Steamboat Springs It may be late December, but a quick look into the Kelly Meek Gymnasium tells a different story.
Players on the Steamboat Springs High School boys basketball team - ranked No. 5 in the state for Class 4A - were honing their skills with teammates and past players Friday, making the gymnasium look like the team is prepping for a summer camp.
Drills are run, weights are lifted, and it's up-and-down action on the court for several hours. But there's one catch.
There aren't any coaches.
With the Colorado High School Activities Associations mandatory 10-day break for the holidays, coaches aren't allowed to have any contact with players.
But if this Steamboat team is to reach its goals - like a deep run into the state playoffs - these player-run practices are a must.
"They've been going great," senior Connor Moore said. "We've been having the older guys come in and it's fun. I think we've all been shooting really good and playing really hard."
While the practices certainly don't have the same intensity as a regular season practice, Moore said the time in the gym is essential, especially as the Sailors prepare to open up their league schedule with four of Steamboat's first five games on the road.
"We all have a lot of determination and we want to get better," Moore said. "We play Craig (Jan. 8), so we're all practicing really hard."
The full gym was no surprise to coach Kelly Meek.
Meek, who is visiting family in Virginia, said a trademark of this team has been its passion.
"It's that passion to push yourself when you're not being watched by the coaches," Meek said. "We stress 'What are you like when we're not around?' That says a lot about you."
Meek said the passion has been passed down from group to group of Sailors basketball players throughout the decades.
Steamboat has been ranked in the top 10 at some point for 30 of the past 32 years. The Sailors have also been in the state playoffs 15 of the past 18 years, and have won 28 league, district or regional championships in that time.
"This team is passionate, but it shows the passion of our kids. It shows the consistency of our dedication," Meek said. "I believe they hand it down from one team to the other. Looking at it and saying, 'Wow, this is what they did to get here. This is what we need to do to get here.' And I feel this is one of those types of groups."
Steamboat officially returns to practice Wednesday. The team's first game after the holiday break is Jan. 8 at Moffat County High School.