The crowd is going wild, the emotions are high and the final buzzer sounds. Yet through the sound of the buzzer signalling the end, something else has begun.
The offseason has begun.
As a whirlwind of emotions hit me as a coach, there is this growing excitement of opportunity and clarity that I feel. It’s a moment where I feel closest to what had not happened and what needs to be improved upon. These emotions can be overwhelming at times but I find comfort in them knowing that one of my favourite parts of the season is about to begin.
October 29, 2016: HOME OPENER
Another home opener in front of a great crowd and the week of preparation has been strenuous. We embark on a journey where ten players on the team were not on the roster the previous season. The home opener routine for myself as a coach stays the same and I am preparing for one thing that will be much different. We are starting a sophomore point guard who has never started a post secondary game before. The sophomore guard does his job and plays exceptional defence. He has 5 steals that lead to big plays, scores a basket, gets to the free throw line and finishes the game with 1 turnover. Instead of letting that cause me panic or surprise, I drove home with a smile on my face for one reason:
That moment was made months ago
There are things that happen during the season that were installed into an athletes skill set anywhere from 2 to 6 months prior. You will work with an athlete day after day on attacking certain angles or finishing the ball at the rim a certain way. Day after day until it becomes routine and yet when it comes to a game it may not show up right away. Then out of the blue the moment that was made months ago shows itself in a game and you smile for a split second before raving at the athletes to get back on defence.
The offseason for myself is special because of moments like this. As a coach, I am lucky to come from a coaching tree where supporting your players is the thing to do. I coached at a high school where my mentor would open the gym up every day for his players. He wasn’t paid to do it but he did it anyway. He would drive across town to watch a practice for a chance to learn or drive hours to scout a game. To me, that is what coaching really comes down to: Doing things that make a difference whether they are in the job description or not. That is where my love of the daily process of the offseason began. Doing things to help the team whether they are in the job description or not.
As a coach, I love to help athletes work towards creating these moments. In the summers throughout the week you will find I have a pretty set schedule. On the court 10AM-12PM, zip home to do some work and have some time off then back for 5PM when the team gets together nightly for skill development or scrimmage.
For athletes, I encourage you to work your hardest in the offseason towards making these moments. As you reflect on situations in games when watching tape, you will be amazed at how many great things (and not so great things) are a product of your training throughout the summer. Train specific to put yourself in a situation where you can succeed. As I watch some of the top programs at the U-Sports level on the Men’s and Women’s side 3 things become evident that are vital to the offseason:
1- MAKE shots: Don’t get into the gym to get your suggested quota of 200 reps in per day. Get in the gym and MAKE shots with a sense of urgency and visualize situations. Whether it is a routine draw and kick or an end of shot clock shot… That shot needs to be made and the work for that moment begins in the summer.
2- Lift weights HARD: Your physical strength and overall conditioning can cover up a lot of flaws and errors that happen in a game. You will find players who are not overly quick or skilled ball handlers that are able to get the ball to where it needs to go. You will find athletes who aren’t quick that become exceptional on ball and off ball defenders. Your work ethic in the weight room can often carry towards your on court habits.
3- Test your decision making: When you get onto the court and get your workouts in, aim to have a read and react component so when you get into the blizzard that is a basketball game, you have already been through the situations throughout the summer and the situation feels familiar.
For trainers/coaches, love the process of guiding your player’s development day by day to help them succeed. It is hard for an athlete to pick up and refine all the nuances of the game on their own, it just doesn’t work like that. That is where mentorship becomes such a huge factor. One thing I’ve learned from the summer’s is it has tremendously improved my relationship development with athletes and I am able to better understand them as a person and player. This becomes so valuable throughout the season when things may not be going well and you can help them get back on track.
The game has given me so much and I am dedicated to giving back. The offseason quickly became an element of the journey where I found my belonging. The offseason was a place where I had a chance to test my ability, leadership, problem solving among many other coaching skills. One thing that it increased the most was my ability to be observant. I take pride in being very observant and I try to use that same level of observation for in game situations whether it is things within the flow of the game, scouting the other team or picking off play calls.
Get in the gym in the offseason with a goal to get better and surround yourself with those who can help you get better. You will be amazed at how much you can improve with dedicated practice.
Create YOUR moment