Inside Rohrer's dedication to sectional prep

Corey Stolzenbach/The Herald
Southridge boys basketball coach Mark Rohrer sat down with The Herald on Tuesday to discuss the lengths to which he goes to prepare for sectionals.


HUNTINGBURG — The 2013-14 South Knox team won 17 games, against six losses, the last of which being the Spartans’ second sectional game, a 57-45 defeat at the hands of Linton-Stockton.

That concluded the second season of then-Spartans coach and current Southridge coach Mark Rohrer, who thought he had taught his players all they needed to know about the Miners heading into tournament time. But that game proved otherwise to him. The Miners got their revenge from a 64-51 loss to the Spartans earlier that season.

“I had probably watched maybe half of their games,” Rohrer said.

What was about to follow next was an eye-opener, something he heard about Miners coach Joey Hart.

“After we lost that game, somebody told me that Linton’s coach had watched every single one of our films that year,” Rohrer said. “I didn’t believe him. People just didn’t do that, even just six or seven years ago. But I kind of decided at that point, that would’ve been the 2013-14 season, ‘Well, if he’s doing that, I’m not going to let him have an advantage on me.’”

Rohrer and the Raiders (8-13) will play South Spencer today at Huntingburg Memorial Gymnasium. There is potential for a quick turnaround of a rematch, since the Rebels are in the same sectional as the Raiders. He's seen almost every one of their games, save for South Spencer’s 76-56 win Jan. 10 at Evansville Day. Rohrer had not seen Tuesday's 71-43 win against Wood Memorial as of Thursday afternoon, but planned on watching it Thursday evening.

He’s seen every one of the games of Pocket Athletic Conference rivals Forest Park and North Posey. It works out for him when Southridge gets to play some of its opponents later in the season. Devoting much of his time to watching film puts other things on the backburner for him.

“I love watching college basketball and the NBA,” he said. “I very rarely watch it during the season because I’m just watching film any chance I get.”

Rohrer is more than just the coach who’s looking to prepare his Raiders for every single situation from every single sectional opponent. He is a father of two boys — Jaden, 4, and Eli, 2 — plus he’s a math teacher. Mark doesn’t get much sleep during the season. It makes for late evenings and early mornings. He’ll take two naps every Sunday, chuckling that it’s unhealthy not getting much sleep.

He pulled up the calculator on his phone, estimating he watches film close to three hours a day, not counting the two-hour practice. Mark watches 300 to 400 hours of film throughout the season. It could take up to an hour-and-a-half to watch film on a game that features two teams in Southridge’s sectional, though a game of just one team may only take him 30 to 45 minutes. His uptick in watching film on sectional opponents rises around the holiday break. He acknowledges the sacrifices that are made in all of this, but wife Paige and he both want their sons to grow up seeing that kind of work ethic rub off on them.

“It’s tough, the lack of seeing them at times, especially they’re so young right now, it’s different, obviously,” Mark said. “I also think of the whole Kobe Bryant thing that happened here very recently. I always say, when there’s tragedy, you kind of just reevaluate things and you hear stories and you’re like, ‘Okay, am I doing that right?’ or ‘Am I not doing that right?’ and things like that. I just thought it was really cool hearing how motivated, and we talked about it as a team, actually — his motivation to be great, and his time that he put into being great, but still making sure his priorities were straight. Sometimes you can get so consumed that you forget about those other things. I feel like I’ve maybe not done everything to perfection, but I’ve done the best that I can to be able to balance that.”

When practice ended Tuesday at Memorial Gym, Rohrer was decked out in his practice gear — a long sleeve gray shirt and shorts — as he headed to the hospitality room to sit on a couch with his laptop on an office chair. It was a busy day for the second-year Raiders coach. School and practice were over, but there he was, zooming on and watching film on Southridge’s sectional opponents: Forest Park, Evansville Mater Dei, South Spencer, Tecumseh and North Posey. On this particular day, he pulled up South Spencer taking on Tell City. He has organized a playlist on his laptop of 122 clips from seven videos on South Spencer, dating from games the Rebels had against the likes of Tell City, Perry Central and Forest Park. These clips showed certain plays of South Spencer’s players. They’ve been condensed to 19 minutes and 40 seconds total. Rohrer said the Raiders watched all of it the dasy before.

Individual clips can vary from 5 to 10 seconds. He will organize them in order. The individual highlights are first. Rohrer has 15 clips on junior Jace Kelly, whom he called South Spencer’s best player, followed by 14 for junior Michael Donoho, around 11 for junior Kobe Bartlett, and so on and so forth.

Rohrer switched over to Boonville taking on Mater Dei before going to live scout Boonville’s game at Forest Park that night, which Forest Park won, 61-57, in double overtime. He decided to add something in to his playlist — a spin and midrange shot by Pioneer senior Hunter Bruce, whom Rohrer said was Boonville’s best player. The Wildcats got the better of the Pioneers, 51-35, on Jan. 11. Boonville is not in Southridge's sectional, but Rohrer watched the Pioneers since the Raiders will play Feb. 27 at their place.

“I always like to try to be able to tell our guys other teams’ better players, their top two or three things that they like to do,” he said. “Not just, ‘Oh, he can shoot the ball or he just likes to drive.’ Well, how does he like to drive? Does he like to drive right? Does he like to drive left? Does he do spin moves? Does he just back you down?

“I watch so much, it gets kind of jumbled together sometimes,” Rohrer later said. “That’s why I keep these playlists and I can go back later and watch them.”

His playlist has actually grown shorter, not longer, for the most part. He said the South Spencer playlist of 122 clips might have started at around 250. Rohrer could make a note of the same play many times in a playlist. Then he’ll go through it again and trim some of the others out, because he wants his players to see the best rendition of that play.

“This is just like getting the study guide for a test,” he said. “As a teacher, you want to get information for the kids so the feel prepared. Now, they got to go out and be able to ace the test in the classroom or ace the test on the court by putting what you’ve given them into action, but that’s my whole goal is to give the best study guide that I possibly can for our team.”

Some things have changed through his years of doing this. Rohrer does not go live scouting without watching film first, unless it’s at the beginning of the year. He used to pick up more on player tendencies when live scouting, but Rohrer learned to focus on those tendencies more when watching film.

Rohrer has gotten to reap the rewards twice, having won two straight sectional championships at South Knox in 2017 and 2018. Rohrer asks himself if he could have done anything different in his sectional prep, and most of the time, there isn’t. When his film watching is done, and by the time the week of sectional rolls around, it’ll be a more relaxing week for him, and he’ll feel that he’ll have done everything he could to get his team prepared. He’ll be able to spend more time with his sons that week, contrasting with not being able to go home to Washington on Tuesday.

“I know that, if I want to truly be able to look myself in the mirror and say, ‘I gave everything I had to get prepped for sectional teams,’ then that’s just one of those sacrifices you've got to make,” he said.

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