Summer days can be long for an athlete. The heat sets in along with the boredom of the routine that they encounter daily. When it comes to improving their skill, it can become quite tiresome to work on the same things every single day.
I have been fortunate enough to work with athletes who have gone on to have successful post secondary careers and when working with them I find 3 things are quite prevalent.
1- An understanding of their deficiencies as a player.
2- A willingness to erase that deficiency.
3- An excitement about their daily improvement.
Now these 3 things listed above seem like quite common things but one key factor can separate the great players from the average players and that is BOREDOM.
The great players will hammer away at the basics daily whether it be step up footwork, finishing high off the backboard or getting great rotation on their jump shot. On the other hand, the average players may feel a sense of accomplishment after a few successful reps / days with a basic skill and want to move on to a more advanced drill.
Through the years working with athletes I have been excited to see the basic fundamentals show up in the most crucial points of the game.
In 2013 our VIU Mens Basketball team was fresh off of a national championship season and I had received a request that I hadn’t expected. A young graduating guard named Sara Simovic was wanting someone to train with. As we got together and worked in the gym, it was evident that Sara not only wanted to play university basketball but she wanted to excel in university basketball. After many discussions about her goals and what it would take, we created a plan and went after it. Essentially we worked on the same stuff for much of her 5 years for 5 days a week. Handling the ball versus pressure, finishing high off the backboard, a pull up jump shot, getting to the middle of the floor and free throws as key pillars of her game. At the end of her 5 years playing, the pull up jump shot was a staple in her game and she led the Canada West in free throw percentage with a percentage of 89.7% (Finishing #2 in the country).
It was a workout in summer of 2017 where Sara joined in for a skill workout with a high school athlete I was training. As the athlete became frustrated and I encouraged the athlete to continue repping out their pull up footwork correctly and refer to the points of emphasis before we moved on. As the frustration grew for the young athlete, Sara pointed out that she knew how it felt and I had kept the same emphasis with her for 5 years and encouraged the athlete to just keep working away at it.
A testimonial after Sara’s first year:
In March of 2015 our VIU Mens basketball team is preparing for our 3rd consecutive provincial final. We are in our 3rd consecutive matchup against the Langara College Falcons. As the Women’s final concluded, we are told that the nets will be cut so there is a bit longer of a wait before our game. Many players kill the time waiting, sitting with their music in or chatting in the hallways at Columbia Bible College. Mariners leading scorer Justin King can be found in the weight room at Columbia Bible College. However, he was not lifting weights before the game. Instead, Justin was using a medicine ball in front of a mirror to work on his jab step and shot fakes in front of the mirror. A player who led the Mariners all the way to the 2015 National championship game was working on his fakes before a game, he was never bored with the basics. The Mariners went on to win the Provincial championship with Justin named provincial MVP. Justin went on to be a national all star, National Player of the year Nominee and selected as an All Canadian recipient as a top 10 player in Canada.
A testimonial from Justin after his year at VIU:
It’s December of 2017 and the Mariners are hosting the Mohawk College Mountaineers. Reigning National Player of the Year Usama Zaid arrives to the gym an hour before tip off. As he’s the first one on the court, he doesn’t spend time grabbing a ball right away. Usama proceeds to go through a routine where he is working on his running mechanics and mobility before grabbing a ball. The second he grabs a ball, he does not begin working on his jump shot. Usama goes through a series of simple dribbling drills where he is dribbling the basketball at different heights to work on controlling the ball and staying low with his shoulder. Throughout the year, Usama went on to average 28.4 points per game. As dazzling of finishes and scoring displays Usama had the shots often finished with the same result. If it was at the rim, it was off the back board. If it was a jump shot off the dribble, it was with crisp footwork that left defenders watching as he rose up into his shot.
A testimonial from Usama:
While these 3 stories may show a point of outstanding performances, I really do want to speak to the daily investment that it takes to excel in areas of the game. If it wasn’t for a willingness to improve or address deficiencies, these athletes may not have been able to achieve great heights in their athletic careers. From spending time with Sara on her finishing to spending time with Justin on his finger placement on the basketball. The athletes bought into the idea and worked hard to improve their skill.
When it comes to adding to your skills, regardless of age, no athlete is ever above working on basic footwork, driving the ball in a straight line or working on their shooting mechanics. One thing I have seen in development today is that athletes are spending a majority of time working on things that happen very few times per game. Driving a closeout in 1-3 dribbles, finishing at the rim vs contact and catching to shoot are 3 common trends that an athlete can work on daily.
Whether you are grade 5 or 5th year university: formulate a plan for improvement, address your deficiencies, have live/play elements to your workouts and try your hardest every single day!
Thanks for reading!