Monday morning, Kim Barnes Arico dunked a basketball.
No, the Michigan women’s basketball coach wasn’t on the floor of Crisler Center. Nor was anybody else. The Wolverines never have Monday practice, but Barnes Arico told her staff and players not to show up for any reason whatsoever.
With Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday came with the added benefit of no class, so the Wolverines truly had a day off. Having played five games in the last two weeks, they need all the rest they can get ahead of a grueling Big Ten stretch — starting with No. 7 Ohio State on Thursday.
As for Barnes Arico, she could’ve spent her morning doing the usual: watching film, preparing for the next game, etc. Instead, she asked her kids what they would want to do if she had a day off.
Next thing she knew, she was at Sky Zone Trampoline Park in Canton, Mich. With a ball in her hand, she flew toward the basket and dunked. And yes, of course she got the whole thing on camera.
“I was just gonna watch (my kids) and maybe do some work on the e-mail, bring my computer and watch some film,” Barnes Arico said in her weekly radio show. “And they said, ‘Mommy why don’t you come out?’ So I paid, and I joined the fun.”
The fun didn’t end there. With her mother visiting town, Barnes Arico took her out to lunch for Ann Arbor Restaurant Week. Once all was said and done, though, Barnes Arico returned home to start preparing for the Buckeyes.
As for her players, Monday was probably the most rest they’ve had all season. This is the Wolverines’ first season that games consistently fall on both Thursday and Sunday, which has led to the same weekly routine: game Thursday, practice Friday, travel Saturday, game Sunday, class Monday.
Yes, it’s as exhausting as it sounds.
“Our players haven’t had a true day off,” Barnes Arico said. “I don’t know if we’re gonna get another one for a really long time — and we haven’t had one for a long time.
“Sometimes less is more. They need to be reminded this point in the season to make sure they’re resting both their minds and their bodies.”
Last season, the Wolverines had eight games on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. This year, that number is down to four. Michigan players have lost their weekends, and having to rest their legs on Mondays with no practice doesn’t mean they can just skip class.
According to Barnes Arico, she would prefer her team to have more full days off. Regardless, she has worked around the jam-packed schedule to the best of her ability.
“This is the first year that we’ve had to do it like that,” Barnes Arico said. “I don’t particularly love it, because of the weekend aspect, but I do think there is something to be said for the routine. I think it makes the kids feel comfortable — they know what they have every week, they’re set.”
The schedule has also taken a toll on the coaching staff. One of Barnes Arico’s assistants hadn’t been home for the last four weekends, and that didn’t go unnoticed by the head coach.
“I could tell she’s wearing it a little bit on her face,” Barnes Arico said. “I said, ‘You know what, you need to get out of this office a couple days, and you need to go home and spend some time with your family. You being here an extra hour is not gonna make the difference between us winning or losing this basketball game.’
“I think it’s important for us to remember to tell the people we’re surrounded by that it’s important to do that — whether that’s our players or staff. We will get more in return.”
Of late, the Wolverines have been getting more in return. They’ve won three of their last four games, all of which have been decided by an average of nine points. Michigan dropped a close game against No. 8 Maryland last Thursday, but it was the Wolverines’ only loss in the two weeks following a three-game losing streak.
As for Michigan’s recent success, it completed a 17-point comeback against Iowa and held on down the stretch against Minnesota on the road.
Most importantly, the Wolverines changed the storyline against Penn State. In 2013 and 2014, Michigan had been the Nittany Lions’ third-to-last and final game, respectively. Both times, Penn State earned a win to clinch its share of the Big Ten Championship. Both times, Michigan players hung their heads as confetti rained from the ceiling and fans stormed the court. Thursday, though, Barnes Arico helped eliminate the pit in her stomach as her team pulled off its first win in Happy Valley since 2001 — evening out its Big Ten record at 3-3.
And if that’s what Michigan can do while battling great fatigue, there’s no telling what it could do against a ranked Ohio State squad with a full day off.