The Sparks boys basketball team has been finding that out the hard way.
The latest adversity has taken the form of a three-week layoff from game action.
Sparks missed out on two games when its Rail City Classic tournament was canceled the final two days due to the weather. The Railroaders have not played since they hosted a non-league game versus Portola on Dec. 14 and their next scheduled game is Tuesday at home against Dayton.
In the meantime, the reigning 3A state champions are just trying to make the best of a tough situation.
“It’s really hard to have three weeks off without any games. It’s really hard to keep the kids’ concentration,” Sparks co-head coach Mike Jones said. “It really is a disadvantage. We were looking forward to having two weeks, so we could put in certain things we normally put in at this time of the year like special plays and more out of bounds plays. We like having two weeks off. That third week throws everything out of sync. It almost makes it counter-productive.”
With the extra long hiatus between games, Jones starts to notice the end of lines during drills gets a little too chatty. In order to maintain the focus during this three-week period, Jones has tried to sprinkle in some fun competition days and keep the drills less intense. Most importantly, the team scrimmages more and Jones said with the depth of the squad this year, scrimmages are competitive and productive.
There’s not much else Jones can do though. Sparks has tried to add some games over the break to no avail.
Luckily, Jones has also been blessed with strong team leaders to help keep the players in line and motivated.
Martin Jordan, one of five seniors on the team, has been trying to maintain the team’s focus.
“It’s hard to stay focused because there are so many distractions,” Jordan said. “Us seniors try to keep our team on track and get them to work harder.”
That’s not the only adversity the team has faced this year though. Coach Dick Lee is still away from the team while he awaits a decision on whether he will be re-instated at Sparks High due to an altercation with a student.
Luckily, Sparks has a more-than-capable coach in Jones.
“I approach it the same way as if Dick was here. It really hurts not having another coach because the lines are longer and it takes longer to get through a drill,” Jones said. “When you have a second coach, you’re taking half the kids and get through drills very quickly. As far as coaching, Dick and I have the same philosophy. I like feel like I know exactly how he wants things done. I coach like he’s going to be back tomorrow. Everyday I think he’s coming back tomorrow.”
One thing for certain is with the long layoff, the Maroon and Gold will be biting at the bit when that game on Jan. 4 comes around.
“Opening Night is Tuesday. We’re really excited. We’re getting ready to go undefeated again,” junior starter Erik Garcia said.