As the 2014-15 school year comes to end, with it the comes the close of another high school sports calendar. Accompanied with this hiatus should be some down time for our state’s student-athletes. Or so it would seem. Anyone who has participated in or closely followed the sports happenings in our state, or most other states for that matter, know this is far from the case. In fact, for the multi-sport athlete the summer can be one of the most hectic times of the year.
The soccer coach is gearing up for summer competition, football has a number of workouts as well as participation in 7-on-7 leagues. Gymnasiums are filled most days with the sounds of sneakers squeaking on the hardwood. Then there are the boys of summer competing in various baseball programs from Senior League, Babe Ruth, and American Legion.
There is an axiom among basketball coaches which states “Teams are made in the winter, players are made in the summer”. In speaking with a number of coaches over the years, summer basketball in a way has become a contest of who can outdo who. Between camps, team weekends, nightly leagues, and the like, teams are trying to gain that competitive edge come the winter season. Coaches, when you evaluate your summer activity, it’s important to carefully consider how your team events fit into the philosophy of making players better.
The summer months provide logistical challenges for coaches which are not as prevalent during the winter season. Numbers fluctuate significantly during the course of the summer as many conflicts arise for players such as other sports commitments, family vacations, and employment. While these factors provide challenges, they also present great opportunity. Summertime can be a great chance to help players with their individual skills, which sometimes can be overlooked during the grind of the winter season.
So what would my ideal summer basketball program look like? First, I would devote at least two nights a week for practice. Practices would emphasize primarily individual fundamental work over team concepts. If a player is struggling with his or her shot, summer is a great time to work on correcting that. Players when adjusting their form will often revert back to what is most comfortable for them when playing in competition. This is why correcting mechanical flaws is more difficult during the season.
Games should be limited to once or twice a week. If playing in a league, make sure the games are officiated by qualified people. Participation in league play during the summer can be difficult based on the fluctuation of numbers. If this is the case you might be better off bringing in another opponent and playing multiple periods to be sure everyone gets adequate court time. If you bring ten players to a typical summer league game, playing four eight minute periods, each player is only getting about a half game of floor time.
Summer is also a great time for team bonding. Consider participating in one team weekend, preferably one that is away from home. It gives your team an opportunity to get away, to unplug, and just be together. There are a few things to think about when selecting which event to go to. How are the games officiated and who is officiating? There is nothing worse than going to a team weekend and having the games called by college students who are just trying to move the games along. Not only is safety a concern but this can do more harm than good in developing poor defensive habits. Sometimes there is an adjustment in the first part of the winter season to overcome poor habits developed over the summer.
Many team weekends take place on a college campus. Some high schools also host team events on the weekends with the option of camping out at a local campground. This is the perfect opportunity to get away and have a whole new experience besides just basketball. A good team event should provide plenty of opportunity for competition while also allowing for enough down time to relax.
Of course, these are simply guidelines I would use in developing a summer program. These could vary based at what stage your program is at. If the team is a contending, veteran club, I would probably increase the number of games, challenging ourselves with quality competition. If our team was young and inexperienced, I would schedule few games and practice much more.
Best of luck to everyone as you navigate through the summer months. What you do in the summer can pay huge dividends come winter.