Leonard recaps season at ELC Girls Basketball Banquet
After the Estherville Lincoln Central Girls Basketball Team’s Class 2A runner-up finish, coach Brad Leonard was inundated with calls from other coaches on his team’s defense.
“I probably got calls from 30 coaches asking, ‘what are you doing and how are you doing it?'” Leonard told the players and parents at the team’s annual banquet on Monday.
Leonard said there’s no secret, just hard work and commitment.
“It’s not easy,” he said. “We play defense 45 minutes to an hour every practice. There probably aren’t 10 other teams that plays as much defense as we do.”
But the Midgettes didn’t start the season that way.
After losing the first three games of the season, Leonard said he was questioning what he was doing and sought some advice.
One of those he went to was Don Menke, a long-time softball coach in Estherville.
Leonard recounted the conversation.
“What are you good at?” Menke asked.
“We aren’t good at anything,” responded Leonard.
“Find something to be good at,” Menke said.
Leonard said after that conversation, he and assistant coach Anne Fiene decided the team would work on defense.
“We got back to some stuff that you teach in fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grades and the kids did a great job of buying into it,” Leonard said.
A second suggestion came from Fiene, who told Leonard he was too nice to the players.
“I like them too much,” Leonard said. “They’re likeable kids.”
The change in the players came after the first half of the Western Christian game.
“The kids had had enough,” Leonard said. “They like to compete and our practices were very competitive.”
As the tournament came around, Leonard said the players “just believe. There’s never a doubt that they’d win.”
At the state tournament, Leonard heard several comments about his players not being nervous.
Prior to the tournament, Leonard said there are probably five teams just happy to be in the tournament while there are two or three others that were going for the championship.
“I thought our kids went down to win and it showed,” Leonard said.
Leonard said while he and coach Fiene felt good about where the team is now, the team can’t rest in the offseason.
“If we’re (only) as good next year as we are now, we won’t make the state tournament,” Leonard said. “We need to finish around the basket better and make our free throws. “We haven’t made it yet and we have things we’ve got to work on to make it.”
At the conclusion of the evening, Leonard discussed offseason workouts, camps and other opportunities.
“We still want the players to have fun during the offseason-we don’t want to take away their spirit for the game,” Leonard said.