Dear Coaches, Players, Friends,
"Players are made in the off season, teams are made during the season."
"It comes a time when WINTER asks you what you did in the SUMMER."
Today's Theme - Coaching in the Off-Season
We expect our players to work in the off-season and make improvements. But what about us as coaches... what are we doing in the off-season to help our team and to improve ourselves as coaches?
First, take some time off... maintain balance in your personal life. Right after the season is over, step back and forget about it for a couple weeks. Take time for your family and friends, relax, enjoy life and your time away from the gym. As the late, great coach Al McGuire (Marquette U - National Champs) once said, "Don't let basketball be your mistress." Our families often take a back-seat once the season starts, so put your family first in the off-season.
Gonzaga coach Mark Few doing a "little" fishing
Evaluate your own strengths and weaknesses... make an honest, private assessment of yourself as a coach, leader, mentor, etc. Do you need to improve your communication, teaching, organizational, and leadership skills? Do you need to be more open and willing to learn new things? Do you allow for enough interaction with your assistants? Are you representing your school and community in a positive way? Do you relate well to the school's administration and staff? Do you need to relate better to your players? How do you relate to parents and fans? Set some personal goals for yourself.
Evaluate the past season... review your last-season's goals and how well you measured up. What worked and what didn't? Review stats to find areas that need improvement. Review game film and take notes on your players and your team as a whole... what has to get better?
Review your system... review your entire system... your half-court man and zone offenses, your defenses, presses and press-breakers, special plays and out-of-bounds plays, drills, etc. Again, what worked and didn't work and why. What needs adjusting in your defense, or your offense. Think about next season's players, and what you can do to help each player become better... and how you might need to adjust your system to meet your personnel. Can next season's players run your system, or do you need to adjust the system. Factors to consider are team-speed, bench depth, your post players, outside shooters, your point guard, etc. Ask your assistants to make their own lists, and then meet with them and discuss ideas openly.
Off-Season Camps... if you have the time, attend a coaching clinic or two. Take notes and be open to learn new ideas. Interact with other coaches. Or perhaps you may have an opportunity to work in a camp or two in your area... perhaps even help in camps that local colleges run (contact the school's athletic department or coach who is running it). These are great ways to meet and discuss things with other coaches and players. Maybe you can attend a few college practices... some college coaches are willing to allow you to watch and take notes. It never hurts to ask!
Most high school teams will attend a few team camps in the off-season. Try to schedule good competition... you want to win some games and maybe lose a few. You don't want competition that is either too easy or too hard.
Run a summer camp for young kids in your program. This will help build your program for the future. Try to enlist the help of your assistants and players.
Use available resources to learn something new... learn something new each off-season. Learn about a new offense or defense. Buy a DVD or a book and make notes. Think how this might help your team.
Do you have a coaching mentor... another experienced (maybe even retired) coach who can act as your advisor and mentor? Young coaches will especially find such a person very helpful... someone who has already made the mistakes, had the successes, and has been down the same road.
Prepare for next season... we already discussed re-evaluating your system, plays, players, etc. Make the necessary adjustments, if any, that you think will help next season. Think about your goals for the upcoming season. Now is the time to create a master practice plan, if you find that helpful.
Meet with each player individually during the off-season. Discuss team goals, your expectations, etc.
Conditioning and Strength Training... the off-season is the time to organize a strength and conditioning program. Check these resources: Alan Stein: Basketball Conditioning, Strength, Agility DVDs
Fix problems and fundamentals... state athletic associations have rules as to how much time you can spend with your players in the off-season, so make sure you understand the rules first. The off-season is a good time to try to correct individual shooting technique and other fundamental errors.
Experiment... the off-season is a good time to experiment with your players. If you have a few team camps and scrimmages, now is the time to try a player in a new role or a new position... for example, moving a player into the post, or a wing player to the point guard position, etc. The off-season is also a good time to try out a new offense or defense. But I wouldn't show all my favorite plays in scrimmages.
Finally... let's go back to our first discussion point. Play a little golf, go fishing, take a family trip, etc. Enjoy the off-season!
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