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Kyle Ohman, of BasketballHQ
As a player I have been under several different coaches and all have had their different strategies for preseason conditioning. As a coach you need to decide what you are going to do for your conditioning and what fits your team best. If you coach a team that is going to press for the majority of the game you need to make sure that you players are in really good shape, so your preseason conditioning is going to be very rigorous. A team that walks the ball up is going to have to spend more time on sets and conditioning isn't stressed as much, although still very important. Have you heard the saying, "fatigue makes cowards of us all?" This statement really is true. It doesn't matter how good of a player you are, because once you get tired your shots will be short, you won't play defense, and you will make careless plays.
Preseason conditioning is a must for your team and it can be done many different ways but there are a few things that you should focus on as a coach during preseason conditioning. Conditioning the right way can help mold your team and will teach you a lot when evaluating each of your players. Don't just treat as something that has to be done, use it as a way to evaluate each player and your team as a whole.
First thing to watch for is the players that have come in and are already in shape because this means that they are invested in the team and have been working during the offseason. These are most likely the same players that are going to be early to practice and stay late after to work on their game. When you are deciding on captains these are usually the players that you want to pick because they will hold the other players accountable throughout the season.
Sometimes players can be in shape but are not really pushing themselves during the conditioning. These are usually the more gifted players that are already fast and for them to make the sprints usually isn't a problem. Do not let them get away with this. Challenge them to win every sprint and to push themselves. This will not only help them to become a better player it will challenge the other players not to take it easy. On the other hand if you see a player busting his tail then let him know that he is doing a good job and to keep it up. A coach's approval can mean a lot for some players.
Conditioning the right way can really bring a team together. This is why I like the idea of having every player on the team responsible for making the sprint or it doesn't count. Player accountability is a big thing and with this style of conditioning it encourages players to hold each other accountable. As a coach you need to watch for players being too negative though because this takes away from the team cohesiveness. The players should be encouraging each other to make the sprint, not putting each other down if one player misses the sprint.
There are many different styles of conditioning and ways to get in shape. In high school and college I have had a total of 5 different head coaches. I am going to explain a few of the good preseason conditioning routines that I have been through. Just so you can get a few new ideas and maybe add something to your conditioning program. It doesn't really matter what type of running you do. It just needs to push your team and challenge them.
As a high school player my team was all about the full court press and run and gun. For our preseason conditioning we would do our conditioning at the end of practice. We would all line up on the baseline and the coach would give us a number of runs we were going to do. For example the number might be 30, but this was not just sprints. This would involve sprints, defensive slides, frog jumps, back peddle, etc. This was good for the players because it gave us a goal and we knew when we were done. Another thing we did was the ladder drill. The way this works is to pick an odd number, usually 11. You would start with 11 sprints, then 9, 7, 5, 3, and 1 with a lap in between each set of sprints.
College was a whole different level of conditioning and really pushed a lot of players to their breaking point. I never really struggled with conditioning because I liked to keep myself in shape during the off season as well but some of my teammates really struggled. The reason that college was harder is because the coaches took the view of, "you are only as strong as your weakest link." All of our running was timed and if one player missed the time then it didn't count and the whole team had to run it again. I personally like this idea because players do not want to let their teammates down. This will push them to run faster and get in shape quicker. One of our preseason workouts was 22's. The way that this works is that you have to sprint the court down, back, down, and back through the free throw line in 22 seconds. This sounds pretty easy by itself, but you have 22 seconds rest in between and you have to complete 20 of them as a team before the season starts. This gets very difficult when players start to miss the time and it doesn't count. The second preseason conditioning I did in college was boot camp. This involved 10 different sessions full of every different kind of conditioning you can think of. You were not allowed to start practice until you completed all 10 sessions and if you couldn't make it through one you had to make up the whole thing over again with a coach.
Preseason conditioning is a rite of passage for the players and once they have gotten through it together they will become stronger teammates with each other. It is more than just getting in shape and can be a great building block for your team. Use your preseason wisely and start your team on the path to a great season. Just as metal has to be put in the fire and pounded on to be made into something great, your team has to go through adversity and come out on the other side tested and stronger for it.
This article was written by Kyle Ohman. Kyle Ohman was a starting guard for Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. Kyle averaged 15.4 points per game and was ranked the 19th best shooter by Fox Sports as a Senior (2009-2010). Kyle is a gifted basketball motivator and communicator and will take his game to the professional level and then on to a basketball coaching career.
Visit Kyle's website, BasketballHQ.
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