Tigers Feel the Heat


Coach Gaier huddles with his teammates after taking a strong lead in the game on Dec 10. The Tigers won against La Crescent 73-70. Photo contributed by Lauren Helstad

Coach Gaier huddles with his teammates after taking a strong lead in the game on Dec 10. The Tigers won against La Crescent 73-70. Photo contributed by Lauren Helstad
Coach Gaier huddles with his teammates after taking a strong lead in the game on Dec 10. The Tigers won against La Crescent 73-70.
Photo contributed by Lauren Helstad

After defeating Tomah in the first home game of the season, the basketball team was at home again in a disappointing loss against West Salem. Some of the players have been hard on themselves, but were more determined than ever to come back and defeat La Crescent on Dec. 10. They pushed their way to a nail-biting finish at 73-70, Tigers for the win.

This conflict and drama is always present. The thing about sports is that there’s always pressure. Pressure is something that we deal with daily and we learn to live with. However, as many high school athletes would agree, pressure will either make you better or it will make you crack.

The La Crescent game had the spectators on the edge of the bleachers, and more towards the end, standing on their feet to cheer on the team. Every missed shot gained an ‘oooooh’ and every made shot earned an eruption of cheer from the supportive fans.

This high pressure game could not only be felt from Coach Gaier, who paced back and forth on the court as the clock ticked down, but also from the players who were quick to celebrate every shot and kick themselves whenever they missed.

As younger players start to move up, this pressure slowly boils as they see their chances to get on varsity just a little bit closer.

You would hope that all of the players on jv and c-team basketball aspire to be on varsity one day. However, the players know that the glory of being on varsity doesn’t come without struggles. Those that want to reach the level that they want must work hard throughout their entire high school basketball career.

“What do I think it would take? Probably just a lot of hard work. Just coming to practice each day and giving the coaches full attention and effort, and knowing in my head that if I do want to achieve that level of play, then it’s going to be hard, and just acknowledging that,” said freshman Nic Greenlaw.

Greenlaw, like many, has been in the basketball program for a substantial amount of time. He hopes that one day all of that hard work will pay off.

“I actually started when I was in, like fourth grade. That was when I started playing competitively, but, I don’t know, like since second grade I could say that I’ve been like dribbling and messing around,” said Greenlaw.

This pressure doesn’t stop if you have the skill to get on varsity, however. Senior small forward Brian Gulbronson believes that the pressures that come along with basketball depend on the level at which you play.

“We have to play at a higher level day in and day out. The five that start everyday have put in the work, and the coach believes in us. Not only does he believe in us, but he also believes in the players coming off the bench,” said Gulbronson.

You could see Gulbronson’s hard work and determination pay off after he made some impressive steals and some hugely impactful 2-pointers that had the crowd jumping. However, Gulbronson has a unique pressure all his own that he said he has to overcome every time he steps out on the court.

“I made the switch from hockey to basketball, and I’m in the starting line up. I know there is some people who don’t believe in me that I can play basketball, so I want to prove them wrong and if things don’t go the right way during a game, that could put additional pressure on me,” said Gulbronson. “I know that some people don’t want me to succeed, and I try not to let that bother me.”

Though you sometimes see parents or coaches yelling at their children during play, it seems that the players pressure themselves more than anyone else. It also seems that even lower-level team players feel the pressure mount in their games.

“Every game I try to set myself in a goal and I feel pressured by myself to meet those goals,” said Greenlaw.

You think of the worst possible outcome to a situation when you’re scared or nervous. Earlier in the season, the pressure showed in the first major game of the season against Wisconsin Dells when the Tigers fell just shy of a victory.

“I feel pressure that I have to play at the top of my game every time that I am on the court,” said Gulbronson. “So I continue to work on my game every day.”

Thinking of the worst possible outcome has even BRF’s talented players admittedly a little nervous when it comes game day. The players were put into a stressful situation against La Crescent at home, where they had just lost to West Salem a week prior.

“[It’s] the pressure of losing, and letting your teammates [down],” said sophomore starting point guard Jack Roou.

Though Roou is afraid of losing or letting his teammates down, he says he actually enjoys the pressure. This was evident in the two free throws he made against La Crescent to almost secure a win in the final ‘make-it-or-break-it’ seconds of the game.

“I like the pressure actually for whatever reason! When the big lights come on, my teammates are ready to roll,” said Roou.

Junior Matt LaFaunge, shooting guard, finds that the crowd pressure seems to get to him the most. Lately, he seems to be doing an astounding job at handling this pressure by limiting the number of mistakes at high-pressure moments in a game.

“I don’t know if you would really call them ‘pressures,’ but you definitely get those pre-game jitters. You get that feeling before a game because you want to perform well when there is a big crowd,” said LaFaunge. “I don’t worry about messing up. Everyone makes mistakes. I just try and go 100 percent all the time and show complete effort. That takes the pressure off the game, and your mind off the stress. I just try to stay relaxed. It is better to make a mistake going 100 percent than giving half effort.”

You can expect LaFaunge to become an impactful player as he grows more consistent and comfortable on the court. This is going to be important as the season kicks into full gear to see which team handles pressure more level-headedly.

Another type of pressure mainly comes from the bench. Not only whether or not the players get to play, but also how they will do when they get on the court. After junior Kenneth Greengrass was taken out of the game after an injury, junior Jeremy Ekern stayed in most of the game to assist in the Tiger’s victory. He had a lot of pressure stepping out on the court, but prevailed and did very well in the game. Ekern frequently passed the ball to Roou whenever he got the chance showing that he is a strong player on defense.

Junior Eli Parker, a fan favorite, also came up with some impressive 2-pointers and steals that shattered La Crescent’s chance at victory and maybe even shattered their pride.

So though even the most skilled players feel the heat, there are a variety of ways that the players reduce their stress before, or during, a big game. Even the less advanced players deal with stress in their own way. The most common is listening to some music and interacting with their teammates.

“I think you have to go into each game, and sport, and season, with a drive to win,” said Greenlaw.

Greenlaw uses a mental and very internal approach to dealing with stress. Gulbronson, on the other hand, has his own method for dealing with the constant battery of pressure.

“Some things that I do to deal with the pressure is to practice more. I am always at the gym working on my basketball game, whether it be from ball handling to shooting the ball. There is always room to improve on your skills and that’s what I try to do every single day,” said Gulbronson.

Gulbronson takes a physical approach to dealing with stress hours, or even days, before game day. It is Roou that takes a very selfless approach to dealing with ‘pre-game jitters’ as LaFaunge calls them. Though only a sophomore on varsity, he helps to lead the team and get them ready for the game before dealing with his own stress.

“To deal with [the pressure], I try to calm my teammates down and let them know it’s gonna be okay,” says Roou.

Maybe this is his own unique way of dealing with game day pressure, but whatever the case, there’s no way of avoiding the pressure. As a player, you have learn how you can eliminate your stress as game day approaches.

“It is all about having fun and building a winning program. There shouldn’t be any pressure that you can not handle because it takes away the fun of the game when that is all you worry about,” said LaFaunge.