As teams and coaches gear up towards the start of the various leagues and competitions around the country, the last of the planning is being undertaken to ensure a successful start to practice and the pre-season.
The interruptions and impact of Covid-19 made 2020 a challenging year for players and coaches alike and while we are still navigating the landscape, thoughts are starting to turn to being back on court.
So how do we make sure we hit the court running and have all the aspects in place to drive improvement, development and learning with our teams and young players? Here are some thoughts as we head into the final stages of season preparation –
Start with the end in mind –
In building a plan, start with the end of the season and work backwards. Where do you want to go? What do you want to achieve? What are some key dates long the journey?
Many coaches will build a plan from the “ground up”, which is not wrong. But to link your plan to goals and aspirations, consider planning from the date of the championship game or end of regular season and work backwards to the first day of practice.
Build in your phasing and periodisation, key dates and benchmarks. Consider how you will measure success and the key focuses for the season in terms of player development, team building and competitive development.
The Power of Three –
What are your three main areas of focus for the team? Consider the experience or stage of development of your group, is this your first year with the team or do you have a core of returning players that “know you”?
Take time to sit and think about the three priorities for you in the following areas –
- Player development
- Team offence
- Team defence
- Culture and team development
Once you have arrived at your list, ensure your staff and players know these key areas and expand with your coaches on how you plan to drive these elements. 12 may sound a lot of elements, but by breaking down into four areas and using the power of three, it will usually create a manageable list.
This is not a set of rules, more a road map for how you want to drive improvement across the board. It also provides an outline of what you and your coaching staff value and prioritise.
Keep the main thing, the main thing –
The busy nature of young players in today’s basketball means they have little time for “fluff” or wasted activities. They may be playing on four to five teams and have as many as six coaches in their basketball world, all with different ideas, concepts and priorities.
The skilled modern coach understands the importance of arriving at the point early and ensuring there is little room for broad generalities or activities that don’t link closely with the task at hand.
That doesn’t mean things are rushed or glossed over; more so that practice is efficient and is always closely linked with the specific development of the player and the team.
At the professional level now for example, an individual or skill development session may be as short as 20 minutes and focus on one skill or concept only. While we as coaches like to keep things fresh and dynamic, some-times it is poignant to simply lock in on one skill and ensure there is worthwhile learning/improvement on that skill.
In a recent Basketball NSW coaching webinar, Chicago Sky and Australian Opals assistant coach Olaf Lange quoted Patrick Lencioni – “If everything is important, then nothing is.”
If you add, you must subtract –
In the planning, there are always elements that come up that we want to include or add to the original plan. Basketball is a dynamic sport with so many skill, conceptual and tactical components and coaches are always being exposed to new ideas or methods.
The challenge is limiting confusion or “white noise” and being able to balance new information or concepts with your already identified priorities.
Simply, if you add, you often must subtract.
The one whiteboard rule –
In your planning, the overall plan should fit on and be able to communicated to players and staff through one whiteboard. This includes key themes, implementation strategies, measures and common language.
Can you present one whiteboard to the team on Day One that encapsulates the plan and key elements of what things will look like in the season ahead? If something doesn’t fit in a legible size and format on that one board, consider if it is important or can be achieved?
These are just some concepts and ideas for the final throes of season planning and will hopefully assist with pre-season set to tip-off around Australia in coming weeks.