“When you’re not practicing someone else is getting better.”
“Open Gym= Optional, Skills Workouts= Optional, Playing Time Next Year= Optional.”
“___ % of high school players play college basketball, ___% make 500 shots a day.”
My social media timeline is constantly filled up with quotes similar to this by coaches trying to promote a culture of hard work within their programs. I get it and I’m more than aware that a culture of hard work is vital for team success. However, some of the stuff I often see is a poor attempt to motivate kids that is also factually incorrect. Sadly, the result of these type of tweets does little for a kid/athlete (good or bad), but instead a parent who may not be properly informed is the one who is now motivated to put their kids in more stuff. The basketball, and in general, the sports culture, has become obsessed with “grinding” and the idea of more always being better. There are a lot reasons why this message has proliferated, but a big part of it is that too many people w/ little background in coaching, training, & movement are posting wide-spread content without context. Parents and athletes don’t have a way to filter all of the information. Marketing and the fear of missing out pulls them in and runs them thin.
There isn’t an exact formula for every player, but as I have wrote and posted about before- it’s a blend of hard, smart, and consistent work. Putting in the time and effort- hard & consistent work- will always be an integral part of the formula for achieving something meaningful in our lives. These two are the components most often discussed by coaches or anyone else involved in sport. The part of the formula usually missing is smart. Players need a scheduled day of rest, they need to have time to sleep, vacation, and play another sport if they choose or even have the slightest desire to do so.
This isn’t to say that players use rest as a crutch and take a bunch of random days off when they don’t feel like working, but it is to say that parents, players, and coaches are intentional about building scheduled time off for athletes. Another item that we can help players become more conscious of are their eating habits. They don’t need to be flawless, but limiting soda, fast food, and increasing fruits and vegetables is a good start.
From a movement/ strength & conditioning perspective, the large majority of basketball players don’t need more “resisted-jumping workouts”, long distance running, and large doses of conditioning. If they are playing & practicing frequently, they get plenty of conditioning through sport. In the weight room, they don’t need to isolate their biceps, triceps, do sit-ups, or do multiple sets of bench press. Instead, every basketball player, and to generalize, every athlete, needs to learn how to squat, lunge, hinge, stabilize, & do more pull-ups. When looking into programs or facilities for athletic performance, ask the coaches what a typical program consists of. Ask if they have progressions and regressions for athletes to squat, lunge, and hinge. Ask how many sets of pulling vs. pushing they do in a typical week. These are crucial questions that anyone involved in this realm should be able to provide an answer to. If they can’t or look at you funny, don’t invest a dollar into what they’re selling.
Playing-wise, most players don’t need more time on the court or weekends in the gym- they need better time on the court. Practices in which each player gets ample touches and opportunities to compete, workouts w/ progressions, and individual workouts where players have a plan (and phone away). Almost no kid needs more exposure- ESPECIALLY before they even reach high school. Instead of traveling to 10-15 tournaments during an AAU (or youth) season- play 1 v 1, pickup, lift weights, and jump in a lake as a replacement for a couple of the weekends.
Build a day of rest into schedules or a week (or two) of rest following a season. Sleep a minimum of eight hours a night. Encourage another sport (even if it is recreational). Limit fast food and soda. Less conditioning, running, and workouts that just make you tired as the goal- more workouts that emphasize better quality of movement. More pickup, free play, or organized small-sided games, less watered-down 5 v 5 tournaments w/ $15 admissions. Lastly, and as a bit of an aside from this article, sport is still about joy, keep the enjoyment in the game and in the journey!
We can still work really hard & yet be smart about it.