How Michigan Basketball Celebrations and Fun Help Make March a Success

BATON ROUGE, La. — No one can accuse Michigan’s women’s basketball team of not having fun.

Before each match, the players dance and sing along to the music that blares over the arena speakers. Assistant coaches Erin Batth and Val Nainima join in the fun by dancing under the basket with the team between shooting practice.

But the fun doesn’t stop with the pre-game warm-up — it’s something Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico has incorporated into every facet of the program. The Wolverines play best when they don’t put pressure on themselves, and that’s exactly why they focus on having fun. To achieve its goals in March, Michigan is going to do it the only way it knows how.

Selection Sunday before their team’s name was announced as the No. 6 seed in the 2023 NCAA Tournament, after a 40-minute practice, the Wolverines held an Iron Chef competition.

“Each player had to find an apron around the gym after practice with their name on it,” Barnes Arico said after the selection show. “And then there were clues and there were teams designed and they had to come up and they had 15 minutes to cook us a little mini meal. And then they had 10 minutes to make us a dessert and there were a few judges and they were in groups. It was just a fun team activity. They really enjoy watching these cooking shows and it was just a big boost heading into tonight.

The team of fifth-year winger Leigha Brown, second-year guard Jordan Hobbs, junior forward Elise Stuck and freshman forward Alyssa Crockett won the Iron Chefs title after using a fryer at air to make pita chips and dip for their dinner and a chocolate chip ice cream sandwich for dessert. While there is some debate over judging a certain Buffalo Chicken Sandwich, these types of activities set the mood and motivation for the week ahead.

Barnes Arico has been emphasizing enjoying the moment for his teams throughout his time at Michigan. Last season, after Michigan beat Villanova to advance to the Sweet 16, she said the team sat in their locker room, initially treating it like any other win. But Barnes Arico knows the Sweet 16 is a rarity that should be celebrated – and that’s what she initiated, when the locker room went crazy with water flying everywhere.

“Not too long ago[former Michigan men’s basketball coach](John) Beilein texted me and said, ‘You know what? I would have liked to celebrate the victories a little more. So make sure you don’t forget to do that,” Barnes Arico said after last season’s Round of 16 victory. “So today was amazing and I just needed to remind our kids, ‘It’s okay to celebrate. Let’s have a good time,” then everyone relaxed and we started celebrating.

The Wolverines have continued to celebrate their playoff accomplishments ever since, whether it was a narrow win over Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament or a Round of 16 win over UNLV. Either way, Barnes Arico walked into the dressing room to cheers.

“It was really uplifting,” junior forward Cameron Williams said. “Not everyone is here. We were talking about only 32 teams playing after today. We are one of those teams and it’s really exciting. I was also getting pretty bloated at me and Coach Arico (chest thud). There’s always great energy here, especially after a huge win like this. Everyone in the locker room is so excited to take the next step.

Williams is a player who gets crucial rebounds and does the little things, like boxing. So the entire team, starting with Barnes Arico, has been focused on building their momentum after a big internal battle and building their confidence ahead of tomorrow’s LSU game.

The celebrations and the lost energy of the team also extend to the pitch. Their ‘bench mob’ celebrations went viral last season, with now-senior guard Michelle Sidor squatting now second-year guard Ari Wiggins while now-second-year guard Jordan Hobbs spotted them Wiggins being lifted by teammates with his hands on his cheek, saying “night-night” to their opponents.

“I like night-night,” Wiggins said. “I just like to be taken care of. It’s like an adrenaline rush when I’m in the air.

Hobbs and Sidor are two of the masterminds behind the more elaborate celebrations, but some of them are pure instinct.

“Whenever (senior guard) Maddie (Nolan) shoots, I always put the three in,” said junior forward Whitney Sollom. “I set him up before because I know he’s going to come in.”

Celebrations build and maintain that energy and momentum for the Wolverines throughout, especially after a big play. The bench rises after every 3 or and-1 to celebrate – and Crockett flexes almost every time. Whether the team is at home, on the road or in a tournament, the bench’s ability to generate energy and motivate the team is invaluable.

Some of the biggest reactions occur when players fire charges, earning a commotion sticker in Barnes Arico’s point system. Friday afternoon against UNLV, the entire Michigan sideline went up after Stuck fired a charge — and generated a Crockett flex.

“It gives them a feeling of energy, like we’re in this game,” Wiggins said. “When you’re on the road, it’s difficult to have a large crowd behind you. When your bench gets really crazy for you, it helps keep them going.

Tomorrow, when the Wolverines take on No. 3 LSU, it’s bound to be a hostile environment. The Tigers have averaged 8,650 fans at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center four times already this season – including sell-outs against Tennessee and Mississippi State – and with their season on the line, their fans are bound to be loud and rowdy. .

To combat this, Sidor and the Wolverines are “up” something special.

“I think we really need one (to) get the crowd going,” Wiggins said. “I think it’s going to help our team keep the ball rolling when we’re on a big run. We will definitely have to brainstorm.

Whatever the celebration, no matter how elaborate, the energy the bench brings is a spark for Michigan. And that fun attitude and energy the Wolverines bring wherever they go might just be the spark they need on Sunday.

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