Time Out, Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech women’s basketball is giving players the month of May off to recharge
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
There are some in college athletics that feel any way to get an edge is justified and equate the idea of pushing student-athletes further and harder with getting that edge.
Don’t count Georgia Tech women’s basketball coach MaChelle Joseph among them.
Joseph has declared an edict that has basically declared Zelnak Center and McCamish Pavilion off-limits for her team for the rest of May. She has basically put the team on leave.
“I told them, ‘I don’t care where you go but you’re not staying at Georgia Tech,” she said. “‘You need to leave for a month. You need to get away from this place and you need to go have a life. Get some rest, clear your mind, clear your head.’”
Joseph came to the realization that a break was in order following an exhausting run that saw the team make an extended run in the 2017 WNIT, reaching the championship game on April 1, then, in August, go on an 13-day tour of Italy, which included four games against various international semi-pro and professional teams, and then jump back into training preparing for the 2017-18 season, which included another WNIT run, this time reaching the third round.
All the while there was the given academic load and upholding the Georgia Tech standard.
“We’re trying to compete at the highest level, both academically and athletically, and I think sometimes our kids just get burned out, quite frankly.
“I’ve been at Georgia Tech 15 years and I feel like I’ve seen just about everything you can possibly see,” she added. “One thing I haven’t done is give them an extended period of time off, away from basketball, away from academics, away from the grind of Georgia Tech and the ACC. I think it’s really important that they have down time.”
Downtime doesn’t mean they’re free of academic responsibilities. Joseph worked with the Institute’s compliance department to help create an acceptable curriculum of courses that the team could do online, allowing them the opportunity to leave Atlanta if they so choose.
Several Jackets have. Among them are senior forward Martine Fortune and junior guard Chanin Scott, who participated in the service trip Jackets Without Borders, which is in Puerto Rico helping rebuild areas outside of San Juan.
“One of the core values of our program is to be thankful and thoughtful and so when I found out about this trip I knew that we wanted to send two of our players,” she said. “I immediately thought of Chanin because her goal in life is to travel the world and experience new cultures and different things. I thought this would be a great opportunity for her to go and not only give back and be a part of helping the hurricane victims in Puerto Rico, but also her to have a chance to grow as a person. Martine’s career goal when she came to Georgia Tech was to own or to run a non-profit organization. I thought this would be a great opportunity for her to get a feel for what that really looks like and to experience it.
“What a great thing Todd Stansbury has done, putting Jackets Without Borders together,” she added. “I think it’s amazing. I think any time you do something bigger than yourself and you’re giving back and helping other people, you help yourself. What a great opportunity for these student-athletes to get to do this.”
Junior guard Francesca Pan and sophomore forward Lorela Cubaj will use the time to go back to Italy, although it will be hard to keep them off the basketball court. Joseph doesn’t expect to, but is pleased about the court upon which they’ll be playing.
“They both are playing with the National Team so they’re going to be gone from Georgia Tech pretty much the whole summer, but it’s good for them that they get some time off and an opportunity, even take some classes online but not have to be in Atlanta,” she said. “They get to stay around their families and they get to be in Italy. Those are the things that are important to them. That’s why it’s a great opportunity.”
What the rest of the team does during the time off is up to them.
“I want them to rest. I don’t necessarily want them to be in the gym. I don’t necessarily want them lifting weights and running,” she said. “I want them to enjoy their lives and come back ready to go in June because it’s just so important for the development of the total person.”
Part of that development is their ability to self-start and test their discipline should they choose to work out.
“I want them to go this month and try to become the best players they can become without us standing over them,” Joseph said. “You’ll be able to tell when they come back in June who worked, who put the time in, who became the better player. Who’s a self-starter without a coach standing over them. So I think it’s really important that we give them the freedom and the opportunity to figure it out and not have a coach telling them what to do every day.”
Joseph and her staff won’t be sitting idly by. That’s a task that Joseph admits is hard enough for her this week during the NCAA-imposed seven-day moratorium on recruiting.
“I feel kind of lost. I feel like I’m supposed to be doing something,” she said, with a laugh. “I’m so used to the grind of taking phone calls every second that I’m in the car or thinking, ‘What’s next? What’s next?’ with recruiting.
“Obviously all my staff is going to take a vacation,” she added. “We’re going to meet and talk about player development and our offensive and defensive system and what we want our team improving moving forward. So we’re just going to sit in May and plan for June and July, our player development. Obviously, we’ll spend time recruiting but just tweaking some things offensively, defensively to get ready for the season.”
Whether this May off is part of the future is still to be determined.
“I don’t know. I’m going to see how this works out,” she said. “I kind of like it. There’s plenty of time in June to get the kids ready for the next season. I think it’s really important that they have balance and they get a chance to rest mentally, emotionally, physically.”