By Jared Grellet
Mentally and physically, nine games of basketball in 11 days is a demanding schedule for even the most seasoned of basketball players. For participants at the Dadu U16 European Championship Men, it is a whole new experience.
|Germany coaches Marvin Willoughby and Harald Stein know all too well that talent alone is not enough in modern sport|
For the majority of the youngsters appearing in Lithuania and Latvia, the Dadu U16 European Championship marks the first time in which they have played in a major tournament and encountered such a demanding schedule.
With this in mind and the tournament approaching its' business end, it is of little surprise to see some players sitting out games and the majority of teams opting to use a heavy rotation involving all seven bench players.
As well as playing one game a day, all teams are continuing to run drills on game-day morning, requiring careful management from the team staff to keep their players performing at optimum level.
One team paying particular focus to player conservation are the Germans.
"It's tough on their bodies and their heads," German assistant coach Marvin Willoughby told fibaeurope.com, adding, "it is nine games in 11 days. They have never done anything so hard because the physical and mental fatigue that comes in is something that they have never experienced so we have to prepare and be ready for that."
That starts with teaching the players correct eating habits and post-game rehabilitation. Germany has been fortunate in Panevezys, with their hotel also including a swimming pool which has played a major role in keeping the players refreshed. Whilst not restricting what their players eat, the team have been educated on watching their own diets.
When it comes to monitoring the players, Willoughby, who is a former German national team player from the Nowitzki generation, explains that there are some advantages to working with such a young group of players.
"Luckily they are not going out like professional players and partying afterwards. They stay home and we try and explain to them the importance of regenerating."
It has been important for the German team to select a team that buys into the environment that they are trying to create. This starts in the classroom back in Germany. If a player is not performing at school, they will not be considered for national team selection.
"In the '94 age group we left two starting guards at home because if you don't care in school you don't care in basketball and sooner or later you also do not care about the regeneration and healthy eating," says Willoughby. "We talk to them and try to explain these things because we do not want to be too strict, but it is necessary in order to get through a tournament like this."
So far Germany's investment in player welfare away from the court has been paying benefits with the team safely making it into the quarter-finals with a game to spare.
Now that they have achieved their aim of making the quarters, Harald Stein's men take on Turkey on Friday in the third game of the day.