For those of you who follow me on Twitter — @scottrosberg — or on one of my Facebook pages/groups — SlamDunk Success or Fast Track Lab for New Coaches — you have seen me post some things this past week about the “off-season.”
Depending on the sport you coach or play, the off-season will be at different times for different people. But for most of you, the summer is part of the “off-season.”
The first point I want to make here is that, ultimately, there is no “off-season” for successful people. Successful people are looking to improve and get better every single day, no matter what time of year it is. If you want to be the best you are capable of becoming, you must work on your craft in some fashion all year long.
The second point, though, is that what you do during your “off-season” will determine what happens for you when you are “in-season.”
As a basketball coach for over 30 years, I have told my players every year, “Basketball players are not made from November to March (in-season). They are made from March to November (the off-season).” This concept of off-season development also applies to coaches.
Sitting smack-dab in the middle of that off-season time is the summer.
Now, the thought of summer conjures up all kinds of ideas for people — vacations, relaxation, enjoying time with friends and family away from the grind of school, and much more. Those are very important things to do in the summer in order to rest, relax, and rejuvenate after the 9+ months of school.
However, there are 24 hours in each day. Athletes and coaches need to devote some of that time to improving at their games. If they want to achieve the success they seek during their seasons, they must put some time into developing themselves to become their best.
So it is critical that they take some time each week (and preferably each day) to work on individual learning and skill-development, strength training, team play, and team-bonding/building concepts.
For players, this means getting into whatever arena/venue they perform in, as well as getting into the weight room. They must work to get stronger, both physically and at their individual skills. This should be done in 1-on-0, 1-on-1, or multiple player settings.
This is work, not play. Players must work on the various aspects of their games to then go out and play those games to the best of their abilities. Then, they must also work in team settings where they put into play the individual skill-development work that they have done. This would be playing in games, tournaments, leagues, etc.
For coaches, the off-season is also a time to improve. Read, watch videos, go to clinics, and talk with other coaches to learn more. Work with your players in individual workouts, camps, and games/tournaments.
Also, the summer is a great time for coaches to try out new things. Learn new skills and drills to consider implementing with your players and then work on them. If you are considering a new offense, defense, or some other strategy type of thing, try it out in the summer, and see how it works.
Your #1 focus and priority should be on helping ALL of your players (and yourself) improve and develop during the off-season, not on winning games and tournaments.
Today’s chapter from my new book in my Remington Roberts fiction series, Trouble in Discovery: Remington Rises Up, deals with off-season improvement.
Notice what Coach Brooks is focused on in the first game at the summer tournament and how he is teaching the new kid, Connor McDonald, about what is important in the summer. You will also see his philosophy about summer play get tested in a big way next week in Chapter 6.
The summer season started with a tournament in Billings. Due to high school association rules, coaches couldn’t coach their kids from the end of the winter season until June 1st. The tournament was scheduled for June 2nd and 3rd, so Coach Brooks had one day to put in some things for the boys to play in the tournament. However, every other school at the tournament would be in the same situation, so he was not too concerned.
Besides, the spring open gyms and workouts had seen the best attendance in all of Del’s years coaching and playing at Sacajawea. He was confident that the boys were at least in decent shape to be able to get up and down the court and compete. He also knew that summer tournaments are a lot less about running set plays and winning all the games and more about developing players individually and as a team. He also liked to try out new things in the summer, so he would start putting some of those things in the following week. This weekend was more about getting as many players playing time, working to incorporate skill development into their games, trying different combinations of players, and building team chemistry.
The Wolves’ first game of the tournament was going to be against Buckley, a team from over near the Montana/North Dakota border. Buckley played in the Eastern A League that fed into the larger end-of-season Eastern Divisional Tournament with the Mid-State A League that Sacajawea played in. Buckley had been an average team in the east for years. They were consistently a middle-of-the-pack team in a very good division. They just couldn’t get over the hump against the really strong eastern teams, like Bighorn, Burlington, and last year’s state champion, the Longbow Bulldogs.
Sacajawea started out strong against Buckley. The combination of Remington on the outside and Connor on the inside was working well. The two of them were a match-up nightmare for teams because they could not double-team off of either of them. Combined with the scoring of Nick, Tim, Brian and Mike, Sacajawea was rolling right out of the gate. Sacajawea already had an 18-point lead about 12 minutes into the first 20-minute half when Del subbed two players in for Remington and Connor.
As they came off the floor, Remington high-fived Del. As Del reached to high-five Connor as well, Connor didn’t raise his hand up to receive it. He simply asked, “Why are you taking me out, Coach? I’m just heating up.”
Del was a bit shocked at this. He had just been snubbed by a player who he was trying to high-five. He was also being questioned by the player about his playing time and substitution. Del stopped him and said, “You’re new here, so I’ll cut you some slack this one time.”
Connor looked confused as Del continued. “First of all, don’t ever snub me again when I reach to give you a high-five, fist-bump, handshake or whatever. Second, we have ten guys here who are going to play. It’s the summer. We need everyone to get reps. Everyone here has the right to play as much as anyone else in the summer. It is the only way they will improve. I treat summer as a chance to get everyone time, so I can see what they can do. I want to see different combinations of guys. You’re going to get a lot of minutes this summer. So is everyone else.”
Connor nodded his head in understanding and said, “Sorry, Coach. I just thought I was playing really well.”
Del said, “You were. It’s why we have an 18-point lead. You and Remington have been a force that they can’t stop. I am so excited to see what we can do with you two this year, and we’re only 12 minutes into the summer season. But there are a lot more guys on this team than just the two of you, and we need to get them up to speed, too.”
“All right, Coach, I get it,” said Connor, and he took a seat on the bench next to Remington, who told him how much fun the year was going to be with the two of them playing together like that. Remington stuck his fist out and Connor smacked knuckles with him.
The rest of the game saw more of the same with Remington and Connor dominating the entire game. This also led to a lot of good, open looks for the rest of the Wolves, and they were loving how much easier it was to get good shots off. Sacajawea ended up beating Buckley by 35 points, and it could have been a lot worse if Del had played Remington and Connor more.
After the game, Del addressed the team out on the lawn in front of the school. “Boys, that’s a good start to the summer. You really took it to those guys. Rem, nice job of setting your teammates up, while also attacking and shooting your own shots. Connor, it’s nice to have you with us. If you keep playing hard and pushing yourself to be the best you can be, you are going to have success here. There aren’t too many players around with your combination of size and skills.”
Del pointed out many of the other boys’ contributions, as well. He then said, “Let’s keep in mind that Buckley is not the same caliber as the really good teams, so this was not necessarily a true indication of how good we are. But it is an indication of what we can be if we play the way we’re capable of playing. We face a much tougher team this afternoon. Bighorn will be really good, and we will have our work cut out for us. But with how hard you have all been working this spring, and with the combinations we now have, I like our chances against anybody.”
The boys went in and got something to eat and drink. They watched some of the other games while they waited two hours for their game against Bighorn. Connor sat off by himself watching the other teams. He thought how none of them could hang with the Oakland teams that he played against. While he saw that there were some good players in the games he was watching, none looked like they were as strong inside as him. He was going to have a field day playing in this state. This was going to be easy.
Ideas to Consider
- Why does Coach Brooks play all of his guys a fairly equal amount of time in the summer when he knows they have a better chance of winning if the better players play more?
- Is his philosophy about summer play a good one for coaches to have? Why or why not?