Coaches Network: What to Tell Your Team At the End of the Season
With the NCAA Tournaments coming to an end last week, it got us to thinking about how coaches deal with their players when the season is over. So here’s what we asked the USA Basketball Coaches Network:
How do you approach the end of the season, and what kind of message do you send to your players when the season is complete?
Mike Jones, head coach, DeMatha High School (Md.)
We approach each offseason differently. Many times it depends on the level of success achieved and, more importantly, who is scheduled to return the following season.
With AAU being such a large part of the basketball landscape in the D.C. area where we are, time off from organized team stuff is necessary. We give our players times to get away -- preferably we would have them rest. But almost every player is going straight to workouts and practices to prepare for their AAU season.
We do have "exit" interviews. This is a time to recap the season and point to the future. For returning players, we discuss what we want to work on in the summer and to set goals. For seniors, it's all about giving them some perspective as they get ready to go to college -- being truthful and providing some advice and guidance as to what they are about to embark on.
Ultimately, the offseason is where the most individual improvement takes place. Having a plan and a focus really allows for your players to truly embrace the process and to set and attack goals. Take advantage!
Sue Phillips, head coach, Archbishop Mitty High School (Calif.)
The message to our players for the offseason is one we like to call the "RE-season." It's a time for RE-juvenation, RE-invention, and RE-investment. With a variety of factors escalating our student-athletes’ stress levels, it is important that we provide counsel on how to maintain a healthy balance during the RE-season.
Rejuvenating their mind and body is important to reduce the risk of burnout and overuse injuries. The road to that end is unique to every player on our team. We conduct end-of-the-year meetings to assess and advise our players accordingly. All of our players are recommended to rest minimally for two weeks following our five-month season (which culminated in a CIF state championship ... hooray!). With such a long season and high stakes, the emotional and physical drain to excel can take its toll on our players. In turn, we encourage our athletes to play a spring sport as a means to cross-train and steer clear of any gym workouts for the immediate future.
Reinvention represents a player's aspirations of transforming their mind, body, and skill set -- to improve their basketball IQ by watching game film to dissect their decision-making processes from this past season. We highly recommend that our players partake in the department's strength and conditioning program designed to make their bodies stronger, enhance performance, and reduce the risk of injury. This also includes a steady diet of proper nutrition and adequate sleep. Additionally, we encourage our players to get back in the gym 2-3 times a week and improve on their skill set. Specifically, strive to have greater consistency in their execution and to expand their toolbox.
Our notion of reinvestment requires a commitment mindset. To fully commit in terms of time and effort to both team-related activities and individual work, even when it's not personally convenient. Championships are built in the RE-season, not in March.
Brian Robinson, head coach, Bishop McGuinness High School (N.C.)
The message at the end of each season is typically the same. Thank you to the seniors for their time and commitment to our program. To the potential returnees, it's now your responsibility to improve over the next seven-to-eight months, because nothing is guaranteed. No one is guaranteed a starting spot or a spot on the team no matter their performance from the season that just ended.
Guaranteeing spots leads to complacency, which typically leads to mediocrity; for any program that has high goals or standards that cannot be acceptable. We do talk to the kids about having some balance because you want them to enjoy their summer and you want them to take a break from the game to avoid burnout, but it doesn't mean that they just put away their shoes and the ball until the next season. As the old saying goes: Somewhere, someone else is working on their game in the offseason and even if you can't see them directly, you have to know someone is working, so what happens when you eventually run into them?
Don Showalter, head coach, Iowa City High School (Iowa)
How the end of the season is approached sets the tone for a run in the postseason and then post-season improvement. The practice sessions are shorter, as an hour or so is enough time to make sure the players have legs left for the tough last games and also to keep players more mentally sharp.
Practices should always be very positive and upbeat this time of year, with more emphasis on some skill work along with game preparation. Very little competitive work should be done at the end of the season practices.
The message you send to your players when the season is over is very similar to the message you send to them during the season. Keep improving daily! We have individual conferences with all players returning so we can talk about roles, post-season basketball and goals. This sets the tone for the summer improvement.