Quality preparation can be the difference between good teams and great teams or great teams and building a legacy.
“The key is not the ‘will to win’... everybody has that. It is the will to prepare to win that is important”
- Bobby Knight.
“When opportunity comes, it’s too late to prepare”
– John Wooden.
Basketball coaches know how to be prepared for practice and games with plans and scouting reports. However, are those things alone enough to give players the best opportunity for success? I believe the basketball community can make great gains in improving their in- season training systems. Most coaches make sure their players are in a version of a preseason weight-lifting program. For example, we want our players to “get bigger” or to acquire lateral quickness. When official practice begins, continuation of the strength training either ceases, goes down in quality, or is very inconsistent. This article will pull back the curtains on the facts of in-season training and give you the tools to develop your own comprehensive system to give your team the best opportunity to succeed. There are three sections: Why having an in-season training system is a necessity, How to implement such a system, and What that system includes.
As coaches we have an unique responsibility to affect the lives of young women and men. Let us fully invest in those that have been entrusted to us.
Injuries are the worst part of sports and some are out of our control. However, with a quality in-season system, we can get ahead of movement inefficiencies and give our players a great chance to be healthy. Christina Specos is the Associate Director of Athletic Performance at Purdue University; and she has a great model that describes how most injuries occur during a season.
Fatigue ———> Breakdown of Kinematics ———> Improper Loading/Movement ———>Injury (Specos, 2014)
Fatigue is not just physical but mental and emotional as well. When fatigue is not properly managed, our body starts to breakdown and look for shortcuts to accomplish tasks. Quickly recall the last time a player reached on defense instead of moving their feet, and you understand that the body resorts to the path of least resistance. This fatigue leads to a breakdown of how the body moves in space. Human kinematics is a science that studies the body’s angles, joints, and segments to determine the most efficient way that a person moves. (2) When a basketball player does not maintain quality or efficient angles, improper loading of muscles occurs. (Issurin) When the body has to make compensations in a dynamic environment like a game or practice, the risk of injury goes up. An in-season training system can help reduce this possibility. (Specos)
To understand the importance of strength for our athletes, we must first understand that strength is the foundation for the explosive qualities that we need in basketball. Strength in the most basic sense is the ability to apply force.(Verkhoshansky) We must be able to apply this force in all three planes of motion. Strength is not only the ability to finish at the rim through contact but also to decelerate the body to land safely on the court. Strength gives the body the ability to put force into the ground to move laterally on defense but also to hold a post position on offense. Strength is also connected to injury reduction. In connection with the first point, strength will prove to prevent our body from improper loading and movement. For example, research has shown that poor trunk control/stability (weak core strength) can cause greater anterior forces on the knees upon vertical jump landing. Thus causing a greater possibility for knee pain or ACL tears. (Kulas) Efficient muscles and tissues are better at preventing injuries.
A basketball season provides different challenges than any other sport. At the high school and college level, there are school designated breaks, homework, and the season can last up to six months when the postseason play is included. These demands take a physical and mental toll over a long season. In the NBA, it can go up to nine months with the postseason included. The intense physical demands of practices and games combined with the length of the season can make being consistent in the weight room difficult. However, if the goal is to succeed in the conference tournament, or in the post-season, a progressive, in-season training system is a must.
Before I get into the nuts and bolts of in-season training, I want to express my sincere intention that I am not here to tell you how to run your program, I am not a basketball coach. I’m a performance coach that has been around the game since I was six years old. I have also worked with a Division I program and two Division III programs while I was in college. I am here to bridge the gap between human performance and the game of basketball because this is my passion. With that said, here is my advice for giving your team the best opportunity for success.
Quality over quantity:
We want “quality shots at quality spots” during games, so we should strive for quality time in the weight room. Every exercise and every rep are vital to your team’s success. Get in the weight room and get out.
Delegate leadership roles to upperclassmen. They have responsibility for the conduct and intensity in the weight room.
Communicate with players and staff on how they are feeling. Adjust practices and weight room times accordingly to the information gathered. Monitoring rest and regeneration can make or break your season.
Be willing to research and learn more than just about basketball, leading, and coaching. Learning how the brain functions, how social interactions determine confidence, the impact of mental training, or the importance of hip mobility for a defensive stance can take your program to the next level.
Make time for your own workouts, self-care, and family.
I put this last because I believe this is one of the most important points of emphasis. As
coaches, we ask our players to take care of themselves on the weekends, eat right, and workout. However, we tend to eat and drink whatever we want at times. I’m not against moderation in those things, but I am against coaches being hypocrites. Let us be great examples of what we preach.
The final step is to actually figure out what we are going to do during the times that we dedicate to in-season training. I believe there are two equally important parts: Regeneration and Basketball-specific strength training.