Michigan women’s basketball coach Kim Barnes Arico knew that despite her impressive start, reality would eventually set in that guard Katelynn Flaherty is just a freshman.
That time came in the Wolverines’ loss to Pittsburgh last Thursday, when Flaherty, the team’s leading scorer and go-to long-range threat, lost six turnovers and sank just five of her 17 shots.
Barnes Arico didn’t panic or get angry at her young star. Instead, she quickly developed a plan to take the pressure off Flaherty and give her a second chance. Barnes Arico knows, after all, inexperienced freshmen are bound to make silly mistakes sometimes.
But more importantly, Barnes Arico understands the importance of the bounce back.
“Sometimes, you just have a bad game,” Barnes Arico said. “You’ve got to have the ability to keep your confidence. That’s something we talked about with Katelynn this week and also the rest of our team. You have one bad game, shake it off.”
To ease some of the weight off Flaherty’s shoulders, Barnes Arico made the decision to start junior guard Madison Ristovski against Western Michigan on Sunday and use Flaherty as the first option off the bench.
“(Flaherty) is such a good scorer and such a good shooter that sometimes we just look for her instead of executing offense or having other options,” Barnes Arico said. “I felt like she was getting a little tight and feeling a little bit of pressure. We went with (Ristovski’s) experience, and I thought it brought a calming effect to everyone else.”
For Flaherty in particular, the results of the change were staggering. Despite coming off the bench, she finished the game with a team-high 18 points and zero turnovers. Her confidence showed no signs of damage — she knocked down several gutsy step-back jumpers just inside the arc without a moment’s hesitation.
The successful Flaherty-Ristovski decision is just one of many signs of the effort Barnes Arico and her coaching staff put into their weekly preparation. Reviewing game film after a tough loss, the coaches regularly make decisions to facilitate the best possible environment for players to bounce back.
Sometimes, that means designing drills to focus on areas of weakness. Sometimes, that means tweaking the lineup, as Barnes Arico did Sunday. And other times, it means letting a struggling player know that she still has the trust of her team.
Sophomore guard Siera Thompson got the latter treatment. In Thursday’s loss to the Panthers, she put up a career-low two points, missed all of her shots from the field and snapped her record streak of 36 straight games with a 3-pointer to start a career.
But against the Broncos three days later, Barnes Arico let Thompson keep shooting. The point guard didn’t disappoint that time, hitting two 3-pointers on her way to an 11-point game and proving that both her confidence and her teammates’ faith in her remain intact.
And on a team lacking size, where a cold shooting day could mean certain defeat, that confidence will be crucial to future success. Through focused practices and frequent opportunities to succeed, Michigan’s young shooters are learning how to maintain a steady temperament in the face of failure.
So, when Barnes Arico tells Flaherty, Thompson and the rest of the team to “shake it off,” as she did after the loss to Pittsburgh, she’s not channeling her inner Taylor Swift. She’s just laying the foundation for the rebound performance to follow.