Saturday, April 18, 2009

Spring Time - Random Thoughts

As a high school coach, the spring time is a critical time for coaches and players, and I think it is a time that sets apart successful and unsuccessful teams apart sometimes. What players and coaches do in the spring can set the tone of the summer and the following season. I have some general thoughts on this part of the year as it relates to high school basketball.

AAU Season
This is the time of year that players play AAU or All-Star basketball. There is no problem I see with players going out and playing AAU, especially when they have the potential to play big time basketball and need the exposure. Even if they do not, there is nothing wrong with playing against very good competition. Playing against top competition will always make you better, as long as you are playing hard.
On the other hand, it is important to play other sports, and I always encourage my guys to take up baseball or track. I really think, with most AAU organizations you can do both if you really want to, but have to deal with a few complications. At a small school it is imperative as a coach that you suggest other sports for your players and do not try to force them into being basketball players only. I say this because a kid may pass up chances to do things in baseball. track, or football because he has to chose a sport to focus on. Also, I think all sports end up losing athletes when coaches start demanding students to specialize in one sport. At a bigger school I can see the rationale, but again think they should at least try another sport, especially as freshmen. I think playing multiple sports allows the kids to have fun, have a different coaching style, and not get as burned out on basketball.

Skill Development
One drawback of AAU on the whole is that there is not a lot of skill development going on. Some organizations do concentrate on skill development and do a good job, while others do not/can not. I'm not faulting the AAU coaches for this, however. Some programs pull kids from all over the state, so having practices every day is hard if not impossible. When they do get their little practice time, then they have to put in an offensive/defensive scheme so that they can look at least respectable when they take the court.
So as a coach, remind your players that while playing a ton of games is great, they should not forget about working on the fundamentals that make great players. This doesn't mean they MUST do a rigorous 1-2 hour session every day. But at least going out and shooting/dribbling every once in a while would be good for them! It is illegal to work with your players in the spring here in Minnesota, but just because you can't work with them doesn't mean they are incapable of doing things on their own!

Preventing Burnout
I think guys that play all winter, then switch right to AAU basketball, and then right to summer ball tend to burn out a little bit. I think this becomes a problem, especially when the kid is very driven for a goal such as a college scholarship. As a coach, I try not to even TALK about basketball with my guys during this period. I encourage them to take time off of the game and recharge their batteries. To me that is where playing a spring and fall sport comes in as well. If they do that, it is not basketball all the time for them.
As coaches, I think the spring is a good time to prevent burnout. Go fishing, enjoy the weather, spend time with your family (I know some of you are asking "who??" because you have not seen said people since November.), watch movies, do something besides basketball during this period so that you can come back in the summer fresh and ready to go!

Bettering Yourself as a Coach
With the same breath of "don't burn out" I also say that this time is a time to better yourself as a coach. Spend some time reflecting on last year and what you thought you did well, but also figure out what you could have done better. If you had to do it all over again, what would you do? It is really funny all the little things you actually would do over. Make sure to take the time and write them down so you can refer to them before next season. This will help you avoid repeats of the same mistakes again next season. Also, sit down and figure out what you are going to do next year and what changes you are going to make.
Also take the time to become a student of the game. Buy a new video or two on a topic you are interested and really get absorbed in it. Get some basketball books and start reading. Read a book about basketball not related to coaching directly. Something like "The Miracle of St. Anthony". Talk to other coaches, college and high school to get some new ideas. Some of the best times to contact coaches are after the signing period is over and the "dead period" for watching recruits is on. But I would also talk to all the local coaches that you can to get advice and ideas.

Well there you go. Some random thoughts about the spring. As a coach, you can actually get a lot done with this time of year, but make sure you take advantage of it!

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