SATURDAY, OCTOBER 24TH, 2020
For many high school sports teams, players and coaches would agree that the primary factor affecting team performance is neither raw talent nor repetitive practice, but rather the chemistry that exists between team members. During the regular season, day-to-day practices serve not only to hone individual players’ skills, but also to improve the bonds between teammates. Players get to know how they play individually and as a whole, improving their chemistry and effectiveness on the field. Despite this, in the offseason, when teammates are not practicing with each other every day, teams get together in different ways to maintain these crucial connections.

“Maintaining team chemistry during the offseason is a pinnacle of any great team,” varsity boys lacrosse coach D.j. Shelton said. “Team workouts, playing on club teams, participating in community service and any other means of bringing the members together to achieve a goal strengthen the interpersonal relationships between them, [and] also reinforces the group mentality and vision of success that is required for a team to be competitive in season.”

Shelton’s lacrosse team has a variety of opportunities to participate during the offseason. Team NorCal, a local club team, offers many programs for high school lacrosse players. Many Palo Alto High School lacrosse players participate in the Summer Ball and Fall Ball programs, which consist of various school teams playing each other in weekly games. NorCal’s traveling club team is also popular among lacrosse players from the area.

“[Coach D.j.] encourages us to do Summer Ball and Fall Ball to stay active and get better,” varsity lacrosse player Hayden Libbey said. “For Fall Ball, all the Paly players are put together on one team and we scrimmage other teams so we get an idea of how well we play together. We’ve also been doing morning workouts before school, and within the next month or two we’ll be doing after-school lifting and some skills practices.”

League rules prohibit coaches from organizing and scheduling team practices before set dates, so as not to have practices year-round. To get around these limitations, team members — typically upperclassman — organize informal practices to keep the team spirit alive in the offseason. For school players who do not participate in club sports or play on different club teams than their school teammates, these player-organized activities are opportunities to revitalize their chemistry. The activities often do not even resemble practices —they can be team meals or organized pick-up games.

“Over the summer, the majority of us were on club teams, but not all of us were on the same team,” girls varsity basketball player Skylar Burris said. “However, even when we aren’t playing basketball together, we always find time to have team nights where we all just hang out and watch movies together and get dinner and stuff.  We don’t really play any pickup games, but we start lifting and conditioning as early as we can before winter season.”

Paly sports create more than teams, they create families. Each and every team member relies on one another, and the connections made during the season do not end when the season does.

Team chemistry improves the abilities of the team and pushes them towards a higher level of performance, uniting them like nothing else can.

“It’s crazy how much we love each other, both on and off the court,” Burris said.

“They’re my best friends in off season just as much as they are during season.”

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