It’s not uncommon for college teams to hold morning practices to assist athletes with class schedules. On the high school level, however, practice before the morning bell is quite rare.
Summerville High School girls basketball coach Calvin Davis considers himself someone who “thinks outside the box.” He won't get any arguments from his players.
Davis, now in his third season at Summerville, holds practice on Mondays and Thursdays at 6:45 a.m. The girls practice until 8:15 and then have 30 minutes to shower and dress before school begins. Games are played on Tuesdays and Fridays and the team has weight-lifting on Wednesday afternoons.
Davis first tried morning practices while coaching at Cross High School, where he saw positive results.
“I live in Goose Creek so I was trying to figure out a way to get home from Cross earlier to be with family and such,” he said. “We tried the practices before school and it worked out pretty well. In addition to me getting home earlier, it gave the players time after school to get their work done and get more rest at home.”
Davis didn't immediately implement morning practices when he arrived at Summerville three years ago. His first season with the Green Wave yielded just three wins. The program improved to 12 wins last season and Davis decided to try the new practice schedule this season.
He began early practices during preseason workouts. He remembers his players rolling their eyes at the thought of being in the gym by 6:45 a.m., and he was met with resistance at first.
“I tried it because volleyball was still going on and we needed to get some court time for skills and drills, so we went early morning,” Davis explained. “It was a process to get them on board and to get them to understand it would be beneficial for us as a team.”
Shelby Sanders, one of two seniors on the Green Wave roster, said she and her teammates were slow to accept the new practice schedule but the more they did it, the easier it became.
“We were all against it at first,” Sanders said. “We would be showing up in pajamas, most of us still half asleep. It’s still tough for some but personally I feel like it’s helping us grow as a team. We’re learning how to fight through things together. For me, it feels normal now.”
Sanders said she likes the trade-off of getting up earlier in the morning so she can get home from school earlier in the afternoon.
“I like being able to get home early,” she said. “I can relax, eat right and get my rest.”
Davis cites multiple benefits for the team and for the individual players.
“With after-school practices, they go all day to classes and have tests, or boyfriend problems, or whatever else goes on, then we try to get them focused for practice and it doesn’t always work,” Davis said. “I don’t think we get their best attitude or effort at four or five o’clock in the afternoon.
"With the early workouts, I see them coming in fresh and their minds are clear. They have learned to change their schedule and they are getting more sleep at night. It’s working for us.”
The results on the court cannot be argued. Summerville has already bettered last year’s season win total with a record of 14-6. Davis has several underclassmen making huge contributions, which bodes well for future success.
Sophomore guard Carya Manick is one of the underclassmen taking on a bigger role. She currently averages 8.5 points per game, and sophomore Kylie Sims is scoring 7.1 points per game. Freshmen Jasmine Grant and Terranique Polite are each averaging about 7 points and 8 rebounds, and junior Areyanna Scott is pulling down 7.7 rebounds per game.
“I still don’t want to get up so early but I can see that it is helping us as a team,” Manick says. “It is definitely better to get home earlier in the day though. My mom hates taking me so early but really it’s only two days a week. We all have adjusted to it.”
Not only is the team reporting early for practice but Davis has a group of male students that also come early to participate in live scrimmages with the girls team.
“Yep, we have five or six guys, athletes in other sports, that show up and practice against the team,” Davis said. “They are just as committed and it really helps us grow and learn to play more physical. Those guys are part of our program.”