For the Cottonwood High girls basketball team, nothing comes easy, and every win is a cherished accomplishment. That’s because, even though they’re part of a 5A school, they don’t always have a large number of girls showing up to try-outs. The ones who do show up, while very athletically-gifted, haven’t always been lucky enough to grow up playing in club or recreational teams to learn all of the necessary skills to be competitive.
Despite many of the deficits the Colts face, they still manage to find ways to win, being masters of defense and playing with a chip on their shoulder. This is a fact that makes head coach Janae Hirschi proud of her players and everything they accomplish on and off the court.
“The fact that we have all of these odds against us in numbers and demographics, it’s really rough, but the kids rock it,” Hirschi said. “They come in and work hard, and we mold them and shape them super quick before they are juniors and seniors. Then we rock’n’roll.”
Last year the Lady Colts finished strong as co-region champs, making an appearance in the state play-offs.
“Last year’s season was awesome. We lost in the first round [of state], but I thought the girls played really hard,” Hirschi said.
While the team may not always be deep or as fundamentally sound as some others, the one thing Hirschi feels they have that sets them apart and gives them a fighting chance every year is natural talent and athletic ability. “That is the one thing that has enabled us to be successful because we do get kids that aren’t fundamentally sound and maybe don’t have basketball skills, but we develop those skills as quickly as possible,” she said.
Hirschi explained that the girls she gets are quick and fast. So she teaches them defense first which, she says, has been the key to their success. Once her players are sound defensively, she takes the time to teach them the ins and outs of offense, which takes a little longer to get down.
“Every year one of our top goals is to be defensively sound,” Hirschi said. “We’ve been one of the top 10 defensive teams in the state, and that includes 5A through 1A which is points allowed. We just don’t allow our opponents to score on us, and so that is a goal we’ve had every year. We don’t want teams to score on us and we want to be the top team defensively.”
The Colts are fortunate this year because they have two of their best players in senior forward Annie Brady and Nicole Christensen returning.
“This year is kind of unique because I have two of probably my top 10 best players ever coming back as seniors,” Hirschi said. “The rest of the kids were on the sophomore team and will skip junior varsity because we had a few girls quit, and we had some girls move. I honestly have three or four girls that were on the sophomore team last year that will be playing varsity.”
While nothing comes easy for the Colts, Hirschi says their attitude and the way they take care of business couldn’t be better.
“I am blunt with them and tell them the odds are against them every single year,” she said. “We have a lot of kids that have a lot of heart, and they want to be there, but their parents, some of them couldn’t afford [club basketball] or they didn’t have time because they were helping their families. They are awesome kids because, once we get them, they do what we ask them to. They go hard, trying to catch up because they know the odds are against them. So far, since I have been there, the kids have bought into it. They are really dedicated and work hard. I’ve seen them grow, and we’ve had winning seasons every year I’ve been here except for one.”