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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Know Your Role

Does every player in your program know what their role is? Are you sure?

A major factor in your team’s success is getting every player to:

· Know their role

· Accept their role

· Have pride in their role

Coach Jones takes a unique approach. Prior to our first game, he conducts a 15 minute meeting with every player and their parents. He offers his thoughts on their first 3 weeks of practice, he clearly defines their role on the team, he estimates how much playing time they will get, and he outlines his expectations.

He encourages each player to speak freely and voice any concerns. The parents are included to make sure nothing is lost in translation. The meeting isn’t adjourned until everyone is on the same page.

Coach Jones’ honesty, sincerity, and inclusion of the parents make this approach extremely effective.

Here is another useful exercise to try with your team:

Have every player write down the number of minutes they would like to play in each game. Collect everyone’s number and total them up.

In a standard high school game there are160 playable minutes available (32 minutes of game time x 5 players on the court at all times).

I guarantee the number you total will far exceed 160 minutes. In many cases, it will be double.

What does that mean? It means that most of the players want to play more minutes than they actually will (or are even possible!). They may have written down 20 minutes… yet realistically will play significantly less than that.

Discrepancies in playing time can become a major distraction if not handled appropriately.

While things can certainly change, it is important to clearly define each player’s role (including an honest estimate of playing time) to reduce the chance of it becoming an issue later in the season. Grumblings at the “end of the bench” can become a cancer to the team.

Team’s that keep high morale and great attitudes at the “end of the bench”… are teams that will maximize their potential. They epitomize the word “team.”

While every player wants to start and wants to score points… that is not everyone’s role. There are so many ways players can positively impact a game… in limited minutes… that don’t make the newspaper.

Villanova’s men’s basketball program records the following on a board called “Attitude Club” after every game:

· Extra pass (a pass that sets up an assist)

· Screen assist (a screen that leads to an immediate score)

· Tap backs (tapping a loose ball or rebound to teammate to gain position)

· Quick outlets (getting the ball to a guard immediately after a rebound)

· Shot contests (high hand on all shots)

· Dives (getting on the floor for loose balls)

· Deflections (disrupting the offense’s flow by getting a hand on the ball)

· Paint passes (working the ball inside; hitting cutters and feeding the post)

Players that play limited minutes can still score highly in these areas. Players that don’t play at all can still do these things in practice (which will help earn time in the future).

Whether you play 30 minutes a game, 3 minutes a game, or don’t play at all… make the most of every opportunity you have (even if it is in practice) and find a way within your role to contribute and make your team better.

One of my primary roles with DeMatha is to get our team mentally and physically ready to compete.

Coach Paul Ricci has the same role at the University of Maryland.

Here is a video of their pre-game warm-up: http://TinyUrl.com/MDPreGameWarmUp

This is what they do prior to lay-up lines, passing drills, etc. This warm-up takes about 10 minutes.

Please keep me posted on how your team is doing this season.

I can be reached at:

Alan@StrongerTeam.com

www.Twitter.com/AlanStein

www.Facebook.com/StrongerTeam

Play hard. Play smart. Play together.

Alan Stein

www.StrongerTeam.com

Friday, November 19, 2010

Banged Up

With two full weeks of practice under our belts, we (DeMatha) are off to a great start. Our players are starting to jell into a cohesive unit. We are still miles away from where we need to be, but we are moving in the right direction. We have several scrimmages lined up, to help us fine tune things, prior to our season opener on December 1st. Our players are looking forward to competing against someone other than themselves!

Despite the great start, we are physically banged up right now. Our guys compete so hard in practice… there is no shortage of bumps, bruises, and sore muscles. Regardless of how thorough our pre-season strength & conditioning program was… the intensity, volume, and contact has been turned up ten-fold since practice began. It’s normal for players to be a bit banged up in the first few weeks. Their bodies (and minds) are getting acclimated to the rigors of full contact practices. It doesn’t mean our pre-season training was deficient (believe me, it wasn’t). This is just another step up the “intensity ladder.” Our guys were sore the first couple of weeks of our pre-season training… but they adjusted. The same will happen now that practice has begun.

