SHE’S one of the superstars of the WNBL – a two-time champion with the Bendigo Bank Spirit who has become one of this city’s most recognisable sporting faces.
She’s Kelsey Griffin, whose deeds on the basketball court that include two grand final MVPs have made regular headlines since she joined the Spirit four seasons ago.
Luke West spent five days with Griffin to learn how one of the WNBL’s elite players prepares Monday to Friday for battle.
What emerged was a week of early starts, late finishes and plenty of coaching.
MONDAY (October 24):
With a weary body on the back of a weekend double against Sydney Uni on Friday night and Melbourne on Sunday afternoon, there’s no time to dwell on a pair of Spirit losses as Griffin’s week starts at Bendigo South East College at 9am with the Athlete Development Program (ADP).
Griffin is an ADP coach and today’s session from 9am to 11am focuses on strength and conditioning with Year 8 students.
“I absolutely love it and it’s great to be part of. The program is giving the kids all the tools to be successful in their sport,” says Griffin, who is involved for the first year.
Griffin’s attention soon shifts back to the Spirit with a 40-minute physio session at Fusion Physiotherapy to help relieve her body of the aches and pains from the weekend, including dry needling of her hip flexor, calves and quads, before an individual video session with coach Simon Pritchard.
The final quarter of Friday night’s frustrating 74-69 home loss to the Flames – a game the Spirit blew a 14-point lead in – is the main focus of the video analysis.
“It’s definitely not a lot of fun looking at all the ways you could have won a game, but instead lost it,” Griffin says.
Then it’s back to BSE for more strength and conditioning coaching with the ADP from 1.30pm to 3.30pm, this time with Year 9 students, before a chance for some downtime ahead of Spirit training at Weeroona College at 6.45pm for a session that lasts almost two-and-a-half hours.
TUESDAY (October 25):
Early 6.45am start at BSE to work with the basketball group as part of the ADP, with today’s session focusing on breaking down the strategy known as Flex Offense.
By her own admission, Griffin says she can at times be too impatient in her coaching approach.
“Some of the things that really grind my gears are students not paying attention and poor work-rate… if a training session starts with a lack of intensity it’s probably going to turn into more of a fitness session than a basketball session,” Griffin says.
The session runs until 8.20am before it’s off to an individual training session from 9am to 10.15am with coach Pritchard at the Bendigo Stadium.
“Simon always mixes and matches the individual sessions and makes them really challenging, which I enjoy,” Griffin says.
After a bite to eat and freshen up, it’s back out to BSE for a strength and conditioning class at BSE with the ADP, followed by a meeting with the OTIS Foundation, which will be the game night sponsor of the Spirit’s Saturday night home clash with the Townsville Fire on November 12.
“We’ve got some exciting things in the pipeline with our pink uniforms and some awareness we want to do in regards to who OTIS is and what they are about with that game,” says Griffin, who is an ambassador for the OTIS Foundation, which provides retreat accommodation for those living with the challenges of breast cancer.
More strength and conditioning coaching follows at BSE for two hours from 1.30pm, before its out to the Bendigo Stadium for a team video session reviewing Sunday’s loss to the Melbourne Boomers – a road game the Spirit surrendered and lost by four after leading by as many as 17 points.
Following 30 minutes of review, it’s onto the court for two hours of training with a focus on pressure-release in a session where “we clocked up plenty of kms”.
But the night still isn’t over, with Griffin then part of the weekly leadership meeting for 45 minutes with the coaching staff and team-mate Kerryn Harrington.
“The leadership meetings are to talk about any issues, what’s working and not working on the court… it’s a chance to talk in a relaxed environment without putting Simon on the spot during training,” Griffin says.
At 9.20pm it’s in the car and headed for home and a well-earned rest.
WEDNESDAY (October 26):
A more relaxing day given it’s Bendigo Cup day and there’s no coaching commitments at BSE or Spirit training.
There’s still a basketball focus for Griffin, who coaches two individual sessions with young players at the Bendigo Stadium, including one at 7am, and one with a group of youngsters won through a silent auction.
But the main focus of today is relaxation – and that’s done by enjoying Netflix.
On the advice from team-mate Gabe Richards, Griffin has started binge watching the series Stranger Things to switch off.
“I don’t mind a bit of sci-fi, so it’s got me hooked,” Griffin says.
THURSDAY (October 27):
Similar morning to Tuesday with a 6.45am training session for the ADP basketball group at BSE. The focus of today’s 90-minute session is on shooting.
“We got a lot of shots up… a bunch of different shooting drills and different kinds of finishes,” Griffin says.
From 9.10am to 12.50pm is more coaching with the ADP – this time two strength and conditioning sessions, before it’s home for lunch, some down time and then off to Girton Grammar for more coaching from 3.45pm to 5.15pm.
“The Spirit has partnered up with Girton, so we coach both their after-school and before-school basketball program.”
From Girton it’s off to the Bendigo Stadium for Spirit training, which starts with another video session – this time in preparation for Friday’s game against Dandenong.
The Spirit have already played the Rangers once – a 59-44 win on October 15 – with that game, the good and bad, dissected.
Then it’s time again to hit the court, but before Griffin starts training she has a promo photo shoot to do kitted out in the Spirit’s pink uniform ahead of the November 12 OTIS Foundation game against Townsville.
With the photo shoot done followed by a training session that runs until 8.15pm, there’s more preparation for the Rangers’ game with a 30-minute team meeting.
The meeting hones in on three focus points the Spirit need to do well as a team to bounce back from last weekend, while every player must also identify three ways in which they can contribute individually.
Griffin plans to trust her team-mates more on defence and “not try to do everybody else’s job”, stay between her likely opponent Sara Blicavs and the basket and make sure from the outside Blicavs is shooting over a contested hand all night, and get more ball into the high post as part of the offence.
A 10-minute ice-bath rounds out the day.
FRIDAY (October 28):
Game day starts with a 60-minute shootaround with team-mate Molly Matthews and coach Pritchard from 9am.
Then it’s into media mode as part of the Spirit’s weekly segment on radio station 101.5 Fresh FM discussing the previous week’s capitulations against Sydney Uni and Melbourne, before looking ahead to the upcoming weekend double against Dandenong and Townsville on Sunday.
Finally at 2.30pm it’s on the road down the Calder to the Dandenong Stadium for the clash with the Rangers at 7.30pm when it’s hoped all the training, video sessions and meetings during the week will pay off.
And they did – the Spirit won a shootout 95-84, with Griffin contributing 16 points, three rebounds and two assists.