Practice makes perfect, and for the Nebraska women's basketball team, perfection can require a uncommon approach: an all-male scout team.
The scout team is comprised of a variety of male students from across UNL. With their own basketball experiences, players aren’t just extra bodies on the floor; they provide ample competition for the women’s team.
Freshman mechanical engineering major Colton Gronewold joined the scout team so he could continue playing basketball competitively in college.
“I had a basketball coach in high school who really liked it in college,” Gronewold said. “I decided not to play sports in college, so it was a way to play ball without having a commitment to the NCAA.”
Amanda Hart, director of basketball operations, is responsible for setting up the men’s scout team and their practices. Hart sets up the scout team on the first week of the school year by getting them medical clearance through Nebraska Medicine. Hart schedules players based on who’s available during the week. Normally, eight men are used during practice.
Although they practice with collegiate athletes, scout team players’ rewards and benefits aren’t seen beyond practice. While Hart treats the team like employees, the men are not payed and only the occasional free food or gear could be seen as a reward.
“For them, being able to come in two to three times a week says a lot about them and their commitment,” Hart said.
The scout team mimics certain characteristics of an upcoming opponent to give the team’s practice a game-like atmosphere. For example, if a player on an upcoming opponent’s team is primarily a 3-point shooter, one of the players would focus on perimeter shooting.
Along with this, the scout team is used in various fundamental drills, which helps facilitate both offense and defense. When the Huskers practice their offensive plays, six or seven players are often used to defend those plays, creating more motion and ball movement.
Offensively, the players are encouraged to give the women’s team their best look and help simulate a game.
“The goal is to make it tough on them. [Coaches] want them to get good looks like they would in a normal game,” sophomore scout team player Tyler Eggert said.
Although the scout team players adjust to new forms of practice and change their roles based on upcoming opponents, one member has a unique spot within the team. Gage Pohlmeier, who is in close size to Kate Cain, takes on different responsibilities in the post.
This starts on the practice court, as Pohlmeier practices four or five times a week on average. With his size, he gives Cain a unique look that would not be possible if the scout team did not exist.
With the Huskers only having 10 healthy players right now, a scout team lets practices continue to run normally. With the extra seven or eight players, the women’s team does not have to practice against each other, minimizing the risk of injury.
For the women’s basketball team, including the scout team in practices allows the players to prepare for games in a new way.
“They are guys, so they challenge us a lot of ways, where it might be harder in practice than it is in a real game because they’re physical and athletic,” senior Maddie Simon said. “It’s really fun to play against them just because you get to see a different side of basketball.”