If you want to continue to be at your best throughout the year and especially come playoff time, in-season skills work is a must. This is why you will often see NBA players working out before and after games to refine their skills. Player cannot just rely on TEAM practice to maintain their INDIVIDUAL skill. Skills training during the off-season and in-season are all after the same goal—improving a player’s in game performance—but the way we approach that goal must differ depending on time of year. The demands of practice, games, travel, lifts, all play a major factor in altering how we approach our training in season. We also have to take into account this is the time of the year we need our players at their BEST, not experimenting with new thins. We also don’t have the luxury to push a player as hard mentally or psychologically during the season, or we could be doing more harm than good. Let’s dive into it.
Confidence is one of the most important qualities (I’d even argue it’s a skill) a player can have. But during the season, it is not uncommon for a player’s confidence to slip here and there. And as we all know, once a player’s confidence drops, the player isn’t the same. This is where in-season training the RIGHT way can come into effect. Getting the player in the gym, touching up some stuff they were “struggling” with, and seeing the ball go in the rim is a great way for a player to leave the gym feeling better about their skills. Confidence is a factor of players’ “belief” in themselves, and being in the gym putting in work is a great way for a player to maintain or increase their belief in their ability.
But just getting in the gym many times isn’t enough to boost a player’s confidence significantly. As trainers and coaches, we have to be aware of the methods behind this, and how they can be applied once you step in the gym with a player or tea. One of the simple ways we can do this is by implementing more block practice. Block practice, as we will talk about a ton on the platform, is great for building short term results. Players can see improvement over the course of a session, which is great for building confidence! While block practice isn’t the best for building long-term skills that hold up in high stress environments (games), there is a time and place for it. That’s why we would use block practice during the season; in the off-season we slowly built up those resilient skills using a varied approach, so now the focus is more on refining skills and building confidence, which may warrant more of this block style of training. We will also be talking about off-season training style and focus in another article, so be sure to check that out as well.
Additionally, the main goal of in-season training is to maximize our players’ in game performance. So our training must be carefully catered to the role that they are currently in (or just outside of the role to allow for a bit of expansion). If our players are getting 90% of their shots off the catch, 90% of our workout is going to be focused on exactly that. Point being, in-season we are working and expanding on the EXACT type of actions we see in games. Building on our shooter example, we will be putting the player through specific game actions they see in games and build on potential action they could use, i.e.; shot fakes, jabs, etc. We want that player to be best they can at what they already do in games. Note that this stresses the importance of in-depth assessments for players throughout their seasons, which we’ll cover in a video.
We can then spend the other 10% or so working things they might not see in games, but want to expand into, even if it’s just doing a fun challenge to make the session a little more fun (which is vital considering that basketball becomes quite monotonous at times in-season!).
Lastly, during the season a player’ body is under a lot of stress, from the psychical demands of intense games, long practices, and lifts, but also from the mental stress of the desire to win, traveling, and more. To our central nervous system, stress is stress. That’s why it’s so important that we remove non-essential fluff from the workouts to make sure we get as much bang for our buck as possible. Even just a 20 minute, very focused workout can make a big difference when done the right way. Use small pockets of time that you have and be efficient! 10 minutes here and 30 minutes there will add up over time.
Like we talked about, work on actions you see in games, but also touch on stuff you don’t normally get enough of during practice. If you went through a team practice and got plenty of shots (which is pretty rare, and thus a topic for another day) and feel like you need to touch up around the rim, floaters, ball handling, then work on that.
Most of all, monitor your body. If you’ve had light practice and game schedule lately, maybe you can go harder one day on your own. On the flip side maybe you have put a lot of stress on your body lately, you may be better off just resting. Knowing your players, being able to ask the right questions to see how they are feeling and how much stress they have put on their bodies is vital. Note that layers will undoubtedly hide the truth sometimes, saying they feel fresh when realistically, they’re gassed. So building a culture of honesty, efficiency, and glorifying rest when needed is absolutely vital to avoid overreaching the body and nervous system. Like I said, some days your players may be better off just napping or watching film, and they need to understand that those days are just as valuable. More is not always better, especially during the season.