One topic that is rarely discussed is effectively planning your post-season practices to get the most out of your players. By the time March rolls around mental and physical fatigue is starting to set in, if it hasn’t already, with our players. It is vital that you prepare your practices with this in mind to prevent injury, reduce game fatigue, and maintain focus.
Get a Great Warm-Up
Keeping your players injury free should be a priority this time of the year. Do not be afraid to add in a few extra minutes in pre-practice to properly warm-up your players. Some of you may be fortunate to have a strength coach or certified trainer on staff, but I know from experience most high schools do not have this luxury. With that said, make sure your players get a good lather going during their warm-up period. This will ensure that they are warming up properly (because the body is sweating).
Keep Practices to a Minimum
By March, your practices should never exceed an hour and a half in length. The only exception is if you would like to spend time at the end of practice shooting free-throws or getting in a light lift to maintain strength. Keeping your player’s legs fresh in the post-season is a vital component to making a championship run. However, you also don’t want your players to lose their conditioning edge so it is important to find a balance. After warming-up, I like to spend the first 30-45 minutes going extremely hard, creating competitive situations. The last portion of practice is usually a time which requires more focus but is less exhausting. Here are some other suggestions to work-on (some vary depending how far out your next game is):
- Shooting: At least 20 minutes every day
- I love parts of the offense shooting. If you have a set that has your players running off staggers, work on getting shots out of the options in that set.
- Offensive Review: Run through your sets 5 on 0
- Depending on the level of play, put in some new plays for the post-season that your opponent’s won’t have on film
- Scouting Report: Review your opponent’s main offensive actions and ways to handle their defense.
This goes hand in hand with the previous topic. While you want your players competing in practice, you also don’t need them beating each other up in March. There needs to be an understanding that hard fouls and undercutting teammates in practice are absolutely unacceptable; especially as you move later into the season.
Cool Down the Right Way
Our bodies are high performance machines and should be treated as such. At the end of practice most coaches break a huddle and the players go on their way; usually home to sit on the couch. However, a proper cool down period the 10-15 minutes following practice is just as important as the warm-up period before practice. While the majority of your pre-practice warm-ups should be dynamic and incorporate basketball specific movements, occasionally mix in post-practice stretching that should be more static in nature. Mix it up with some of the following
- Static stretching
- Foam rolling
- Strap Stretching
- Ice any bumps or bruises; especially knees and ankles