Watching the University of Maryland women's basketball team practice is nearly as taxing as participating.
Spectators grimace in vicarious agony as the Terrapins wrap up a 2 1/2-hour workout by running up and down every row of steps at Cole Field House.
That's not all. With very little rest, the team then "runs the lines," a shuttle type of jaunt that consists of a total of 15 full-speed dashes the length of the court. That takes about three minutes.
It is probably a tribute to both the close-knit status of the team and its affection for Coach Chris Weller that the Terps can smile and joke their way through some 90-odd workouts per season.
"Miss Weller tries to keep it as light as possible," said senior cocaptain Jane Zivalich. "But, as far as effort goes, there is always great intensity."
Maryland's record under Weller is similarly a tribute to th fourth-year coach's ability to wring from the players the same effort in games that she does for practice. The terps are currently ranked seventh in the nation and, for the second straight season, are among the final 16 teams in quest of an Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women national championship.
Weller's teams have compiled a record of 85-20, including a 21-6 mark this season. Two victories in the weekend's South Seetional in Cookeville, Tenn., would place the team in the final four for the second straight year. Last year, Maryland lost to UCLA in the championship game.
Weller is the definitive, practice-makes-perfect believer. Workouts determine who will start in the next game.
In last weekend's AIAW Region 1B playoffs -- in which Maryland needed a first-round victory to assure a spot in the final 16 -- the Terrapin starting lineup was minus guard Betsy Bailey, the team's second-leading scorer and best ballhandler.
"Betsy hadn't practiced well and didn't deserve to start," Weller said simply. "Others had done better and merited more playing time."
Weller has also benched All-America center Kris Kirchner during the season. Kirchner was forced to accept a substitute's role in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. She responded by coming off the bench to dominate two games, leading Maryland to the title and earning most-valuable player honors.
"Miss Weller wants me to be the best I can," said Bailey. "She wants me to put out in practice like I do in games. If she thinks you don't care during practice, she'll tell you to sit down. You know then not to look for much playing time in the next game."
Bailey was an all-league and All-Met player in high school, which typifies the entire Terrapin squad. She was not accustomed to being benched but accepted it after reflection.
"I get mad at a lot of things Miss Weller does," said Bailey. "But I later think it over, realize it was for the best and come back and tell her so."
Weller expects even those Terrapins on the bench to contribute to the total-team effort in games.
"If every single person hans't done what it takes to make herself ready, we won't have a good team effort," said Weller. "Each person has to get self-psyched. I get angry when the bench isn't as in the game mentally as those on the floor.
"I don't mind losing if it's a matter of getting outplayed. As long as we put in a concentrated effort, did the best we could, stayed in the game mentally, that's all I could ask.
"We've had victories this year that were harder to accept than losses. I've screamed at the team louder during those than in the defeats. I just want them to know when I'm disappointed it's because they have done less than they could even try and do. I disrespect lack of effort more than failure.
"All losses are painful, though. This year, we've been experiencing how it feels to have arrived at the top in women's basketball. Being ranked high all season is new to this group. They don't yet realize they are helping to set a standard. They're psyched enough but don't have a personal vendetta like the teams do that play us."
Weller could foresee the pressure this season following last year's second-place national finish. She said she tried to minimize the pressure but perhaps did too good a job in making the team relax. Weller continuously voices the need for a 40-minute effort, a lack of which has cost the team several close defeats.
During games, Weller, for the most part, is as softspoken on the bench as she is off court, rarely complaining about officials' calls. But she was emotional during the recent region play-offs.
"Kris was upset at the referees. I tried to calm her and became upset myself. I had taken her emotions upon myself. My emotional state might have cost us the game since I couldn't keep my mind on it."