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Hartnett: Playoffs force new preparation

Brian Hartnett | Sunday, November 13, 2011

For any football team, from the ranks of the NFL to the local flag football league, the special portion of the season known as the playoffs creates an intensity and sense of urgency unmatched in regular season play. The winner-take-all atmosphere forces teams to take on a new focus, making them double down their efforts while keeping their emotions in check.

As part of one of the most competitive intramural sports programs in the nation, Notre Dame’s interhall football teams all know the importance of playoff games. These games carry meaning not only to individual players but also to entire dorms, as a big win can boost dorm pride. With that being said, how exactly do Notre Dame’s interhall teams prepare for a playoff game?

One answer to this question lies in a different approach to practices, normally a staple of each team’s weekly preparation. While regular season practices may focus on implementing new plays, playoff practices focus on a return to fundamentals, working to sharpen the team’s offensive and defensive skills.

“During the season, we’re trying out new things, but, at this point, practices are about honing our strengths a lot more and still working on our weaknesses,” Pasquerilla West senior captain Alison Lindeen said.

With the high stakes of a playoff game, many players take the field with built-up, raw emotions. These emotions are manifest as the game goes along, as players can experience intense swings of desperation or elation while the minutes left on their season move closer to zero. Thus, it is no surprise that many captains emphasize the importance of poise.

“It definitely gets high-strung, especially as time goes so quickly,” Howard senior captain Jenny Gassner said. “Fortunately, we’re a very close-knit team, and, more than anything, we use each other to pump each other up and feed off each other’s energy.”

After preparations for a game are done, teams can only wish for the best result and some good luck along the way. This quest for luck leads to testing out a few new traditions, hoping they will make some difference in the pursuit of victory.

Lindeen said her team has a tradition of gathering together the Saturday night before a playoff game to play a game of Catch Phrase and watch a movie.

“I think it helps to hang out with people who are also awaiting this big game,” Lindeen said.

Meanwhile, Gassner said that, before a quarterfinal game, she tried a new tradition, asking for luck from a higher power.

“Before the last game, we prayed a Hail Mary, which we hadn’t done before, and we ended up doing really well,” Gassner said. “We certainly plan on continuing that practice.”