By Zach Selby
April is an important month for Jewish athletes across the country. It’s the month they step onto the court at this university to represent their school in the National Hillel Basketball Tournament.
The organization’s annual tournament is still months away, but that hasn’t stopped students at this university from staying in shape and preparing for what is to come.
Since the 2017 tournament ended six months ago, athletes from the university’s four teams have been hard at work getting ready for the upcoming weekend-long tournament. They all have different methods, but the goal of getting in the best possible shape remains the priority.
“The most important part is just keeping up your stamina and staying fit,” said junior neurophysiology major Ariel Peritt. “Because if you wait until the last month, even if you workout every day, you’ll have trouble on the court.”
Although many athletes who participate in NHBT have a relaxed workout routine, the importance of maintaining themselves when they aren’t playing remains. Those workouts can involve lifting weights, cardio and core work.
That work is important, because the amount of games can add up quickly. Last year, the girls’ team at this university played five games in two days, said Hannah Warshawsky, a senior animal science major.
“We’re so exhausted by the end,” Warshawsky, said of the tournament. “We were so beat. But it’s a lot of fun and adrenaline helps you through it.”
For Warshawsky, who has played for three years and was a captain in 2017, a lot of her offseason work comes in the form of cardio. She has a three-mile loop that she runs around campus, and she recently picked up rock climbing.
“I really like to run outside,” she said. “I also do core workouts in my room.”
Pickup basketball games are another way players stay in shape.
Chemistry with other players is also built between tournaments. Zach Wohlberg, a junior finance major, said building that relationship is an essential point of emphasis in the offseason.
“We’re always trying to build chemistry,” said Wohlberg, who has been playing in NHBT for two years. “We know how each other plays and we’re comfortable with each other’s game. It’s definitely important.”
Wohlberg tries to start every workout with some cardio, but he also plays some form of basketball year-round, just to keep up with the physical demand of the sport.
“It’s a lot of basketball,” he said. “I play a lot of pickup games and intramurals. But I play throughout the year.”
Warshawsky echoed that statement, saying it is important to trust your teammates.
“I was very adamant last year that there should be team practices,” she said. “I tried to organize a couple, and we had a few [before the tournament]. You have to play with each other. You have to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. You can’t make a pass if you don’t know if your teammate is going to be there. Regardless of how good each player is, it’s more important that you have a rapport with your team.”
When playing as many as nine games in the men’s bracket and about eight games in the women’s bracket, building stamina becomes a significant training exercise, Peritt said. That involves getting to the gym as much as possible, and it can make a difference during points of a game.
“There are some games where we won’t have that many subs,” Peritt said. “So we have to stay in the full time.”
To achieve this, Peritt’s workout routine doesn’t involve anything special, she said. She usually starts out on a treadmill, but she also gets on a stair stepper if she can manage it. She also spends time using a stationary bike to help with cardio.
While she’s running on the treadmill or using the stationary bike, Peritt also increases the speed and duration of the time she uses those machines. Peritt believes that will affect the upcoming tournament in April.
“It’s really going to be a game changer,” she said.
Regardless of how NHBT athletes train in between tournaments, the most important aspect is to stay in shape. So, when April does come, they will be ready to represent their school.
“You need to get into a routine and stick with it,” Wohlberg said. “You need to focus on consistency and not getting too lazy. So when it comes to the season time, you’re really in shape.”