A friend of mine called me last week to get my thoughts on making adjustments to his team's in-season strength workouts and practice plans. This coach does a terrific job and has built his program, brick by brick, since he took over 4 years ago. He coaches the #1 ranked high school girls basketball program in the Washington, DC area (ranked 5th in the nation by USA Today). He deserves every bit of the success he is experiencing.
A great coach does everything possible to consistently put his/her players in a position to be successful.
In order to do that, you have to constantly make adjustments. Every coach on the planet has spent hours coming up with the perfect plan -- only to have it thrown out in the first two minutes of a game because of an unforeseen circumstance (injury, foul trouble, etc.).
Should you make adjustments to your in-season training, practice length and intensity?
What adjustments should you make?
Only you can answer that. No two teams are the same (mentally or physically). Heck, even if you returned every player from last year, they aren't the same team! They are older, more mature, and more experienced. Only you can determine what adjustments need to be made.
Is your team currently playing well? Or have they hit a slump?
Is your team currently playing hard? Or do they seem to be going through the motions?
Are your players having fun? Or does basketball seem like a chore?
If your team is playing well, you should probably keep doing what you are doing (they say the key to success is to do more of what's working and less of what isn't). Just be cautious of over-training and mental burn-out. If your team is in a slump, maybe they are worn-out and need an extra day of rest or a spontaneous game of kick ball instead of practice!
Being a successful coach is also about communication. Effective communication can't be one way. You have to listen to your players. I recommend having a meeting with your seniors or captains and get their gauge on the team's energy level, focus, and morale.
The key is getting them to tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.
While specific adjustments need to be individualized to your team, it is usually a good idea to keep in-season strength workouts very brief and focused more on upper body and core (to allow the legs to recover).
Practice time should probably decrease as well. At this point in the season, anything over 1.5 hours is probably counterproductive. While you still need to demand intensity and focus during practice, I suggest you limit extra running (unless warranted for disciplinary reasons).
When a team lacks confidence, three things happen:
- Play soft -- don't come up with loose balls, don't take charges, and get pushed around.
- Tentative on offense -- hesitant to shoot, make weak passes, and don't crash the offensive glass.
- Passive on defense-- slow to rotate, weak ball pressure, and don't box out.
You can't win playing like that.