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Rebuilding For Success: The Cottonwood High Girls Basketball Team

Jan 28, 2016 10:38AM ● Published by Bryan Scott

By Sarah Almond | sarah@mycityjournals.com

Murray - Though they have yet to win a game in the 2015-2016 season, the Cottonwood High School girls basketball team is working hard and leaving everything on the court each time they play. 

“This season is most definitely a rebuilding year,” Janae Hirshi, head coach for the Colts, said. “We had a bunch of strong seniors graduate and this year we have a pretty young, inexperienced team. A lot of the girls haven’t seen much varsity floor time.” 

Cottonwood lost five of last year’s strong, starting seniors – a loss that will take at least a year to recover from. 

“I only have two girls returning that played real varsity minutes,” Hirshi said. “I do have some seniors on my team now, but they never played varsity. So it’s definitely a rebuilding year for sure.” 

Along with having a majority of first-time varsity players on the team this year, the Colts also face an uphill battle in terms of numbers. 

“We are very short on numbers. We always have been at this school, but it’s getting worse and worse,” Hirshi said. “We have about 25 girls but that’s including all three teams.” 

With 25 girls expanding across the sophomore, junior varsity and varsity teams, Hirshi has to utilize the skills of many players in every game – a demand that results in pretty worn-out players. Thankfully, the school is accepting ninth graders next season. 

“I think with the incoming ninth graders, within the next few years this will help sort of re-boost the program,” Hirshi said. 

As head coach of the Colts for eight years, this is not Hirshi’s first time having to work through a rebuilding season. She and the Colts underwent another rebuilding year back in 2013. The next season they made it to the first round of the championship playoffs. 

“The odds are against us, but it’s really been that like since I’ve been here,” Hirshi said. “Even then, though, pretty much every season we’ve done a really good job – we’ve made point records and things like that.” 

Despite disadvantages the team is facing this season, Hirshi is proud of the group and has high hopes for the future. 

“This is a really, really great group of girls,” Hirshi said. “They are very coachable and they are just really good kids. This is actually one of my favorite seasons, even though we aren’t winning. It’s fun because the girls want to get better, they don’t have drama on or off the court and they are really tight-knit.” 

Despite not having much playtime on the varsity team, this young group of girls has experience playing together in past seasons and their chemistry on the court is undeniable. 

“One of the things that is just so cool about this season is watching the team’s support for one another and watching the structure of the team develop,” Hirshi said. “Even in a rebuilding year, it’s cool to see the off-court support they have and to know that the program in general is still thriving. When you’re winning all the time, you often times forget to check if your program is thriving off the court and thriving in team chemistry, and we really are.” 

Hirshi explained that positive team chemistry, even if they aren’t winning on paper, is a very good sign for the future success of the program. 

“It shows that the kids are really buying into everything we are coaching,” Hirshi said. “Its shows us that everything is functioning and good within the team – there’s no broken pieces, and that’s really cool to see as a coach.” 

Despite having many inexperienced players on the team this year, a few who have never played competitive basketball before, Hirshi is incredibly satisfied with the growth and improvement of the girls. 

“The kids don’t see how fast they are improving,” Hirshi said. “It’s pretty mind blowing how fast they improve. And the box scores don’t give justice to where they started and where they are now, especially watching these girls step up to the challenge and put up a fight.” 

With their season ending on Feb. 16, the Colts are taking each practice and game one day at a time and focusing on simply becoming a better, more experienced team. 

“Their very best is going to equal our success. This has been our philosophy every year,” Hirshi said. “We aren’t going to base our success on wins or losses. It’s all about giving their very best: if they give their very best, then that will equal success.”  

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