Every player I deal with, no matter what level of skill or athleticism, is looking to get better. While there are countless things any player can work on, some have a much faster learning curve and can be applied right now!
Here are three simple (not easy) ways to make yourself a better guard:
Add the three most effective stretches for guards to your daily routine: the 3-way hamstring stretch, hip flexors stretch, and prone calf stretch. I don't care where or when you do them, but do them...every day! You can do them when you get out of bed in the morning, before a skill session, after training, at night or any other time that you find to do it. Why these three stretches?
- Because of how much guards tend to shuffle on defense and push off laterally, the hamstrings tend to get really tight from overuse. Add the fact that basketball is very quad-dominant (front of thigh) and you find your hamstrings getting tight to help balance the body. Stretching the hamstrings in all three planes of motion will help to keep them loose and allow you to actually get lower and move quicker on defense.
- Short hip flexors are making you slower and lower than you should be. Tight hip flexors negatively affect your ability to sprint and jump well. Because of the low athletic (almost crouching) position you're in on the court (playing defense, driving to the basket, and coming off of screens) your hip flexors get very short. The shortness doesn't allow your glutes to maximally contract to run, jump, sprint or stabilize properly. Your glutes should be your main source for speed and jumping on the court as well as moving side to side. Loosening up the hip flexors will instantly help.
- Ever sprained an ankle or had knee pain? Listen up. Most knee pain comes as a result of either poor hip mobility or poor ankle mobility. A fair amount of sprained ankles come from poor hip mobility or poor ankle mobility. One of the easiest ways to help reduce (not prevent, you can't prevent everything!) ankle sprains and improve knee pain is to make sure that you have enough ankle mobility. This starts with stretching the calf to get proper flexibility in the foot and ankle. By having proper motion at the foot and ankle you allow the ankle joints to get into a proper position, which will help ensure that it is most stable--thus reducing or minimizing the risk of injury.
Don't just jump! Avoid using only "jumping" exercises to help improve your jumping and playing ability. By "jumping" I'm referring to two-footed patterns where the feet leave the ground at the same time and in the same pattern. One-footed hops (same as a jump but is referred to as a hop when it's on one foot) is a much more effective movement that translates to better on-court performance. Since the majority of basketball is played with one foot having more weight or pressure on it than the other, you can be very effective in training it in a similar way. By training this way you become better at stabilizing and you'll see immediate improvement in your ability to move around the court.
I like to have athletes use multi-directional hops as part of an on-court or pre-weight room training warmup. You don't need to spend anymore than 5-6 minutes doing these to see the benefit.
Don't run to get in shape. The No. 1 mistake I see most basketball players make is going out for a 2-3 mile run thinking that they're going to be in great basketball condition. Before you think you're going to get a FREE pass on doing conditioning, hear me out. Basketball is made up of a wide variety of athletic movements: shuffles, crossover, sprints, zig-zags, backpedals, etc. Add all of the basketball skills on top of that: dribbling, passing, catch and shoot, off-the-dribble shooting, etc., and all of a sudden you have a sport with a very large skill set. There is nothing constant about the game of basketball. You never just run at a slow-moderate pace in a straight line. Because the skills of basketball are so specific, you should train that way.
In the Minute Madness Drills on TheUnGuardables.com, I have a variety of drills that train basketball skills in a very guard-specific, skill-specific manner. While each of these drills only lasts 60 seconds, they can make for a great workout.