Preparation Time Is Precious For USA Women's National Team
The lack of training time has not been used as an excuse by the USA Basketball Women’s National Team. It is a subject that has been well documented. Three-time Olympic gold medalist Sue Bird said that this is something the team does not shy away from.
While international teams spend months together, the U.S. spends weeks together preparing for the Olympic Games. Players have overseas commitments. There are commitments to playing in the WNBA, too.
With this in mind, each player and each member of the USA coaching staff fully understands that when training camp gets underway the time they do have together needs to be maximized.
The U.S. will hold a total of eight practices and play four exhibition games before beginning its quest for a sixth-straight Olympic gold medal in Rio. This week the team faces a crucial stretch in its preparation as it will compete against Australia, Canada and France in exhibition games in three different cities along the East Coast.
“Every single day, every single practice, every single shootaround is important, because we need to get our schemes in,” Bird said. “We need to understand what we’re doing offensively, what we’re doing defensively and how we want to play. And we just don’t have the time to mess around. We’ve got to take every day seriously. Enjoy the trip. We definitely want to enjoy the trip at the same time. But we know we’re here for one reason and it’s to win a gold medal.”
The U.S. was challenged in an 88-84 win over the USA Select Team in its exhibition opener Monday at USC’s Galen Arena in Los Angeles.
The challenges are expected to continue with Australia (No. 2), France (No. 4) and Canada (No. 9) listed among the top nine teams in the most recent FIBA World Rankings and finishing among the top five at the 2014 FIBA World Championship.
The USA defeated Canada in the quarterfinals in London in 2012 before earning wins over Australia in the semifinals and previously undefeated France in the gold medal game. France did earn a 76-73 win over the U.S. in France prior to the start of the World Championship in 2014.
“We need those games right now, because we have to get good and we have to get good in a hurry,” USA coach Geno Auriemma said. “We’re going to be challenged, which is good. And we don’t have a lot of time and all three of the teams are three of the top five teams in the world. So even though they’re games that don’t really mean a lot, they mean a lot to us. Win or lose really doesn’t matter. I’m just really looking forward to it to see where we are.”
The U.S will meet France tonight at the University of Delaware’s Bob Carpenter Center at 7:30 p.m. (all times listed are EDT). Australia and Canada will face off at 5 p.m.
The USA will practice in New York Thursday before playing Canada at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn. Friday at 7 p.m. Australia and France will open the doubleheader at 4:30 p.m.
Following another practice session in New York Saturday, the U.S. will conclude its exhibition schedule against Australia at Madison Square Garden at 4 p.m. Canada and France play at 1:30 p.m.
“Each day is a new chance to work, a new chance to get better, a chance to work hard,” USA guard Lindsay Whalen said. “They’re some great teams. Those are really tough teams, and they make great plays and they work really hard. They’ve had a lot of time together to work. They’ll be playing as a team. So we have to make sure that we’re coming out every night with high expectations in mind and go out and try to execute the game plan as best as we can.”
Said Bird: “Anything can happen in these games, and we want anything to happen. We want to see what we’re up against and what we’re going to need to learn and work on, because this is a crash course for us. We’re just trying to put it all together in a short period of time.”
The USA will travel to Houston for a final practice Aug. 2 before heading to Rio. It will open preliminary round play in Group B against Senegal August 7.