This will be the second consecutive year where we will not be competing during the postseason. It is not where we want to be, however, it provides polarizing experiences from a coaching standpoint to learn from comparing the first two seasons as a head coach competing on a higher level.
The best teams have one mission in mind: to always be in position for postseason eligibility. If all teams (consider the NCAA Division I participation structure) are postseason eligible after the regular season regardless of record then the mission is to peak during late February and March. So from a #PostSeasonPrep standpoint; it really all starts by doing your work early.
Depending on the regulations per the level of competition, off-season and pre-season is the best time to start preparing for the post-season. This doesn’t particularly allude to the “grinding” highlights individuals produce in the gym, or the gains made in the weight room. Yet, that really is it. If, they are intentional. And the collective group of the team is galvanized to improve based on the foresight of what it will take to compete at the highest level by the end of the season – then the post-season will just be about playing ball.
Saw this on Instagram the other day from Rising Coaches referring to everyone having the same objective, but the difference, in the end, coming from the daily beginnings. This epitomizes the post-season preparation echoing to do your work early and often.
Coaching the Post-Season
Three things come to mind preparing our program for the playoffs:
We want nothing to change in regards to our scout, practice schedule, walkthroughs, etc. Whatever our routine had been during the season seem to be valuable enough to replicate during the post-season. Deviations can create distractions and without being able to tap into every individual’s mind prior to a big game there is no point in giving them any reason to overthink the next opponent.
The one thing that likely alters from the beginning of the season is the amount of time spent on the court during practices to get the most out of what we want to accomplish. At this point, there is expected to be very little tweaks made to the style of play. There could be wrinkles added to already established actions, or even a couple new sets to add to the toolbox for after-time-outs. However, referring back to the routine that has gotten us to this point was built from the foundational work put in throughout the course of the season. Ideally, our team is peaking to the point where there are few interruptions for instruction replaced by positive reinforcement and attention-to-detail.
It is a point of emphasis to our teams during this time that while the length of time spent on the floor may decrease, we have to have the maturity to maximize each rep during the window to which we practice.
I think this generated in two ways:
- Trust in self, teammates, & staff (gameplan)
- Clarity in expectations
Although reps may decrease from a numbers standpoint due to a shortened practice, each one has to be valued enough to simulate and stimulate the mind. The competitiveness within the practice should continue to peak, staying congruent with the rest of the team’s performance. It is the simulation of an expected heightened environment during practice that will be their preparation for the postseason. Additionally, student-athletes should feel stimulated to confidently go out and replicate that same rhythm in a game setting. The reps in practice are simply reinforcing the trust that the work being put in will lead to the results aspired during the game.
The scouting reports, film room, and team messages are equally as important of preparation as the shots made in practice.
- How can we prepare to be the best version of ourselves?
- Are our guys prepared to be up <4 with minutes to go?
- Are our guys prepared to be down 5> during the first half?
- Do we understand the personnel for our next opponent?
- Is our personnel prepared to defend our opponent’s style of play?
These are merely a few, but the coaching during this time is less about the instances in the game where we call a counter during a time-out, but more about enabling our athletes’ capacity for situations that don’t quite go as planned to still make plays.
While some questions are being answered specific to the next opponent, the remainder should be performed in confidence based on the work that has been put in from the pre-season, sustained during the season, ultimately primed ready for the post-season!