When you find yourself in the middle of a winning streak, one of the best things that you can do is keep doing what you have been doing. One of the mistakes that can be made when on a winning streak is to change what has been working, to something that you have not been doing, all in the name of keeping the win streak alive. What you have already been doing has been good enough for your team to have a winning streak. Don’t change anything. Continue to prepare for each game individually like you are already doing.
With a winning streak, there is going to be a lot of excitement and hype surrounding it. The media will keep the hype alive as one of the first things mentioned when talking about your team. They will even be present to do interviews with the players and coaches, almost like you have just won a championship. Your fans will be excited because they love when their team wins, while at away games, your opposition and their fans have some added passion to see you lose and see their team win.
The important thing to remember is to maintain the identity of your team. The goal leading up to every game is to plan to win that game. During your preparation, you should be dissecting your opponent in every way that you can, as to not give them any chance on earth to win against you. That way, no matter who you are playing, whether you are on a winning streak or losing streak, won the last game or lost the last game, you are approaching the next game the same way you would do any game.
The wisest thing to do during a winning streak is to approach the next game as if there was no game before that. Celebrate the victory of your current game to finish the night off, but when you wake up that next day, it’s time to learn from the last game’s success and mistakes, and move on from it. This should be the message to the team and coaches so that everyone remains humble but hungry. In the team and the coaches’ minds, there should not be any energy spent on keeping the winning streak alive. The energy should be towards playing your kind of basketball and winning the next game.
If there were any changes that should be made during a winning streak, this would primarily happen in practice. Because you are on a winning streak, teams are naturally going to turn up the heat, and as long as you are continuing to win, every game will more than likely feel like a rivalry. For your team, that means that your players are going to have to play smarter, harder, and at a higher intensity, because that is what the opposing team is bringing to you. With this, you may want to begin to ramp up your drills in practice with a more intense pace, shorten practices, and put more of an emphasis on nutrition, rest and recovery, especially if you are getting later into the season. These types of high-intensity games where teams are trying to end your winning streak will be more mental than anything, so doing drills in practice that require your athletes to think while fatigued are best, so that if fatigue comes quickly, their mind can drive their bodies.
Once these adjustments are made in practice, the game will take care of itself. This is not to say that you should not be ready for adjustments, but your athletes will be conditioning the mind and body, to handle the intensity of the opposing team because they have already experienced this in practice. When you simulate and demand a high intensity high cognitive environment in practice, the game will slow down for your players when you are in real competition against your opponent because your players would have already experienced a similar or higher level of intensity and thinking in practice.
As a program, the head coach should already expect winning streaks to happen before the season begins, and be ready to implement a higher intensity protocol as if it was a 2-minute drill in football around the 2-minute warning in the 4th quarter. While on the road recruiting, or at your coaches retreat in preparation for your season, be sure to mark on your line items of things to discuss: “What is our plan for success during a winning streak?”
Winning streaks can come and go, but you must prepare for success before it happens. It is too late to prepare once it happens because planning ahead of time is better than planning under pressure. When the pressure shows up, that is when it is time to implement the plan. Preparation time is never wasted time. Those who prepare for success will experience success.