For the past few days, I've been entrenched in the game of basketball. Some people may think that my favorite part about traveling to a country like Greece is partaking in what this beautiful country has to offer, but that's not 100% the case.
What I enjoy most is observing the game at this level, especially in the practice setting. I love seeing the process of the coaches plan at work, new and old players coming together as a team, skill and competition drills I've never seen before, and of course, learning what is important to their club with regards to strength and conditioning.
With this, I have some random thoughts on preseason basketball training. In this frame of time you get players you know and don't know. You get players in shape and completely out of shape. You get players who buy in immediately while others take some time. But either way, the goal is to get them to the season physically prepared to play and injury free.
By no means are these reflections new or revolutionary. But concerning pre-season at elite levels, these thoughts should hold true.
RT#1 - Initial evaluation, structural efficiency testing, pre-screening and interviews regarding off-season training are critical. These include as many metrics as you can collect as possible. And even though where a player tests may give you an idea of their off-season training plan, it doesn't always tell the full story. This is why I think an honest and non-judgemental interview process is vital.
RT#2: Not all players come equal. Age, shape, size, training and injury history all play a part in how training should be introduced into pre-season training. For instance, a veteran player going through 2-a-day practices often needs more therapy work. Training for these athletes can include more FMS weak link work, short stints of intentional strength, power and core work. Younger athletes may need to learn and be introduced to new lifts and education on the training process.
RT#3: Team conditioning can be accomplished through drills in practice. I don't see too many elite or professional teams running suicides and 17's. I also believe, if possible, monitoring heart rates of all players during practice can give you more information about when to break than anything else. Individuals who need extra conditioning can have this scheduled as a part of their program.
RT#4: On the same note, movements such as lateral shuffles, crossovers, skips, footwork can be accomplished in a solid pre-practice warm-up. These don't necessarily need to be drilled as intervals.
RT#5: Strength work should be scheduled, systemized and individualized for each player on the team. These are customized off evaluations and interviews.
#RT6: All medical staff, PT's, AT's, and strength coaches must be on the same page with regards to the goals of the program.
RT#7: If possible, nutritional counseling should be provided. You'd be surprised at the lack of basic knowledge players at elite levels hold. Nutrition can go as far as being individualized for each player to help accomplish body composition goals, to providing pre and post workout nutrition, training tables, and hydration.
RT#8: Practicing, teaching, and evaluating recovery starts on day one. This is an area of training largely overlooked. Education on sleep hygiene, physical and mental recovery principles and how to put these into practice is essential to keeping your team healthy and physically prepared year round.