Basketball, hockey teams look to stay in shape

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— If any coach knows the key to keeping players in shape over the holiday break, it's Steamboat Springs boys basketball coach Kelly Meek.

But, Meek and other prep coaches have little control over that key. The veteran coach said responsibility for staying fit over the holidays comes down to the players.

As part of Colorado High School Activities Association rules, coaches can't have contact with their players from Dec. 24 through Jan. 1.

"It's definitely a concern," Meek said about his players staying in shape. "It all comes down to self-discipline. They have to respect the team and have to take it upon themselves."

But staying in shape isn't Meek's only concern for his team. After winning their pool in last week's tournament in Wyoming, the Sailors now are taking a break right when they're starting to hit their stride.

"In Wyoming we played well," he said. "We were mentally and physically tougher. We committed to defense."

To keep that momentum, Meek said the Sailors packed as much as they could into the past week's practice. The Sailors play five games in eight days when they return from the break, and Meek said it will be important for players to attend the optional open gyms starting Tuesday.

"It all comes down to the players disciplining themselves," Meek said.

Steamboat girls basketball coach John Ameen and hockey coach Jeff Ruff said that although they're concerned with players staying in shape over the break, they're more concerned with carrying over the momentum built up during the first parts of their seasons.

Ameen, whose girls played in three preseason tournaments and are 0-7 heading into the break, said his team has made significant progress. The week of practice before Christmas allowed the Sailors to look at some of their deficiencies.

"This week always serves as a catch-22 for me," Ameen said. "This week always serves as me going home to be with my family, but having practice would also be good."

Like the boys team, the Sailors girls will have only three practices before they resume play Jan. 5 against Rifle.

"With open gyms, it will keep them in the gym, keep their skills up and keep them running," Ameen said. "But it would be nice to work on everything that we've worked for up to this point, as far as the system goes."

Maybe the coach with the most concern is Ruff, whose hockey team takes a 4-0-1 record and No. 2 ranking in the state into the break.

The Sailors were supposed to play Friday against Kent Denver, but last week's blizzard canceled the game.

Ruff said some of the parents of players stepped up and reserved some ice time and will hold informal practices at Howelsen Ice Arena on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

But because hockey is a game of tempo, Ruff said his biggest worry is getting the chemistry in his lines back.

"We're confident that our guys are all in this together," he said. "That the communication level is high enough they'll stay in shape : we told them, 'Enjoy yourselves, but after that big Christmas dinner, let's get into the gym.'"

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