Cookies for charges
Chieftain basketball players rewarded, with food, for making big defensive plays
Forget Adidas and Nike. The athletics apparel suppliers have contracts with numerous collegiate and high school teams.
In Tonganoxie however, Duncan Hines or Toll House probably could strike a better deal with the Tonganoxie High girls basketball team.
That's because every time a THS player takes a charge during a game, Chieftain girls assistant coach Lindsey Graf whips up a batch of cookies for the lucky chargee.
Roughly six games into the season, Graf decided the team needed some motivation on the defensive end. She said she was tired of players not taking charges.
To entice players, she started offering cookies to the team members who successfully got in position and took charging fouls during games.
Instead of the carrot dangling in front of their noses, Graf used another food -- usually chocolate chip cookies.
Before Graf started tempting the girls' sweet teeth, she said charges were rare for the Chieftains.
"They were few and far between and mostly by accident I think," Graf said with a laugh. "I was tired of them bailing out on drives and fouling rather than taking the charge. So I told them I would bake them a batch of cookies."
Once the agreement went into effect, Chieftain players were taking more and more charges. However, Tracie Hileman, a recipient of one of those batches of coveted cookies, wasn't sure how to take the offering initially.
"We kind of thought she was joking but we held her to it," Hileman said.
It's an interesting motivator that has worked for THS, which finished the regular season at 19-1 heading into postseason play, which started Tuesday with a game against De Soto. But just how big of motivators the tender morsels of sugar and chocolate are is up for debate.
"I don't think we think about the cookies while we're playing defense," Hileman said.
Roni Grizzle, who also has taken a charge since the cookie rule went into effect, disagreed.
"I do," said Roni, quickly responding to Hileman's statement. "Every time someone comes at me with the ball, I'm ready."
Hileman then pointed out that the thought of food is comforting when she's knocked to the floor as an opponent drives at her in the lane.
"It doesn't hurt as bad when you know you're going to get food afterward," Hileman said with a giggle.
And, Graf has noticed a difference in the number of charges.
"It's not like it's increased the number to where we take charges every other trip down the floor," Graf said. "But we went from few and far between to one a game.
"Basketball is a long season. Anywhere you can find excitement, it's a bonus."
Graf said opposing teams might think the Chieftain players are calling out a play from the bench, but they're just yelling "cookies," to encourage their teammates on the floor to hunker down and play solid defense.
The THS assistant coach said the "cookies for charges" has injected some energy into the defense.
"That was kind of the other thing," Graf said. "When you get a five-second or 10-second call or a charge, it really should spark some life into your team. We were like 'OK, good job.'
"Now they get all excited and say 'yeah, we get cookies!'"
Time to make the cookies
Graf conceded that her cookies are not made from a secret family recipe. Instead, she said she either buys already made cookies or "break-and-bake" cookies and pops them in the oven, normally Nestle Toll House.
"It just depends what kind of time you have," Graf said. "When you have two games a week and they're taking a charge a game a week, it seems like now, sometimes I get behind."
When Graf presents cookies to the successful chargee, they usually go fast, as teammates share in the player's reward.
Ali Pistora has the most charges with about three, while Chrissie Jeannin has two. Rachel Bogard, Grizzle and Hileman also have taken charges.
Pistora has received so many cookies she asked for something different -- popsicles, which Graf brought to practice Monday.
"I just have the craving, I guess," Pistora said.
As for Jeannin, she gladly accepts her favorite cookie -- chocolate chip.
"It's a good idea," Jeannin said. "It makes me more motivated to do it.
"When you get it everybody just looks at Graf because they know she has to make more cookies."
"Ice cold milk and an Oreo cookie"
Elizabeth Baska hasn't taken a charge yet, but she said she's had several "near-cookie experiences."
If she does finally take that elusive charge, she will request Oreos.
"Well, I really wanted the kind that are colored," Baska explained, discussing the seasonal Oreos with red filling. "I wanted to get them around Valentine's Day, because I wanted the filling. But now I'm going to deal with Double Stuf because that's over."
Baska hasn't lost hope in getting special Oreos, maybe the yellow creme-filled cookies with Easter approaching.
Either way, she predicted that she would take her first charge during subsstate.
Baska said she likes the team's cookies-for-charges policy, but noted it's not why they aspire to play better defense. Instead, it's "an added bonus."
It's a perk that Graf said definitely is working for the THS girls basketball team.
"The biggest way to motivate Tonganoxie, at least the Lady Chieftains is to offer food," Graf said with a laugh."