As Clarke W. Griswold said in Christmas Vacation, “it’s all a part of the experience!”

However, it is very important for me to communicate openly with our players and get them to differentiate between discomfort and pain and between being hurt and being injured. Discomfort and having things hurt go with the territory of being a basketball player. Pain and being injured don’t.

I told our guys, “basketball is a physically demanding sport… if something on your body isn’t sore or isn’t hurting… you aren’t playing hard enough!” There is a lot of truth to that. However, that’s where the macho BS ends. It is vital that any issue above and beyond the standard aches and pains gets addressed properly.

Sharp, shooting pains in the feet, ankles, knees or back… or severe muscular soreness… need to be tended to immediately (preferably by a professional). It is better to address them while they are minor issues; opposed to letting them become major issues. I would rather have a player miss a day or two of practice in November than a week or two in January!

We do these 3 things consistently to reduce the aches and pains:

20 minute in-season strength workout: http://TinyUrl.com/20MinInSeasonStrength

10 minute standardized pre-practice warm-up: http://TinyUrl.com/PrePracticeWarmUp

5 minute standardized post practice stretch: http://TinyUrl.com/PostPracticeStretch

Now that practice has begun, I recommend every player in your program answer these questions:

· Have you been on time, to every practice?

· Have you been a great teammate? Coachable? Enthusiastic?

· Have you given a solid effort every practice?

· Have you played as well as you are capable of playing?

· Have you communicated effectively with your coaches and teammates?

· Have you had fun?

If you answer “no” to any of these questions you need to make a change… ASAP! If you want to have a remarkable season; you need to be 100% committed to yourself, to your team, and to your coach.

Practice hard. Play smart. Enjoy the journey.

Alan Stein

www.StrongerTeam.com

www.Twitter.com/AlanStein

PS: If you need some innovative drills to spice up your warm-ups, practices, and in-season conditioning… I just released a new DVD: http://Shop.StrongerTeam.com/p-39-in-season-conditioning.aspx

Banged Up

With two full weeks of practice under our belts, we (DeMatha) are off to a great start. Our players are starting to jell into a cohesive unit. We are still miles away from where we need to be, but we are moving in the right direction. We have several scrimmages lined up, to help us fine tune things, prior to our season opener on December 1st. Our players are looking forward to competing against someone other than themselves!

Despite the great start, we are physically banged up right now. Our guys compete so hard in practice… there is no shortage of bumps, bruises, and sore muscles. Regardless of how thorough our pre-season strength & conditioning program was… the intensity, volume, and contact has been turned up ten-fold since practice began. It’s normal for players to be a bit banged up in the first few weeks. Their bodies (and minds) are getting acclimated to the rigors of full contact practices. It doesn’t mean our pre-season training was deficient (believe me, it wasn’t). This is just another step up the “intensity ladder.” Our guys were sore the first couple of weeks of our pre-season training… but they adjusted. The same will happen now that practice has begun.

As Clarke W. Griswold said in Christmas Vacation, “it’s all a part of the experience!”

However, it is very important for me to communicate openly with our players and get them to differentiate between discomfort and pain and between being hurt and being injured. Discomfort and having things hurt go with the territory of being a basketball player. Pain and being injured don’t.

I told our guys, “basketball is a physically demanding sport… if something on your body isn’t sore or isn’t hurting… you aren’t playing hard enough!” There is a lot of truth to that. However, that’s where the macho BS ends. It is vital that any issue above and beyond the standard aches and pains gets addressed properly.

Sharp, shooting pains in the feet, ankles, knees or back… or severe muscular soreness… need to be tended to immediately (preferably by a professional). It is better to address them while they are minor issues; opposed to letting them become major issues. I would rather have a player miss a day or two of practice in November than a week or two in January!

We do these 3 things consistently to reduce the aches and pains:

20 minute in-season strength workout: http://TinyUrl.com/20MinInSeasonStrength

10 minute standardized pre-practice warm-up: http://TinyUrl.com/PrePracticeWarmUp

5 minute standardized post practice stretch: http://TinyUrl.com/PostPracticeStretch

Now that practice has begun, I recommend every player in your program answer these questions:

· Have you been on time, to every practice?

