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Basketball Coaching in the Off-Season

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As coaches, 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? This article will discuss some ideas on what coaches can do in the off-season.

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.

take some time off
Gonzaga coach Mark Few doing a "little" fishing

Also, think about personal improvements that you could make... what would make you a better person in general.

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 and make notes... your half-court man-to-man and zone offenses, your half-court defenses, presses and press-breakers, special plays and out-of-bounds plays, drills, etc. Again, what worked and didn't work this past season 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 and Clinics

If you have the time, attend a coaching clinic or two. Take notes and be open to learn new ideas. Interact with other coaches.

basketball clinic
Attend a basketball clinic

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 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.

Involve your assistants

We have discussed this a little previously. Do you have good, knowledgeable assistants who are willing to spend some time in the summer? Have a meeting or two with them as pointed out previously. Let them run some of your summer camps or summer teams. Let them put in a new play or drill.

Some head coaches will at times simply sit up in the bleachers and watch their assistants run things. This is good for your assistants, and you might learn a few things as well. Your players will respect your assistants more if they have more of an active role.

But again, this depends on your assistants... how knowledgeable, their passion, their loyalty and how much time they have to give. And, if you have faith and trust in your assistants, you might be able to take more time off and let them run a practice or camp.

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. It has been said that Coach Tom Izzo at Michigan State has each player write down five goals (some individual and some team goals) on a 3x5 card and sign it. Then, after reviewing the cards, he will question each player as to whether those are really his five main objectives.

Then, assuming these are all good goals, Coach Izzo will discuss with the player how he and his coaching staff can help him accomplish those goals. He wants each player to be accountable to the team, while at the same time helping the player achieve his goals.

The off-season is the time to organize a strength and conditioning program. Check these resources:

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!

Also see Off-Season Basketball Workouts

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