The actual spring season is still a couple of months away, but as student athletes gear up to return to college campuses over the next few weeks (or longer) a lot of important things that happen now can shape the college season.
Just to give an example, Georgetown’s trip to Barcelona last spring helped spur the team towards playing a more possession-based style – and the resulting season culminated finishing as runners up to Indiana.
It won’t make or break the fall for any men’s or women’s programs, but huge strides can be made in the next few months that have the potential to leave a distinct impact on the fall season.
Here are five things most programs will look to check off in the next few months:
Replace departing pieces
This is the biggest, and most obvious challenge of them all college coaches must deal with in the coming months.
The stars of last fall who have completed eligibility are numerous – women see stalwarts Christine Nairn (Penn State), Kristen Mewis (Boston College) and Zakiya Bywaters (UCLA) graduate, while Jose Gomez (Creighton), Carlos Alvarez (Connecticut) and Dillon Powers (Notre Dame) all among those leaving.
And while some of the freshmen arrive in the spring, teams must figure out ways to cope without these four-year seniors, or in some cases, players who sign Generation adidas deals or head overseas before exhausting their eligibility.
Work on specific phases of the game
Given that the spring season presents plenty of hours to practice, and not the same helter-skelter schedule of the fall, it gives coaches a chance to work on specific phases of the game: whether that is at the back, up front or possessing the ball (to name a few), it depends on what is needed.
For example, despite making it to the College Cup, Maryland men’s side needs to tighten up at the back once again in order to have a hope at returning to the national championship.
For those youngsters relegated to supporting roles in 2012, the spring season offers opportunity. With the aforementioned departure of seniors, starting spots will be up for grabs, and the next few months are the time that returning players to prove why they deserve a chance in the first XI, or at the very least, more playing time at different spots on the field.
Transition in new freshmen/transfers
One often overlooked wrinkle in the spring season is the arrival of early enrolling freshmen. For those who have completed high school in the winter of 2012, spring means opportunity to not just get their feet wet early on, but to also have an opportunity to perhaps stand out and earn playing time from the opening game of the season, instead of waiting for the abbreviated preseason to begin. Indiana, the current men's champions, already announced a pair of players who will jump in for the spring season.
Get & stay healthy
Deciding which of these is more important is tricky, although the latter probably wins out. For players entering the spring season beat up after a long season, they will get time to recover. But avoiding any severe, long-term injuries that can impact the fall season is a must do for every program aspiring to be successful in the fall.