First and foremost, how is your (and your team’s) pre-season training going? Are you getting stronger? Are you getting quicker? Are you becoming more explosive? Are you getting in great basketball shape? Are you better than you were two weeks ago? Do you deserve to be successful this season? You should be evaluating your progress every week. It is not too late to make some adjustments if things are going as well as you would like!
There are three areas you need to make sure you continue to focus on in your pre-season training in order to be the best player (or team) you can this season. They are athleticism, fundamentals, and the intangibles.
Athleticism: strength, power, explosiveness, quickness, agility, reaction, flexibility, and conditioning. These traits must be applied to your fundamentals in order to be a great basketball player. Remember, enhancing these qualities is a means to an end; not an end itself. You need to learn how to use your improved strength and quickness on the court and in your game!
Fundamentals: ball handling, passing, shooting, rebounding, and defending. These skills must be applied to your knowledge and overall feel of the game (basketball IQ) in order to be a great basketball player. Your fundamentals are the parts that make up the whole. You don’t want to be a good “drill” player. You need to learn how to use your improved handle and shot in practice and in the game!
Intangibles: leadership, toughness, communication, and competitiveness. These characteristics are what enable you to take your game to the highest level. They help average players (and teams) become good players (and teams) and good players (and teams) become great players (and teams). If you apply these intangibles to your athleticism and fundamentals you will absolutely be the best player (or team) you can be.
Alan Stein believes there is a tremendous lack of leadership in today’s game, which I strongly agree with; specifically with today’s youth. Basketball is a team game that thrives on leadership; from both the coaches and players.
Mental toughness is an acquired skill; not inherited trait. Every basketball player out there can become more mentally tough. A good part of being mentally tough is learning to “be comfortable being uncomfortable.” You have to learn to embrace obstacles, difficulties, mistakes, and adversity. You can’t expect anything to be easy. Failure is not only a part of life, but a major part of basketball. If you never fail, you aren’t pushing hard enough or challenging yourself. There are 7 characteristics to mental toughness, all of which can be improved with instruction and practice: competitive, confident, control, committed, composure, courage, and consistency.
Effective communication can make or break a team. This includes communication on and off the court; among players and coaches. Communication is much more than what you say; it is how you say it. And on top of that, it’s not what you say or how you say it that is important; it’s what the other person hears! Does everyone on your team know exactly what your goals are? Does everyone on the team know exactly what their role is? Do players and coaches know how to effectively deal with confrontation when problems arise?
The desire to compete is vital for success. While basketball should most certainly be “fun”; winning is important. And preparing to win is even more important than that. Like toughness; competitiveness is an acquired skill. You can learn to be more competitive. Your pre-season workouts should be competitive. Players should compete against themselves (against a previous effort), against the clock, and against other teammates. Winners should be rewarded as incentive. If you wait until the jump ball of your first game to get your competitive juices flowing… you will be too late!