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The Season in Review:
A Critical Self-Examination and Intelligent Off-season Preparation

By Dave DeVenzio, Director of the National Point Guard Camp
and Richard Ford, Assistant Director National Point Guard Camp


Okay, you've broken down your game, spoken with your coach and teammate(s), parsed the stats sheet, and analyzed game film. Now, how do you implement your off-season personal improvement program? First, get a calendar. Then, look at the time you have remaining until the season starts. If you start today (this article was written on May 4th), you will have less than 180 days before the season starts….not as much time as it may seem. You must prioritize your goals. Let's assume that you are a rising junior in high school, a point guard for your team, averaged 17 minutes a game, have some competition at your position, and your critical self-examination revealed the following: (1) you understand your team's system and mission; (2) you are a valued teammate and viewed as a team leader; (3) your work ethic is admired; (4) your defense was adequate, but you consistently lost sight of the ball, tended to reach or lunge out of position and fouled too often; (5) your FG % was 38 and your shot selection was sound; (6) your FT % was 70 (but you noticed from game film review that you missed numerous FTs in the second half); (7) your assist to turnover ratio was 1.75 to 1, but you are a very good ball handler technically; (8) you averaged less than one steal per game; (9) while you played more than half the game, you were rarely on the court in the closing minutes.

This hypothetical point guard should look at items 4-9 and devise an intelligent plan to improve them. The most effective program is actually quite simple, and has three components: game concept reinforcement (defense and decision-making with the ball), shooting, and strength and conditioning. First, there is the issue of game concept reinforcement which can be implemented in off-season league and pick-up games. On defense, our PG should emphasize the items in the defensive checklist referenced above and become a better defender by force of habit. Additionally, our PG should seek to be a more effective ball hawk to increase the number of steals, or at least, the number of "leather touches", in the manner out-lined in Part II, Section B.

Regarding our PG's decision-making with the ball, his/her assist to turnover ratio must improve. Our PG should focus on the decision-making checklist items in Part III, Section D of this series to become a better ball-handler and decision-maker. No shortcuts here, just a commitment to smart play and a desire to incorporate an attitude adjustment into playing opportunities. Make a decision-making checklist and stick to it!

Second, there is the issue of shooting. We'll assume that our PG has decent technique and we concluded from our self-examination that our PG's shot selection was sound. Therefore, the issue seems to be one of muscle memory and game shooting pace. Our PG should map out an aggressive shooting regimen that has him/her shooting and charting at least 100 FTs and 200-250 variable spot/distance FG shots 4-5 times a week (10-12 "shot spots"; 20 shots per spot). Our PG should shoot his/her FG shots at game range and game speed. The FT and FG shooting should take about an hour and a half each session (that's a generous 16 seconds per shot….5400 seconds; 350 shots, accounting for tracking down rebounds and charting results).

Third, our PG wasn't in the game when it mattered most and his/her FT% waned as the game wore on. This suggests that he/she may not have been in optimal hoops condition. Our PG should seriously consider an intelligent off-season strength and conditioning program that is basketball-specific. One very good book on this subject is Tom Emma's Peak Performance Training for Basketball (available at www.powerperformance.net) which provides a realistic hoops strength and conditioning program for basketball players and also provides a detailed off-season training schedule.

So, how do you schedule these improvement tasks? It's really up to you. While you don't want to be a "burn out" case once the season starts, there is enough time for meaningful improvement if you begin now. The shooting component should take at most 8 hours per week if you work efficiently; the league/pick-up time commitment is likewise reasonable…perhaps 10 hours per week. The strength and conditioning program takes about 4-6 hours per week. That's a maximum total of 24 hours per week….just about 25% of your average waking hours each week. Of course, you will likely want to pick up the pace a bit as the season nears. Given your hoops aspirations, that's not much of a sacrifice, right? The order in which you schedule your individual work-out components around league or pick-up games is less important than simply staying committed to improving the weaknesses you identified in your critical self-examination.

Go For It!
Take action now! Construct a complete, daily off-season "task" calendar and stay with it. Summon your motivating forces, whatever they may be, and enjoy this off-season by improving your game and building your confidence with a focused plan!

Back to Part I          Back to Part II

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