Senior Linda Okonkowski, a captain of the swim team, described training over Christmas Break as “one of the perks of being in college ath­letics.”

Swim coach Kurt Kirner said the Hillsdale College swim team will be going to Fort Laud­erdale, Fla., from Jan. 3 to Jan. 12. In the early mornings and late evenings, the women will practice hard, but anytime in between, the ath­letes get to lay out on the beach.

“[Many schools in the GLIAC] don’t go any­where,” Okonkowski said. “They just all come back to campus and practice at their home pool.”

She described the team as “pretty for­tunate” for the trip to Florida.

During the break, she said the team focuses not only the training, but also on growing together as a team.

“We always end up being closer when we get back in January than when we left,” she said. “The training will be hard, but the team bonding – that’s the important part.”

“We’re not here in snowy Michigan,” she added. “That’s def­i­nitely a perk.”

While other Hillsdale teams do not enjoy the priv­ilege of sunny beaches, both bas­ketball teams agreed that training over Christmas break is a pos­itive expe­rience.

Women’s bas­ketball coach Claudette Charney described the training as a break that allows the stu­dents to focus on prac­ticing their sport. She also said that it’s good for the coaches.

“We have more time to care for them as an athlete,” she said.

Charney empha­sized the time required to improve in college ath­letics. This time set aside for practice during Christmas break, he said, allows the girls to invest in their sport.

Men’s bas­ketball coach John Tharp explained that ath­letes cannot practice during the entire break, however, and must get time off from Dec. 20 to Dec. 26.

“It’s a great rule,” he said, because it gives time for the coaches and stu­dents to cel­e­brate Christmas at home with their fam­ilies.

The men will play their last game on Sat­urday, Dec. 17, then stay in Hillsdale until Dec. 20.  They return to campus on Dec. 27 when they will play in a tour­nament on Dec. 30 and 31.

“It’s a nice time to grow,” said junior Lea Jones, one of the four women’s bas­ketball cap­tains.

Stephanie Schell, assistant women’s coach, laid out the Christmas break training routine:

“Team practice in the morning, indi­vidual in the afternoon.”

She described the prac­tices as hard.

“We just had Christmas, so we’re all in Christmas mode,” she said. “We wouldn’t be able to do it without our team. We get through it together.”

Tharp aims to make it a gen­erally enriching expe­rience.

“We use that time for not only the bas­ketball part of it, but we hope to give back to the com­munity and to make sure our guys meet a variety of dif­ferent people,” he said.

In addition to practice and team bonding, they plan to serve in the com­munity and bring in “a variety of guest speakers,” such as busi­nessmen.

Without anyone else on campus, Tharp said, the team becomes dis­couraged and over­worked. He described the prac­tices as “an incredible grind.” Because of this, he said he wants to add in some other expe­ri­ences.

“You’re trying to gear them up to hit their stride spring semester,” he said. “It’s a balance.”