Maximize Your Summer League - WRITE!

We got off and running last week with our summer league, along with the rest of the state. One thing I am working on this summer is tracking all practices, workouts, and games. Not just what we do, but more importantly the positives and negatives within each session. Tracking our growth will allow me to see what the most important things we need to address going into next season. Summer league is a great way to assess where your team is at, and also where you are as a player. Here are 3 things you can start tracking after each practice/game with your team:


What do you consistently hear your coach saying to you individually and also to your team as a whole? It’s important to know what your coach values and what he thinks will help your team reach its potential.


When you are out of the game, watch your teammates and learn from them. Think about what they are doing to help the team, and what they are doing to hurt the team. Reflect on how you can change your game using what you now know.


Set goals for the next game. Make sure they are measurable, which means you might need to ask someone to track something for you. You can ask your parents, or even an assistant coach to track what you are trying to improve. Remember, it doesn’t have to be a traditional statistic. Maybe your team switches screens and you want to see how many times you are able to deny a pass after switching.


Shooting Form, Revisited

In my 2-and-a-half years at Shoot 360, I have been able to observe thousands of shooters. This has caused me to take a step back and think about how we, as coaches, teach shooting form. I think that sometimes we can overload our players with too much technical information. If we believe that there are 20 steps to create the perfect shot, the chances are most players will not be able to handle that much information. This is something I have done in the past. Over the past 3 years, I have simplified my methods of teaching shooting through observing players of all ages shoot the ball. This does not mean that I am right and others are wrong, this simply means that I have found it more effective to simplify rather than complicate. There have been 3 components that the top shooters all do.


Keeping the ball in a consistent shooting pocket is important. This involves good elbow alignment along with a bent wrist. I always tried to get players to keep their elbow directly under the ball, but I now feel as this is dependent on the build of the athlete. Some players simply cannot get in this position comfortably due to the mechanics of their body. The elbow shouldn’t be flared out to the side, but does not need to be directly under the ball.


Using your legs is crucial to developing a soft touch on your shot. Jumping as high as you can is not necessary; you can efficiently use your legs on a set shot. The important part is using your legs to gain momentum for the ball to be released from your hands. It’s more about timing than strength.


The flick of the wrist! Snapping your wrist is vital for proper rotation. When you release the ball, your fingers should end up pointing to the ground.

All this being said, REPETITION is the key to becoming a consistent shooter. Sharpen up your form, then get in the gym and get your shots up.


Encouraging Growth Instead of Winning in Young Athletes

I am in the process of converting some VHS tapes to DVD for my brother and stumbled on some old footage from our track meets when we were younger. I think I was in first or second grade. What I realized was that the events I loved the most were actually the ones I was the worst at. I don’t know when, but at some point during my childhood, I stopped doing the sprints and jumps and focused on the throwing events. Most likely because I had success at the throwing events and usually placed near last on the other events. I feel like this is an attitude that is common in athletics, especially at young ages. We tend to lean towards sports that we are successful at, even if we enjoy other ones more. In my mind, this is a huge negative in how we develop our young athletes.

While I may not have been a track superstar, had I continued to pursue sprinting, it could have helped me develop some sort of athleticism at an earlier age and probably kept me from getting as heavy as I did as a young child. There are also mental effects that come with only choosing successful sports and events. As we come into adulthood, it can be scary to try new things. It took me years to finally attempt photography and videography, things I had been really interested in since high school. It was a fear of how I would be percieved.

As I kept watching, I noticed myself getting slower and slower as the years went on (most likely due to the weight gain). I don’t think there were any outside influences that caused me to quit. Even in high school when my basketball coach encouraged me to become a sprinter to gain speed, it was the fear of losing and not being as good as the other kids that made me turn the offer down. How can we as coaches to young athletes encourage growth over success? Is this something that is fostered through childhood and ingrained in our athletes before we even get to coach them?

The competitive aspect of sports is a huge part of this. I go back and forth on how much and how soon winning should be celebrated. I think keeping score is an important part of understanding how the game is played, but it’s a fine line between encouraging competition and celebrating winning. At a young age, growth should be celebrated more than winning. The advancement of skills should be the victory.


Use Your Mornings, Develop Habits

A few years ago, I got to the point where I was tired of saying how much I wish I could or would do certain things. I had to admit to myself that I was all talk. I can remember reading an article from Darren Hardy that talked about bookends. He was saying that there will always be unexpected things throughout the day that might deviate our schedules. But, usually, we can control the beginning of our days and the end of our days. (Maybe different for people with kids) My morning routine is consistent, but I shift a few things around on a couple days. Generally, I begin with meal prep for the day (including a veggie smoothie), get my training in, and then I spend time in scripture and prayer.

I tend to think about things I could have done differently as a young athlete with the knowledge I know now. My senior year, I had late arrival at school which meant I didn’t start class until 9:15 am. Yet, even though I have always been a morning person, I never really took advantage of that time. My opinion is that sleep is crucial to athletic development, so If you are starting school at 7 am, you may not be able to fit as much into your mornings. However, here are a few suggestions that athletes who are serious about improvement should consider:

Foam rolling

Foam rolling allows you to get the stiffness out of your muscles and prepares your body to be mobile.


Drink water when you wake up! You just went 8 hours (more or less) without water.


Don’t go from your bed to the couch. Get your body moving to wake yourself up. This could be as intense as training or as simple as going for a walk.

Start your day off by paying attention to living a disciplined life. Develop habits that will help you grow.


Steve Nash and the Creative Art of Skill Development

As I get older, it’s harder and harder to claim myself as a fan to many players. I can’t bring myself to buy players’ jerseys or posters anymore. Even in regards to my favorite teams, I can’t find the logic in purchasing branded apparel. With the retirement of Steve Nash, so leaves another player that I watched as a child as a true fan. Someone I would get excited to see when I was a child. I never owned a Nash jersey, but he was definitely someone who I would study as a player. He had an interesting quote in a recent Sports Illustrated article:

“Parents try to buy the 10,000 hours,” he says. “It’s drills and strength coaches and skill development. But you lose a lot. At the park, there’s no instruction, so you create constantly...I want to foster in my kids a passion for sports, but I have to be careful. I can’t do it completely. I can only open an environment and encourage them in whatever they do.”

His statements have meaning. People are naturally creative. It’s not until we get exposed to situations that limit our creativity - whether it be school, athletics, or work - that we come to a point where we find what we do mundane.

Looking back on my childhood, I feel like my dad accomplished this with me in basketball. I remember a huge emphasis on shooting form and being able to dribble and lay up with both hands. Outside of that, most of our time was spent playing against other kids or pretending we were certain players in a game situation (I loved being Terry Porter and Clyde Drexler). Our creativity reinforced our fundamentals and allowed us to see the game as a playground.

I believe fundamentals are important, and skill development is necessary. The one thing that we can not neglect as coaches is the importance of stretching our players ability to see the game in different ways. To be able to improvise within the system we teach.