The clock is ticking — we’re less than two days away from the 2016 Olympic Opening Ceremony, and less than four days away from the U.S. Women’s first game against Senegal.
How are the 12 players spending the next four days?
They’re definitely not spending all 96 hours in the gym, that’s for sure. We asked the USAB Women what has to get done before they step on the world stage on August 7th, and here were the items on their pre-Senegal checklist:
Build (Even More) Chemistry
The USA team may have defeated their competition in all four of their exhibition games, but that doesn’t change the fact that before July the 12 Americans had never played as a group. So it’s no surprise that one of the major to-do’s before Sunday is to develop team chemistry. As Breanna Stewart described, other teams competing in the Olympics have been playing for “months on months on months together.” That’s why the star rookie believes it’s crucial for the U.S. players, who have only played as a team for roughly a week, to continue “building chemistry and camaraderie.”
Guard Lindsay Whalen added that each U.S. player is learning to find her own rhythm to help the team. “I think we’ve played well, and we’ve played well together,” Whalen said after USA defeated Australia, 104-89, in itslast exhibition game. “We’ve had some times when we haven’t [played well together], but we’ve figured it out as we’ve gone on.”
Watch Tape of Team Senegal
Before USA’s first game on Sunday (August 7th), the team has practices every day. Learning more about their first opponent will definitely be a part of their preparation. “We’ll jump in there [practices], look at the recording, see what Senegal does, see how we can take some things away,” guard/forward Seimone Augustus explained.
Team Senegal’s roster shouldn’t pose a major threat to the U.S., but it does feature forward Aya Traore, AfroBasket Women’s MVP in 2009 and 2015. Traore’s versatility could provide a challenge for the U.S., as she is both accurate from the perimeter and strong in the paint.
Relax and Recharge
Preparation for the first game doesn’t only happen on the court and in practices. While practices are crucial, Maya Moore and Angel McCoughtry said that relaxation is an integral part of getting ready for the two weeks of games. “I just want to continue to get rest, be very efficient with my nutrition, find some moments to decompress,” Moore explained. Considering that the U.S. Women’s National Team will play one game every two days from August 7th to August 20th (if they make the finals), it makes sense that staying rested and healthy is at the top of Moore’s priority list.
Relaxation is equally important to McCoughtry. “What I do is, I just meditate. I pray, listen to a little bit of music, then I’m ready to go out there and play,” the Atlana Dream forward shared. Moore and McCoughtry’s words show that getting ready for Sunday’s game extends far beyond what happens in the gym.
Focus, Focus, Focus
Finally, although the U.S. is the clear favorite for gold, the next two weeks will be no easy walk in the park. “Knowing that any team we play, they’re going to want to beat USA, it’s going to be a tough task for what we want to do,” Breanna Stewart explained. That’s why it’s important to stay focused on the goal. When asked about how she’s going to mentally prepare for the games, Seimone Augustus said, “Just got to focus on what’s necessary. We’re trying to win these games so that we can bring home the gold medal.”
With the right type of focus, there’s a good chance the U.S. team will be awarded their sixth consecutive medal after the finals on August 20th.