Holiday basketball tournaments, such as the one that starts Wednesday at Mariner High School, are used by coaches as teaching tools.
It's also why there are so many of them to choose from at this particular time of year. This is the seventh year Mariner has hosted its Christmas Tournament, an eight-team, three-day event.
"Sometimes it's best to just go play," said Mariner coach James Harris. "You want kids to learn how to win games in a row. You don't want to bog them down with Xs and Os. You just want them to go do what they do best."
North Fort Myers and Island Coast are participating in the Tritons' tournament. The week between Christmas and New Year's, Cape Coral High chose the Don Wallen Holiday Tournament at Martin County as its holiday lesson, and Ida Baker and Island Coast are slated to play in the Holiday Madness Tournament at East Lee County.
"I prefer holiday tournaments because a long layoff can hurt a team," said Cape High coach Darrin Wallace. "It's a long time (two weeks) to just practice. I'd rather just play games."
Most coaches are eager to play teams they don't normally face during the season, especially out-of-county or even out-of-state competition.
"I'm not for staying in the county," added Wallace. "County teams you see all season. I want to face teams and players we never see that way it helps find out where your team is."
The Seahawks open the two-day Martin County tourney at 3 p.m. Dec. 28 against Miami Springs.
While traveling out of the area to play games has its benefits and drawbacks, so does staying home and hosting a tournament.
"It's a negative because there is so much to do with running a tournament I don't get a chance to sit and watch our next opponent," said Harris. "An assistant coach will do some scouting, but it's hard work and long days. The kids are there sometimes too long with a lot of waiting around to play. But, playing at home is always a bonus."
Putting together a tournament calls for drawing out-of-area teams.
"You try to get four out-of-town teams to match up four local teams against them," said Harris. "County teams want to play a tournament too. They just need games."
Matching opponents can be controversial sometimes, but it's all about playing top opponents.
"Running a tournament you get accused of setting yourself up for a soft opponent," said Harris, "but five of our six tournaments have been won by teams outside the county."
Mariner won its own tournament in 2008, but Charlotte, Sarasota Booker, Port Charlotte and St. Petersburg High won the other titles.
"I've set it up to play good competition," Harris said. "Those are character-building games."
Just like the Tritons' game last Saturday against Miami Norland in the City of Palms Classic.
"You see what it's like to be the hunter," Harris said. "It's good to go after a team that is better than us. Norland was an intense game. I was disappointed that we didn't win, but I can't fault our effort. Those are tough lessons. The kids need to learn to play intense basketball for 32 minutes and hope they can carry over the intensity of that game to this tournament. You can never take a game like that for granted."
North Fort Myers opens the tourney at 2:15 p.m. Wednesday against North Port, followed at 4 p.m. by Island Coast and Naples Lely. Riverdale takes on Charlotte at 5:45 with Mariner facing Estero at 7:30 p.m.
The tournament continues Thursday and Friday.
Tournaments are not just for boys' teams either. Girls' tournaments are abundant as well.
Ida Baker, North Fort Myers and Cape Coral all are slated to compete in the Queen of the Palms Classic series starting Dec. 28 at Ida Baker.
Bishop Verot 78, Constitution 75: Bishop Verot wrapped up its appearance in the City of Palms Classic on its home floor Tuesday with a victory over Philadelphia Constitution in the Challenge Round.
Balanced scoring by four Vikings in double figures helped overcome the game-high 29-point effort by Constitution's Daiquan Walker, who connected for seven of his team's 10 three-point goals.
Ricky Doyle led the Vikings (8-2) with 22 points, 10 rebounds. Mark Wagner hit for 18, Mason Taylor had 16 points and eight assists and Brian Reeves 10 points.
The Vikings don't play again until Jan. 3 at St. John Neumann.
Bishop Verot 16 20 19 23 - 78
Constitution 24 13 16 22 - 75
VEROT 78 - Wagner 18, Taylor 16, Reeves 10, Mosher 8, Doyle 22, Williams 4. Totals: 29 14-19 78. 3PG: Wagner 4, Reeves 2.
CONSTITUTION 75 - Bolger 2, Goodman 18, Walker 29, Slade 9, Holloman 6, Gilbert 2, Jones 9. Totals: 28 9-14 75. 3PG: Walker 7, Slade 1, Holloman 2.