Slowly but surely, Academics Plus basketball Coach Ken Holland is trying to change the mentality of the Lady Falcons.

Holland was hired July 25 which was one week before school started. Right away he saw the challenges he was going to face. Not only did he get a late start with the Lady Falcons, but they had not practiced or been to a team camp all summer. He spent the first practices evaluating his personnel and seeing who was coming back and who wasn’t. Then there was the issue of the girls being out of shape so running and getting in shape was the first order of business. This situation was new to Holland because he grew up in a small town (Quitman) where playing basketball all day, every day was the norm.

"Basically, they were all like 7th graders, and I had to change the mindset of practice," he said. "They aren’t used to winning and don’t know how to win."

Holland is trying to get his players to understand the importance of practice. One obstacle is Academics Plus does not have its own gym and practices at the Maumelle community center. Therefore, the basketball teams have to schedule around other events. That has been trying for Holland as the Lady Falcons haven’t practiced at all during the Christmas break.

"That is huge to me, and I couldn’t understand it," Holland said. "Coach (John) Harrison (boys’ coach) said take two weeks off and enjoy it. I am not used to not practicing five to six times a week."

Even if Academics Plus did have a gym, Holland knows he would have to change the Lady Falcons’ mentality. He said the girls’ thoughts are on Christmas break. His hope is that they worked out on their own but realistically knows probably not every player did. That is what he wants to change—the thought process of work and dedication.

As the season has advanced, Holland has seen progress. He knows Academics Plus can compete against some of its opponents and just needs to get the girls to understand that. The other positive is he can see the mentality of his younger players is they are more inclined to do extra work outside basketball. That is good as Holland plans to take the Lady Falcons to at least one team camp next summer.