NORMAN — It was wet. It was cold. It was brutal.
Far from the warmth and coziness of their beds, the Oklahoma women's basketball team recently went through a rigorous training program from some Navy SEALS. The program, which isn't available to the public, was used by many Olympians to prepare them psychologically for the Olympics.
Senior Whitney Hand said they remained in the push-up position for an hour. Junior Aaryn Ellenberg said they lifted a log to their neck. They couldn't let it drop.
“I was out there watching it, and I was just glad I had a sweatshirt on,” OU women's basketball coach Sherri Coale said. “So much of it reinforced the lessons that we try to teach all the time that toughness is about a mindset.”
This year's mindset is based on the team's theme: the 12 inches in front of you.
Senior Whitney Hand said it really taught her how to be in the moment.
“If you thought ahead and you thought about how cold you were and how miserable you were and how much you just wanted to lay in your bed, then you weren't going to make it,” Hand said.
Coale saw a huge change in the team's ability to focus. She also saw a change in conditioning and what the team now considered “the hardest thing.”
“It just sort of changed their mindset and their idea of where their personal ceiling was,” Coale said.
IT'S TIME TO CAMPUS DIVE
Coale said it was important for her team to understand the culture of the campus that they represent, so she started a new adventure called Campus Dive.
The team will have four “dives” around the campus. The first was to the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, where they took a personal tour.
“There's so many fantastic things that the University of Oklahoma offers,” Coale said. “Sometimes for student-athletes ... you have so many responsibilities that sometimes you don't get outside and get the benefits of all those things that our university offers.”
Ellenberg already knew about the museum because she works in the art department but said the personal tour really gave a different look.
Hand also said she enjoy the opportunity to tour what the university offers.
“I think so much we get stuck in our own little worlds here,” Hand said.
THE NEW GUYS ARE LEARNERS
Coale learned a lot about her team in Australia. That's the bonus of having a week during the summer to play games and bond on the basketball court.
OU played four games Down Under as part of a rule that allows a team to take a trip abroad to play every four years.
Coale said there's something that a coach isn't able to tell while they're recruiting: Can the player learn?
The Sooners' three newcomers — junior college All-American Portia Durett, Iowa's Gatorade Player of the Year Maddie Manning and high school All-America team MVP Nicole Kornet — are all learners, Coale said.
“They really would take that one thing — maybe they weren't running their lane hard or maybe they weren't blocking out and move off triple penetration — and they would go back in and try to correct that and make a change,” Coale said. “All three of those guys are learners, meaning they change their behaviors, so that was huge.”
COALE ON THE NEWCOMERS
Portia Durett: “Just an explosive, relentless, offensive rebounder,” Coale said. “She can shoot. We learned in Australia she can really pass, and I didn't see that much in junior college primarily because she's the one they were trying to get to shoot all the time.
“She really has nice vision and a clever way of delivering the basketball, but her deal is she'll get a rebound.”
Maddie Manning: “She can score and she can get to the rim,” Coale said. “She has a fantastic first step. I think she's going to be a great defender because of her length, but her deal is delivering the basketball.
“She can look east and drop it down west.”
Nicole Kornet: “She scores the basketball. She puts it in the basket, and it doesn't matter if you're up by 20 and there are 15 minutes left in the game or you're down by two and it's one possession. She wants the basketball, and she knows what to do with them.”