· Have you been a great teammate? Coachable? Enthusiastic?

· Have you given a solid effort every practice?

· Have you played as well as you are capable of playing?

· Have you communicated effectively with your coaches and teammates?

· Have you had fun?

If you answer “no” to any of these questions you need to make a change… ASAP! If you want to have a remarkable season; you need to be 100% committed to yourself, to your team, and to your coach.

Practice hard. Play smart. Enjoy the journey.

Alan Stein

www.StrongerTeam.com

www.Twitter.com/AlanStein

PS: If you need some innovative drills to spice up your warm-ups, practices, and in-season conditioning… I just released a new DVD: http://Shop.StrongerTeam.com/p-39-in-season-conditioning.aspx

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Make Time

As a basketball player or coach, you may start to feel overwhelmed now that the season has begun. It can be tough to balance school, practice, games, and quality time with your family and friends. It may seem difficult to fit everything in and live a balanced life.

Know this - you will never find time for anything during the hectic season. You have to make time for the things that are important to you. If you truly love something; you will make the time for it. Time is never the problem… after all… each of us gets 24 hours in a day. Lack of passion and focus is the real problem!

When a player or coach tells me they “don’t have time” to do something… I know they don’t want it bad enough. Whether it’s reading a motivational book, getting in an in-season strength workout, having a nice dinner with your family, or getting up an extra 250 shots after practice… you have to make the time. “Not enough time” is just a convenient excuse.

Great players and great coaches get more out of their 24 hours than their competition does.

If you want to maximize each practice, I highly recommend you make the time to go through a thorough warm-up and get mentally and physically prepared to compete. Believe me, it is time very well invested.

Click here to watch a DeMatha Basketball Pre-Practice Warm-up: http://TinyUrl.com/PrePracticeWarmup

I also encourage you to make the time for a quick post practice stretch to help improve flexibility and remove lactic acid build-up (which will help reduce soreness the following day).

Click here to watch a DeMatha Basketball Post Practice Stretch: http://TinyUrl.com/PostPracticeStretch

As always, please email me at Alan@StrongerTeam.com if I can ever be of service.

Alan Stein

www.StrongerTeam.com

PS: I am going to start to post shorter blogs (more frequently). Given how busy you will be this season, shorter posts are more appropriate. I hope you continue to make the time to read them! Please let me know if you like the change in format. I value your feedback.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Youth Training

Will lifting weights stunt your growth? At what age should you start lifting weights?

Let me put an end to this lingering myth once and for all…

Proper strength training does not stunt growth! In fact, you can actually begin a safe, age appropriate training program as young as 8 or 9 years old.

For all of the 13 and 14 year olds who email me or hit me up on Twitter or Facebook asking when they should start strength training… my answer is… today!

The most important concept to understand is that a child’s chronological age and their physical and mental maturity are not always congruent. This includes their muscular and Central Nervous System maturity (coordination, body awareness, etc.) as well as their mental maturity (attention span, ability to process and follow instructions, etc.). Children mature and progress at different rates. Some 10 year olds look and act 16 and some 16 year olds look and act 10! Therefore, individualized modifications should be made for any outlier and you should get approval from a qualified professional prior to implementing a training program.

However, as a general rule of thumb, young players (ages 8-12) can and should participate in a structured, supervised, age appropriate training program.

There is a difference between “lifting weights” and “strength training.” I strongly prefer to use the term strength training as it encompasses a variety of modalities and methodologies. You can improve strength without weights. When I say a young player should learn how to squat correctly, I am referring to the functional movement (not implying you load their spine with a barbell!). My goal is not to produce better “weight lifters”, but rather to use appropriate training methods to produce stronger, more coordinated, and more confident players. A truly comprehensive program utilizes more than just weights. In fact, some of the most intense and difficult strength workouts we have our players do don’t even use weights!

An age appropriate strength training program will not harm a child’s growth, but will actually help strengthen their skeletal and muscular system as well as their connective tissue. A proper training program will also help facilitate an improvement in their coordination and body awareness.

