It's a bit of a strange time of year for me, to be honest. First of all, I actually have a reading break -- for those who are not aware, this is the first reading break SFU has had in a number of years (the Olympics was a trial run) -- but now that I have one, it feels particularly strange. You know, because I'm actually using it to read.
You see, even when the Olympics were going on, I was spending the majority of my time holed up on campus, pounding out reps in the weight room, pounding the hardwood in the gym, or getting pounded on by an unfailingly sadistic physiotherapist (I loved those guys, but believe me: they call it rolfing for a reason. You really do want to ralph part-way through). This year, I sit curled up in a pile of cushions and papers, studying "the gendered discrepancy of physical self-maintenance" and "profit and loss acquisitions of adult contemporary novels". Last year, I was working so hard at basketball (while still trying to manage midterms), that my mental capacity by the middle of it was about as deep and riveting as this guy. This year? The true logophile is coming out (and it feels so right, and so wrong, at the exact same time).
It is memories like those of my glory years (man I'm old... just saying that makes me feel geriatric) that make me realize just what a tough road the rest of the teams are going through right now. I'm not sure if East and West (or even UBC and SFU) reading weeks line up, but I do know this: reading week or no, not one of those girls -- on any of those teams -- will be spending much time doing anything other than practicing, studying, and generally wishing she could curl up in a ball and sleep for days. In fact, with stresses like these, I'm surprised that -- relatively fluid though the positions have been -- so much of the Top 10 rankings has remained consistent throughout these past few weeks. Saskatchewan, for example, has held on to the top spot for the fourth week in a row (with help from a high scoring... well, at least one night's high-scoring sweep of Regina this past weekend), and only one position changed among the next 8 teams (although after 3 weeks, and despite sweeping the Calgary Dinos, Alberta finally fell from 7th place all the way off the charts to make room for newbie McGill).
I'm interested to see, though, how these final few games shape up. Assuming (and I will assume -- caution be damned!) that all reading weeks are about the same time (i.e. now), one can expect the teams and their respective members to be dealing with the following frustrations:
Altered practice times. For us (during my sole reading-break-ish basketball year), our practices were either first thing in the morning (to prevent us 'over-celebrating' or staying out too late at an Olympic event or party the previous night) or the early evening/late afternoon (to prevent us being able to go to afternoon and evening events and therefore keep us focused). While it was incredibly exasperating, I do (groan, groan) see the point: now is as much the prime time for distraction as it is for teams to focus solely (or at least near-solely) on playoffs, and so modified practices on our team helped maintain that. In the case of other squads? It's likely to work around extra workouts, extra physio, and extra rest time -- the last thing anyone needs right now is a swath of injuries this close to the playoffs.
...which brings me to the second (likely) scenario: teams will be dealing with more injuries. Not necessarily major ones (I don't mean to imply, or gawd forbid jinx, blown knees or broken bones or anything of the like to anyone -- touch wood), but the minor ones will be piling up: rolled ankles, black eyes, shin splints, back pain (oh, bane of my existence), etc. A lot of time now (I'll put money on it) is being spent rehabbing minor injuries, especially to the 30-ish-or-more-minute-ers. They're doing a heck of a lot of work, and to put it in simple terms, their bodies are simply beginning to wear down.
And the final likely scenario? Trick plays. This could mean new defenses, offenses, or inbounds; they could be borrowed from other teams, made up on the spot, or intended for specific clock scenarios; they could be run-and-gun quick scores, intense trapping presses, or wonky zones. Honestly? Who knows (I certainly don't). But what I do know, ladies and gents, is that any good coach -- and therefore any good team -- has spent the year not only scouting regional competition, but that of potential national tournament matchups as well (as has their opposition done to them). Now, therefore, is the time for teams to throw in something extra (key: that they have never used in league before, and therefore cannot be scouted) to use against a specific team at the tournament or just throw in for good measure when they need it.
Long story short? Playoff spots are being solidified, the Bronze Baby is gleaming just over the horizon, and people are starting to get desperate. Anything goes at this point; as for what that 'anything' is, it still remains to be seen.