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Preparing for Next Season

by Mike Gillian (Longwood)

The season may be over in terms of actual games, but the preparation for the 2008-09 season has already begun. Before long summer recruiting will be in full swing, but it’s not only the coaches that are getting ready for the next season.

There is a great misconception, with many fans, that coaches do not do a lot during the summer months. Still more believe that the players do even less once final exams are complete. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.

What a player does in the summer is as important as what he does in the controlled environment of practice. With returning players especially, you hope that the things you have tried to instill throughout the season are implemented in the off-season.

Once school begins and a player has been cleared to play (established eligibility) you have 8 hours per week to work with that player, leading up to the first official day of practice. Of those 8 hours only 2 hours can be spent on the court. The 2 hours for each player can be divided into multiple 2-hour workouts with each individual or group sessions. If you so decided, you could have one 2-hour workout with the entire team at once. No matter how you decide to break it up, no player can receive more then 2 hours with a coach on the court.

The remaining 6 hours are spent in the weight room or working on other aspects of conditioning. Of course all of that changes once the first official practice begins.

Once in-season coaches are not only coaching for the next opponent, but we are also trying to prepare for the future. Most fans would believe that to be the following season, but that is only partly correct. Sure we want to prepare for the now and the later, but included in the later is the off-season.

Bad habits are often the results of a poor approach to practice. During the season we have direct contact with players so we have the opportunity to work on shortcomings. Only through positive reinforcement can bad habits be lost. Thus, how hope that all that we have conveyed during the season will be taken to heart when the players are back at home during summer break.

Make no mistake about it. It is summer break and not summer vacation. Once finals are over and kids leave campus, they are on their own. As coaches we cannot be looking over their shoulder and stand around shouting instructions. The onus is on the individual to be his own coach. This is where character is developed.

What you do when nobody is around goes a long ways to determining one’s character. It’s easy to work hard when the coaching staff is giving direction on the court, but it takes a little more dedication to implement and execute a routine on your own.

It should be pointed out that coaches can assist and advise a player on what to do during the summer. In fact, coaches can actually provide advice on a daily basis, as long as it does not take place on the court.

Let’s say that a player is on campus for summer school. He can visit the office everyday to elaborate on what he is working on and the results. The coach can make suggestions, but cannot participate in the actual workout.

I can suggest to one of my players that it would be a good idea for them to use the “shooting machine,” but I can stand next to him and tell him to get more bend in the elbows. As a coach you can only help that he was listening to your instructions throughout the season and that he includes that advice in his summer workouts.

From my standpoint, there are three things we want to see our players do during summer break -- play basketball, work on skills and weights and conditioning.

First, players spend a lot of time in the weight room on campus, working hard throughout the season. That shouldn’t end just because the spring semester is over. It is very important to at least maintain the regiment from the season. Of course you would like to see players take the next step and increase that workout routine, but they should at least continue with the lifting and condition programs from the season.

Second, it is vitally important to continue working on skills. Again, it’s only through positive reinforcement that bad habits can be eliminated so it’s important to work on the various skill aspects of the game.

Much like with conditioning, you would like to see a player add something to the mix during the summer months. Maybe he needs to work on his footwork and positioning because he wasn’t a great rebounder. Perhaps his mid-range game is lacking so it would be advisable to find time to work on that.

Whatever the case may be, it is always important to continue to work on the aspects of your game that are already strong, but you like would like to some of the shortcomings being addressed in the summer as well. In many cases those shortcomings are corrected or developed through experience and physical maturity, but it doesn’t hurt to get a head start.

Last and most importantly, it’s all about playing the game. Playing is still the single most important thing. There is simply no substitute for good competition. Whether it’s a sanctioned event or pick up games; it’s important to get out and play.

Preferably you would like to see players partake in some of the games created at a summer camp. The days are spent instructing younger kids who aspire to one day play collegiate basketball, but it’s a totally different atmosphere in the evening.

Normally among the camp counselors are both current and former players, with many former players being in their mid to late 20s. Quite often they have already had the experience of playing professional basketball overseas. What they bring to the court is often a much better brand of basketball then players see everyday at the college level. That is the type of competition that really makes the difference.

Still think players don’t do much more then visit the beach or hang out with their girlfriend?

What a player does in-season goes a long ways to determining how he will approach his summer break. What we do as coaches helps to mold that. And that is so important because what a player does in the off-season goes a long ways to determining how good your team will be in the upcoming season.

 
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