A proper youth training program should involve dynamic flexibility, movement preparation, footwork, strength training, and agility drills. The program should be done two times per week, for 30-45 minutes per workout, and focus on multi-joint movements such as skipping, hopping, jumping, lunging, squatting, pushing, pulling, throwing, and twisting. The workouts should be challenging, yet fun and engaging with the goal of building great training habits and a solid foundation of efficient movement.

It is important for younger players to regularly experience a variety of motor skills in order to promote future athletic success and injury prevention. Developing this basic coordination through a wide variety of movements, drills, and exercises is integral… with the eventual goal of developing basketball specific coordination in their teenage years. In other words, children need to learn how to run and jump properly, how to control their body in space and how to move efficiently before they learn how to dribble, shoot, and pass. They need to do this for the same reason they need to learn addition and subtraction before they learn algebra and geometry… one builds on the other.

Research has shown that coordination is best developed between the ages of 10 to 12 years old. There are several components to coordination, such as balance, rhythm, body awareness in space, and reaction. Younger players that master these components, and improve their coordination through appropriate training, tend to have better athletic success at later ages. Of course, one’s absolute athletic potential is somewhat pre-determined based on genetic predispositions. However, regardless of their absolute athletic potential, every young player can make progress. This is why introducing a proper youth training program is so important!

For the record, I am not saying that children under the age of 10 to 12 shouldn’t be playing basketball or learning basketball skills… they should. But they should also be learning how to master their general motor skills (particularly running and jumping).

Here are 4 guidelines to a quality youth training program:

  • Safe: young players must use proper form and appropriate resistances (if applicable).

  • Fun: young players should be engaged and enjoy training!

  • Fundamental: young players should master a variety of general motor skills (skipping, hopping, jumping, lunging, squatting, pushing, pulling, throwing, and twisting) before trying to master sport-specific skills (ball handling, shooting, etc.).

  • Challenging: young players learn quickly, so challenge them physically and mentally with a variety of new movements, exercises, and drills.

Believe me, my twin sons Luke and Jack will be exposed to a safe, age appropriate youth training program at a very early age!

I wrote this blog because I am passionate about this message (not to push a product). However, I have created an 8-Week Youth Training Program download for any parent or coach who needs it: http://shop.strongerteam.com/p-36-8-week-training-program-for-youth-basketball-players.aspx

The Vertimax is an invaluable training tool for improving explosiveness and can be used both in and out of season. But did you know it could do all of this?

http://TinyUrl.com/VertimaxBasketballTraining

Make sure you join in the fun with my Daily Question and Funniest Caption contests at www.Twitter.com/AlanStein and www.Facebook.com/StrongerTeam.

This past week’s winner won a pair of Skull Candy headphones!

Who will my next winner be?

Alan Stein

www.StrongerTeam.com

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Playing in College

I am honored to receive hundreds of emails per week from coaches and players around the world… almost all of which offer kind words and support (for which I am truly grateful). I also get asked a lot of questions. The three questions I get asked most often by players are:

What is the best way to improve my vertical?

How do I get a college scholarship?

Will lifting weights stunt my growth?

If you are looking to improve your hops, please check out the episodes, articles, and downloads at www.CanHeDunk.com.

As for getting a college scholarship, I happily offer my thoughts in this blog. Next week I will address age appropriate strength training and the myth that strength training will stunt growth.

In my 10+ years as a basketball strength and conditioning coach, I have worked with hundreds of high school players who have gone on to play college basketball. They have gone to schools ranging from Division III to major Division I. Only a very small percentage of the hundreds of thousands of kids who play high school basketball have an opportunity to play in college, and an even smaller percentage will play on scholarship (NOTE: Division III schools do not offer athletic scholarships).

If you are 7 feet tall, a scholarship will probably find you. If you play for a nationally renowned high school or AAU program, you have a much better chance as well. But what if you don’t? What if you are of average size, decent skill level, and have a ton of heart? Can you still play college basketball? Yes! But it’s not easy.

