When dealing with off-season focus, there are a number of things that need a coach’s attention. These items can range from things that need to be improved on the court as well as things that need to be improved off to court.
As a coach approaches the off-season, the goal at the end of the next season has to be paramount in the minds of not only the coaching staff but the players as well. When planning for your off-season, everything that you do has to be pointed directly towards the goal at the end of next season. This plan of attack will help keep your off-season planning, preparation, and execution focus in mind.
I feel when going into the off-season the best strategy is to evaluate each part of your program as if you were rebuilding it. The 1st thing that must be done is an extensive evaluation of every part of a program on and off the court. You must ask yourself about each part of the program from last season. Did it work? And depending on your answer to each component, that will help you decide whether to keep a component or not keep a component. Once this is decided upon, and you get your foundational components in place, this is where your building begins.
Day #1 of the next season begins on Day #1 of the off-season and ends on the last game of the following season. The best way to go at preparing your program in the off-season for next year’s success is to build it like you have a mandate to win a championship. When you have this mindset, there are things that you will do, and ways that you will go about your work, that otherwise will not happen. Primarily, this has nothing to do with the outcome. Don’t cheat your efforts by forecasting defeat because of external circumstances such as budget, lack of talent, or scholarship. When you develop the heart of a champion, there is an alarm on the inside that will always scream “Figure out a way to make it happen!” Always prepare like a champion, and let the outcome of next season take care of itself. No matter what hand you are dealt with, if you work to win, it won’t be long before you do.
There are a few areas that must be focused on during the off-season. These areas cannot be neglected if you want success during the regular season:
Mental Conditioning: As coaches, it is our duty to not only sharpen ourselves our craft but also we need to provide our players with opportunities to be fueled by inter-program and external program information that will provide them with the cognitive inspiration/motivation to perform at an elite level on the court. This is where your athletes will understand the WHY behind their WHAT. This can come in the form of motivation from current coaches, reading books, documentaries or team inspirational movies, or guest speakers such as pro athletes and others who are great at their crafts. The proper mental conditioning during the off-season will give your athletes the boost that they need to carry out what you are asking them to do at a greater level of understanding. The picture that they see on the inside, is what they will carry out on the outside. This is principle-driven and will also work for the coaching staff.
Physical Conditioning: Although it is important to have your players play a lot of basketball during the off-season, it is more important that they use the off-season to become properly conditioned. This not only includes weight training, but a high emphasis should be put on aerobic and anaerobic exercise in short and long-distance running/conditioning. Much of the game of basketball is running, and most of the time, the best-conditioned teams will win more games. If you have players that can run all day, this will also help when times of fatigue come and other teams get tired. As a player gets tired, if they are not highly conditioned, their ability to think and make good decisions on the court will begin to decrease, naturally focusing more on how fatigued they are versus being able to make sound, high IQ decisions. You want to make sure, within guidelines of your institution and association rules, that your team is one of the best-conditioned teams in the conference, if not the country, going into the next season. If done properly, this can help win games for you.
Nutrition: This is a vital role in the success of a basketball team. There are many teams that do not focus on nutrition. However, the teams that do very well and win championships make nutrition a priority. The 1st step in making this is a priority is hydration. Nothing great at an elite level can come out of the body effort-wise without first having a base of good hydration. If the body is not hydrated, it cannot perform at an elite level, and can also be at risk for injury.
Also with team eating habits, it is important to start researching and practicing good eating habits so that the food that is provided to your athletes is conducive to the fueling and recovery of the body from the hard work that is required of them day in and day out. Making this area a priority can give you a great edge when it comes to trying to win games.
On Court Strategy: When making a plan for your next season’s success on the court, it is not good enough to just continue to do things that do not equal success. In your plan, you must begin to evaluate and find ways that will help your team win. This comes by way of research. The best research that I have done is the studying of championship programs. If your goal is to win championships, you must study programs and coaches who have done it. In my time of doing this, I have found that there are certain things that these programs do that others don’t. These things must be carefully searched out. You will know them when you see them. And as you add them to your program, you will begin to widen the gap between your program and other programs in your conference and that you compete with.
There are additional areas in which you can focus on for your program during the off-season, but if you give your focus and attention to these items that I mentioned above, it will give you a great start towards making your off-season a successful one.