the main element that was missing, and in the first practice, we added a competitive atmosphere that made a night and day type of difference! Automatically communication was flowing, energy was ecstatic, and the girls were pushing themselves to an entirely new level; it was truly incredible to observe and so much fun for everyone! Sometimes we’ll do a “scrimmage” in practice, splitting the girls up into two teams, giving them communication and physical challenges throughout each 6-minute quarter. Other practices, I’ll split them up into pairs or groups of 3 and have 2v2 or 3v3 challenges, still revolving around competition and communication! 

Coach L: Basketball is so much more than a sport for these girls, something we have been trying to build over the last six years. Hope and dreams drive the human spirit, and right now, 12 girls are hoping and dreaming to have their chance at their Win Mumby! Whatever the outcome in November is, we are making countless special memories along the way, building chemistry, and enjoying the process each day we’re together! Go Tigers!!

Rushita Paladugu is a staff reporter.

Edited by Ira Ahuja.

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