By JOEL COLEMAN
Starkville boys basketball coach Greg Carter is yearning for consistency from his team. Starkville Academy girls coach Glenn Schmidt wants her squad focusing entirely on bettering themselves.
Yes, even high school basketball coaches have New Year's resolutions, and with most area teams tipping off the 2011 portion of their schedules this week, now is the time to put all the personal declarations into action.
"We're getting better," said Carter, whose Yellowjackets currently sit at 10-2 and open up district play along with the Lady Jackets at home against South Panola beginning at 6 p.m. on Friday. "It seems like we just haven't found a good rhythm on offense yet, but it's coming. We didn't play very well our last game out, so we need to bounce back and be more consistent with our effort and energy level."
Schmidt, who has guided a team full of upstart underclassmen to a 12-9 start, says her Lady Volunteers have grown by leaps and bounds since the season began in late October.
With a difficult division slate ahead, beginning with a 6 p.m. game today at Heritage Academy that immediately precedes the SA boys' conference-opener, Schmidt says her girls are ready for some "solid food".
"Our goal for the rest of the year is to go into every game and play our game and execute it as well as we can," said Schmidt. "Now we're looking at some pretty tough opponents. The January part of anybody's season in the (Mississippi Association of Independent Schools) is brutal. To start with a team the quality of Heritage is tough. We can only hope that the experience we've gained over 21 games will help us out."
Outside the Starkville city limits, hope is also plentiful.
East Oktibbeha boys coach Barnett Robinson's Titans have rebounded from an early-season losing streak to post a pair of recent wins that have improved the club's current record to 3-13.
As the victories start to mount, Robinson believes the Titans' team morale should be boosted as play begins in 2011 with a 7:30 p.m. Friday home game against French Camp.
"Hopefully we can keep it up and continue to play well," said Robinson. "The team is getting excited and they see that we still have a chance in this season."
The Lady Titans also play their first game of the new year on Friday against French Camp, just prior to the boys game.
The East Oktibbeha squads were originally scheduled to host county rival West Oktibbeha today, but after the game's cancellation, the Timberwolves and Lady Timberwolves will have to wait until Friday at Tremont to begin play again.
When coach Danny Crawford's 13-5 West Oktibbeha boys get on the floor immediately following a 6 p.m. girls game, he hopes to start strong in division play.
"Everybody wants to be playing good basketball when it comes time for district play," said Crawford. "I'm looking for just an all-around game. We haven't been closing games out. We have to have the mental toughness to close games out."
As Crawford does his best to help his team hold on to leads, Ackerman boys coach Gary Beals is preaching something a little different.
For Beals, his Indians, currently 1-10, simply need to focus on improving by the day as they open up district action Friday at 7:30 p.m. at home against Williams Sullivan.
"This group has struggled," said Beals. "We struggled in football and we've struggled in (basketball). I just try to tell them that brighter days are ahead, but there can't be brighter days ahead if we don't get better each time we go out."
The Lady Indians, also coached by Beals, have shown signs of success. The Ackerman girls sit at 6-5 and also open up division play by hosting Williams Sullivan just an hour and a half before the boys on Friday.
Beals has a different set of resolutions for his Lady Indians.
"I want to see us shoot the ball a little better from the outside," said Beals. "I want to become more team-oriented. We've also got to work on our rebounding. We did a poor job of rebounding earlier I thought. We gave up too many second-chance opportunities."
Plenty of other coaches and teams get their chances to begin 2011 with a bang this week as well.
Starkville Christian's teams travel to Immanuel today and host Vine Christian on Friday.
Corey Stidham's East Webster boys and Mandy Fondren's East Webster girls will see action in the Montgomery County Tournament beginning Thursday.
Across Webster county, Curtis Ford's Eupora boys and girls host Calhoun City today before welcoming O'Bannon on Friday.
Only time will tell how long each team's New Year's decrees hold up.
"We can all go ahead and close the door on the first half of the season, take the pros and the cons from the first half and press forward knowing where we are and where we need to be," said SHS girls coach Kristie Williams.