Written by Coach Michael Lynch

Narrowing Your Focus in Preseason Preparation

Fall is upon us and in just a few short months basketball season will kick off. It is during these months that coaches are making their final preparations for the season. There is an endless stream of things running through the heads of coaches during these months; rosters, offense, defense, transition, special situations, game schedules, assistant coaches, and practice planning to name a few.  As a small school coach many of our basketball players are involved in Fall Sports, and when you combine that and state rules that restrict your off season coaching ability most of my attention turns towards my own preparation. My ultimate goal during this time of the year is to be as organized and prepared for those first two weeks of the season as possible. 

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One of the biggest challenges for modern coaches is to narrow down the mounds of information that you have accumulated over the course of the offseason. 

  • Twitter & YouTube Video Clips you have saved
  • Great Special Situation Plays you’ve seen diagrammed
  • Offensive & Defensive Systems you’ve investigated
  • Articles and Books you’ve read on Leadership, Best Practices, etc. 

The number one objective of this filtering process is to decide what exactly you are going to ‘go big on’. Coaches have to understand that there needs to be a few things that you do really well. There are perhaps dozens of sets or defensive options that you have set aside as possibilities for your program. But at this point coaches must be able to decide what ‘seamlessly’ fits their systems, and what does not. Some of these things they have explored will have to remain ‘sets they love’, but ultimately ones that are not implemented. 

Another factor coaches need to consider is what types of ‘non- X&O’ strategies they choose to implement. The reality is that coaches who try to implement every team building, leadership, or coaching strategy they encounter in the offseason will ultimately fail. Coaches need to be critical in asking themselves what new strategies (if any) they are willing to go big on, and implement those alone. The concept of being great at a few instead of being average at many needs to be in the front of our minds.


One project I worked on last preseason was to create a drill library. The goal was to put all of our practice drills and concepts in one place that I could access quickly. During the season I could easily refer back to the drill library when it came time to plan practices. This drill library consisted of our core practice concepts (skills, transition, short sided games, etc), and for any drill to make the library it had to pass a number of standards, most importantly that it accurately replicated a game moment for us. 

My process included watching a number of our own practices on film, examining last season’s practice plans, and using our game model as a guide. We decided to eliminate any concept or drill that did not replicate a game moment, anything that did not elicit high energy from our players, or anything that did not develop skills used within our systems. Trying to simplify drills and then combining skill development and our offense within those drills were key factors in determining what stayed and what did not. Now that we are a year removed from that initial project I think we could even further reduce what is included in the drill library. 

Click Here for Our 2018-19 Drill Library 


In Massachusetts, you are essentially given two weeks of practice before the games begin, and given the fact that every game counts towards your postseason eligibility it is essential that we have a good start to the year. That time crunch and the fact that football season will go right up until the weekend before the season starts really makes maximizing those first two weeks of practice essential. Coaches should have a clear vision of what those two weeks will look for their team, and I would encourage coaches to develop a ‘hierarchy of needs’ in deciding how much time they allocate to various aspects of their team. 


The majority of those initial two weeks should be spent on developing our “basketball identity”. The bulk of practice time should go into our establishing the defining features of our basketball team.Things like pace of play, basic offense structure & spacing, transition approach & defensive approach need to be clearly defined by the end of this two week stretch. 


We must also be prepared to work on special situations during this time as well. You won’t get another long stretch of time to practice until Christmas Break so making sure you address these situations will better prepare you for those first 5-6 games. These special situations should include  BLOB, SLOB, offense vs zones, shot clock management when you’re leading late, defensive approach if you’re down late, your philosophy versus press defenses, and perhaps even a last second set or two in case that moment occurs. 


Lastly, I think it is important not to ignore the process of building your team culture. The pressure of those first two weeks can easily force you to ignore “non basketball aspects” of team building I feel strongly that your team is creating its culture (unconsciously) whether you are taking hold of it or not. Because of that I believe it is important to reinforce the desired habits & behaviors of your team in those first two weeks. This can be as simple as being intentional about how your team practices, how early they arrive, how they dress for practice, team meals, your leadership selection process, etc. Reinforcing those desired habits within your culture early in the season can set the tone for the year. 


The main goal in your fall preseason preparations should be centering on narrowing your focus. We have spent months watching film, gathering data, researching ideas, and weighing changes. Now, as the Fall arrives, our focus needs to narrow on what our identity is going to be. These months needs to be spent on finalizing our philosophy and plans, not expanding them. For those coaches who do not have access to their players in the fall season, the focus should be on making sure that you and your coaching staff are on the same page. Deciding what you are going to ‘go big on’, developing a drill library that includes your essential practice concepts, and having a solid plan for those first two weeks of the season is a great way to prepare. 

You can reach out to me with any questions & comments on the article at my email address, mflynch21@yahoo.com or on Twitter @LeicBasketball. Feel free to subscribe to our team website and check out other blog posts on our website; www.leicesterbasketball.com/coachescorner.


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