Here are 8 tips on how you can improve your chances of attaining a basketball scholarship:

1) Be an outstanding student. Being a great student expands the ranges of schools you can attend and shows a coach you are committed to excellence on and off the court. Unless you are a bona fide All-American, coaches at every level are tired of taking risks on kids who are poor students. This is the first question every coach asks. Don’t let the first filter be the one that weeds you out!

2) Be a great teammate. Every coach I have ever talked to looks to recruit players that are coachable and who get along with their teammates. No one wants a jerk. Be the teammate everyone loves to play with because you are unselfish, coachable, enthusiastic, committed to team goals, and raise the level of those around you. Being a great teammate will raise your stock tremendously. I have seen players (literally) lose a coach’s interest because of bad body language or acting like a jackass when they didn’t agree with a foul call or when they came out of the game. Before college coaches ask me to evaluate a player’s athletic ability, they always ask, “are they a good teammate?”

3) If you can’t, don’t. Stick to what you do best and play to your strengths. Stop doing what you think coaches want to see. If you aren’t a great 3 point shooter, stop shooting 3’s! Coaches want players who know, understand, and accept their role. Nothing can lose a scholarship faster than trying to show off for a coach during a practice or a game. All you are doing is exposing your weaknesses! Every team, from JV to the NBA needs role players and players who know how to play to their strengths.

4) Do the little things. Contrary to what most high school players think, it is not all about scoring. To play college basketball, you need to do the little things: good footwork, set screens, box out, share the ball, communicate, play solid defense, dive for loose balls, work hard, and be a leader on and off the court. These things alone will separate you from 95% of the players who are your size and skill level. The little things can earn you a big scholarship!

5) Maximize your ability. You can’t control your height, and to some degree, your overall athleticism. But you can make sure you are in great basketball shape. You should be on a year round strength & conditioning program and work on your ball handling and shooting daily. Focus on the things you have complete control over!

6) Be realistic. It is so important that you have an accurate evaluation of the level you can play. Not everyone can play major Division I basketball. I am not opposed to setting high standards and chasing your dreams; but don’t pass up on a great opportunity to play (and get an education) at a D-II or D-III school because you think Duke or Kentucky is going to call. I have seen so many players left out in the cold because they kept holding out for a better offer that never came.

7) Protect your brand. You are the CEO of Brand You. I wrote extensively about this concept in a previous blog: http://blog.strongerteam.com/post/2010/04/29/NEW-Brand-You.aspx. You need to carry yourself with professionalism and respect… both on and off the court. Be careful what you Tweet or post on Facebook… it takes years to build credibility and a quality reputation and one click to ruin it. Someone is always watching and college coaches do significant background checks on all of their recruits. Their first stop? Social media sites!

8) Recruit them. Basketball is global. If you can play; “they” will find you. Don’t worry too much about getting exposure. Worry more about not getting exposed (for your weaknesses)! And you don’t have to wait for a school to recruit you… you can recruit them! If you know of a school that you would like to play for and is appropriate to your level… send them a letter and some game film. If they like what they see; they will get back in touch!

Bottom line is this: in addition to working on your handle and jump shot, you need to find ways to differentiate yourself from the pack. You need to show college coaches a reason to offer you a scholarship instead of giving them a reason not too!

Even though we held this workout outside; the following is a great workout you can do on court with minimal equipment after practice:

In the next couple of weeks, I will post videos of our pre-practice warm-up as well as our post practice cool down. Soon to follow will be videos of in-season strength workouts and pre-game warm-ups!

Make sure you join in the fun with my Daily Question and Funniest Caption contests at www.Twitter.com/AlanStein and www.Facebook.com/StrongerTeam.

Please email me at Alan@StrongerTeam.com if I can ever be of service.

Alan Stein

www.StrongerTeam.com

PS: I take pride in facilitating quality information and have sent out dozens of Coaching Nuggets in the past. I have decided to change the format and will send out one new Basketball Nugget per month. This month’s nugget will be sent next week; so please sign up for our email newsletter if you haven’t already done so: http://www.strongerteam.com/Register.aspx