UMass women’s basketball lives like professionals during break

By Andrew Cyr

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Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

Being an NCAA Division I athlete is no easy task. Throughout the season, student-athletes have to balance the workload of being a college student on top of dedicating hours of their day to practice and film sessions.

While most students were enjoying their winter break, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team was hard at work, enduring the grind of a college schedule. Although these players are given the title of “student-athlete,” it’s been all basketball during the 38-day layover between the end of fall semester and the start of the spring.

“Like (UMass coach Sharon) Dawley said, we are essentially professional basketball players over the course of winter break,” junior captain Emily Mital said.

Despite not having to worry about academics, the Minutewomen have struggled during this stretch, going 1-9 and ending on a nine-game losing streak.

UMass has also traveled like a professional basketball team, making separate road trips to Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia and Pennsylvania. With none of the dining halls open on campus during this time, the athletes even have to eat like professionals, settling for takeout and room service almost every night.

“While you think most students enjoy this long break, I’ve always found basketball teams have struggled a little bit during that time because it is all basketball,” Dawley said. “I think having a distraction is good for the players. Going to class and seeing your friends helps take their mind off of basketball for a little bit.”

The extended time off from the daily routine is an especially hard adjustment for the underclassmen to make. They’re used to waking up early, going to morning classes, then having practice later in the afternoon. But because basketball is their only concern, the significant amount of free time can hamper their focus.

“We just have to be encouraging with them,” UMass senior Kiara Bomben said when asked about giving advice to younger players. “The most important thing for us is to get a lot of rest. During the season we are constantly going but with this break from classes, it’s the perfect opportunity to get caught up on some sleep.”

The extra time is also a good opportunity for Dawley to work individually with players. Some coaches and players have been arriving early before practice just to get in an extra workout.

“It’s definitely different,” Mital said. “You have longer days now, and with no classes we have more time to get in extra workouts and go into things with more depth. We’ve been putting up much more shots and have spent more time looking at not only our film, but preparing for our opponents as well.”

Now it’s back to reality for the Minutewomen. Classes resume Tuesday and it’s back to life as not only an athlete, but a student as well.

“I’m excited for them to get back to class,” Dawley said. “Everything gets back to normal when they are going to class. It helps the team when they have distractions.”

Andrew Cyr can be reached at [email protected], and followed on Twitter @Andrew_Cyr.