With the arrival of July, we’re still in the heart of summer with plenty of time to study and find ways to improve our teams for next season. In the coming months, if you’re looking for some different areas for coaching growth that would be worth your investment for the betterment of your program, consider adding a couple or all of these areas of practice into your program.
1 – Lifestyle
Living a healthy and balanced lifestyle off the court makes for a better player on the court. The average athlete knows about hydration, eating right, and getting 8-9 hours of sleep. By the time athletes have entered college they’ve heard about the effects of alcohol and anabolic steroids. How much time are you spending with your athletes talking about their off the court habits? They may know, but are they following the small but priceless pieces of advice they’re getting about a healthy lifestyle.
It’s vital for athletes to have a plan when they’re on the court and it’s just as important off the court. For example, are your athletes eating breakfast every day and planning their food intake around individual workouts, lifts, and team practices? When the athletes in your program go to the grocery store, do they know what items to purchase and what to avoid? To provide their bodies the best potential to develop, perform, and recover, they need to take the necessary steps with their diet to do so!
Supplements have become a popular portion of an athlete’s diet. However, it’s pivotal to not let supplements dominate a diet. Thus, are the athletes in your program knowledgeable about avoiding letting supplements become the primary source for their key daily nutrients?
Educate your program on a healthy lifestyle so players can be at their best when needed. Design and implement a plan for each athlete. Even consider asking a sports nutritionist to come in and speak with your team. Many sports nutritionists love helping young people and might be willing to speak for free or at a discounted rate. The value might be invaluable for your team next season!
2 – Mental Training
Arguably one of the greatest untapped areas of player development is in the mental side of the game. Mental training can exceedingly take the athletes in your program and ultimately your team to the next level! We know basketball is a complex game and to excel athletes need to operate in a free, focused, and flow state of mind.
We’ve heard the phrase “peak performance.” However, how do we get our team to be operating at their peak performance? How can we eliminate some of the performance gaps? It’s empowering for an athlete that understands what it feels like for him or her to perform at their highest level and have awareness of how to get there.
Many times, athletes aren’t aware of the different stressors that occur in a game or throughout a season that take away from their confidence. Take time to feed your athletes with a routine and strategies to be aware of stressors and ultimately defeat them. When players are in control of their mind, they can truly begin to take control of their games! This summer, figure out ways to not only develop the physical skills of your athletes, but their mental skills as well.
3 – Recovery
One area athletes, especially young athletes are susceptible to skipping steps in their training and development is with their recovery. Another element to creating a healthy lifestyle is making sure to incorporate a quality recovery plan, especially in season. An enormous amount of research has gone into athlete recovery systems. Without an effective recovery program, muscle growth, quality of performance, and injury prevention is limited. For athletes that go on to play collegiately and professionally, taking their recovery system seriously can play the single biggest factor in the length of their career.
This is a great area to empower your trainers and strength and conditioning coaches. Build the habit of stretching after practice, rolling out, hydrating, and getting proper nutrition. Some facilities also have access to cold tubs, saunas and other equipment that is designed for athlete recovery. Make the decision to incorporate a recovery system into your post practices and post games. Then encourage your athletes to take advantage of these different resources and maximize their use throughout the season. The results will be eye opening and long lasting.
4 – Yoga
Another great resource that fits into your recovery system is Yoga. Yoga has become a staple of many player development programs. Is it time for you to get your team involved? The benefits seem endless. Some of the benefits are obvious, like increased flexibility, injury prevention and blood flow. Studies also show how slow breathing induces tranquility. Yoga can help develop breathing tactics needed in a high intense workout and within competition. While other benefits like mental and physical awareness can go a long way towards improving the whole player on and off the court.
5 – Guest Speakers
Sometimes your team needs to hear from a different voice. Maybe your team has a theme or phrase for the upcoming season that could be complimented by a guest speaker. Former players, a local hero, leaders from other professions, often times make for great guest speakers. Seek out great storytellers, people that can motivate your team and provide your team with direction and focus. Other great speakers are those that make your team think. Military, police, and firefighters also deliver a powerful message that can provide your team with perspective about values that every great team must have.
6 – Teaching – Digital
Athletes learn from a variety of mediums. Some players need to see action drawn in a diagram, some players need to see the action in video and many need to see both. Either in a team setting, on an iPad, or phone, providing your athletes the opportunity to study the game from diagrams and film can be a total game changer. Even with limited resources a 30-second to 10-minute edit with a playbook, can help your athletes have a better comprehension of what, how, and why.
Start by evaluating from all ends of your program. From your defensive system to your skill development program, would putting together a film edit or diagramming specifics enhance the opportunity for your players to have a clearer understanding of what you’re teaching them? Sometimes the best way to start or finish teaching a topic is to complement it with film. Use NBA players to create a level of credibility or even better, use game or practice film featuring your athletes.
(editor’s note: If you don’t have FastDraw, now would be about the right time to get it!)
7 – Individual Routines
Think back to your practices. Do your players arrive early? They should. What do they do before practice officially starts? How many shots do your players take during practice? Do your players have any serious areas of need for improvement this season to be able to contribute or have the type of impact you expect them to have?
Many of those questions can be answered with a 10-minute to 20-minute routine that is planned out, taught, and practiced in the pre-season. Often times, players walk into a gym before practice with no purpose. Provide them a daily plan. Help them get their daily basketball vitamins and watch them improve. Getting a solid 20-minute workout in before practice can also help your team take the hit if your practice is being cut short or there isn’t a lot of skill work involved for the day. Make your players and ultimately your team better by creating individual routines for your players.
8 – Organize Your Program
Better prepare yourself and your team. When it comes to game planning are you prepared to make adjustments on the fly? Why wait for the pressure and speed of the season to make decisions when you can make some of those decisions now? One of the best tactics in the off-season is to evaluate your program A-Z. From the managers to the travel itinerary. Where can your team get better this off-season? Randy Sherman wrote a great post about this subject “Self Scout – Asking Tough Questions” read it!
9 – Connect with Your Players
As a coach, you’re going to work with athletes from all different backgrounds and experiences. Read, listen to podcasts, and watch documentaries on different topics outside of your comfort zone. Pick a couple different topics that you know your athletes know a great deal more than you do! For example, if you’re of the “old school” spend some time figuring out how to use social media. Maybe one of your athletes is from overseas. Learn about an important custom from his or her country.
Sometimes the best way to connect with your players is away from the gym. Spend some time this summer building a schedule for the pre-season to do lunch with every athlete on your team. Avoid talking basketball or the season and focus on him or her as a person. Create that 1-on-1 bond, and more importantly trust. Even if it’s just a little time spent on a completely different topic or making time, it can go a long way to strengthening your relationships with your athletes.
10 – Study How the Game is Evolving
The game is always evolving and it’s important as a coach you evolve with it. Coaching improves, players get stronger, more athletic, and they style of play changes. Think back to your strengths and weaknesses from the season. Was there anything on the court that gave your team problems. Maybe it was attacking ball screen coverages where the opponent was switching. Maybe your team saw a lot of match-up zone this past season and you felt like your team didn’t execute well against it. As you watched the NBA playoffs, you may have saw a concept you really liked and think it might fit your personnel well this upcoming season. Take time this summer to reflect on areas of the game your team can get better at as the game continues to evolve.