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Strategies and Examples for Pre-Season Training - Part 2

Jeremy Russotti, founder of the J-glove Shooting Aid and Skill Training U

With our previous blog, we learned that skill trainers and body enhancement specialists must work together in developing the full athlete. In this blog we will go into more detail for each of the disciplines during the pre-season or preparation phase.


AAU summer session is over and now high school coaches and trainers are excited to get their players back in the gym to get better. Before you start your workouts, you need to make sure you provide your athletes with enough rest before the constant pounding of the pre-season. The same can be said for players like Josh Akognon of the Memphis Grizzlies that I have trained. Giving the players a week or two off is wise to allow their body muscles and joints to repair and recover.

Once you reach the pre-season, coaches/trainers need to focus on individual skill development, while limiting, if not eliminating open gym sessions. At this point, players need to expand their skill set and do not need to play anymore games or practice learning new offensive sets or inbounds plays. As I tell my clients, when you take and fail a math test, do you go back and re-take the test? Or do you go back and study what you did wrong and prepare for your next test? Basketball skill development isn't any different than classroom learning.

Time management is crucial since players need to also incorporate body conditioning at this phase and school homework. Coaches or trainers need to keep all of their workouts functional! Performing two-ball dribbling drills, or doing gimmick drills that make you look innovative but have no relevance to game-like situations should be eliminated. For example, an area of development that players tend to over train is ball-handling. There are only maybe 2 players on each team that handle the ball, however, there are thousands of gimmick ball-handling drills that coaches and trainers are spending the majority of their court time doing.

During this phase, coaches MUST place their players on shooting programs. The key to basketball is putting the ball in the basket!!! Therefore, the easiest way to build confidence and success for your players is to improve their shooting. Set up a "Breakfast Club", where players come before school to go through their shooting workouts, or an after school program, where the players come in with their partner and put up 200-300 shots before heading home to finish their homework. Shooting programs do not have to be long. Thirty minutes is plenty enough time to get up enough shots for improvement. Have players find a consistent shooting partner that will motivate and push each other. When I was a high school coach, Josh Akognon (Memphis Grizzlies) had Angelo Tsagarakis (French Pro B) to use each other as motivation to become master shooters. They always shot before school and late at night while janitor was cleaning the gym and locker rooms. It wasn't a coincidence that both players made over 130 3-pointers their senior year in only 28 games.

An area of focus I recommend during this time that is relevant to the entire team is what I call "Secondary Finishing Series", and "Finishing at the Rim Series". Secondary Finishing Series means what a player does once they beat their man with their initial primary move. What does a player do once they are in the key area? Teaching players secondary finishing moves like broad jumps, step overs, floaters, as well as concepts such as grounding your defender, goofy foot lay ups, will make them more confident and crafty in the key area. Points are scored in the paint and getting to the free-throw line at a higher rate is the easiest way to increase your points per game total, as well as increasing the success for your team.

Also, players need to pick at least two areas they need improvement on and focus their skill court workouts around those two areas. During this time, a player may want to work on a new "Go-To" triple threat move, or a new dribble attack move. Players need to pick one or two moves in this situation and learn to master them. It is okay only to have two moves. As long as the player is efficient at those two moves, then that is all they will need. Regardless of what moves they decide to use, make sure they are functional and efficient. Below is a video of my "Unstoppable Offensive Skill Set Double DVD", that does a great job in teaching this area and more (store.jglove.com). Regardless, keep your moves simple.

Check this Youtube video from Jeremy out...

Body Conditioning Training

The student-athletes are now approximately six to eight weeks out from practice starting. With this being the case, maximal power output are the main goals of training. Trainers and coaches should also incorporate more basketball-specific movements into the program, as well as an increased amount of speed, agility, and work capacity training. As for weight training, more of an emphasis should be placed on main strength movements but not with too much volume. Intensity can stay relatively high, but sets/time should be low. Trainers need to understand that the players will need to find energy and time for shooting workouts, and maybe some sporadic open gyms. Overtraining needs to be avoided. Let's take a look at some of the below components of Health-Related Fitness.

Anaerobic Conditioning

Anaerobic conditioning is exercise without the use of oxygen, or the point where Lactic Acid starts to accumulate in the muscles. Your ability to recover quickly from this build up will have an enormous impact on player's performance. Basketball is a multi-sprint sport. In a game you'll be required to perform several successive sprints close to maximum speed on numerous occasions. Therefore, your conditioning workouts need to be functional and geared toward anaerobic conditioning. Different types of short sprints, change of direction shuttle runs, defensive slides and crossover runs, and jumping, are examples. However, do not over train anaerobic conditioning in substitute for basketball skill development. Two sessions per week lasting a maximum of 30 minutes will do in order to reach peak fitness in time for the start of the competitive season. Remember, your practices will also include heavy anaerobic conditioning, therefore you do not want to peak too soon. The best coaches and trainers learn how to incorporate this area in their basketball court training (Hybrid Training).

Should aerobic running be implemented at all? No, aerobic exercise or running long distances use a different energy system than what you need for basketball. Basketball is 85% ATP-PCr system and 15% Glycolytic. In simple terms, basketball is a pure anaerobic sport, and long distance running should only be used as a base if at all.

Strength Conditioning?

Developing maximum strength is something that can take up to 3 months, so continue maximal strength training into the late pre-season. A lot of players start to eliminate lower body lifts during this time, which is a huge mistake. Strengthening your core and legs are a must in order to stay strong during the season but also to strengthen the knee joint to prevent injuries.

About 4 weeks prior to the start of the in-season you can then exchange some of your strength sessions for plyometric training. However, never overdo plyometric training! Players will accumulate a lot of pounding on their ankle and knee joints throughout the season. Keep plyometric training to a minimum. If there is an area of training that you had to leave out because of time, this would be the area I would recommend.

Speed, Agility, and Quickness (SAQ) Conditioning?

As the competitive season draws closer, your basketball training program should place more and more emphasis on SAQ Training. Again your conditioning must be basketball specific and functional to the goals of your players or team. To make it more interesting to your players, try to incorporate a basketball in your SAQ drills.

Yes, you should perform all the drills at 100% but keep them short enough and allow enough recovery time in between so that form doesn't suffer. In my GRT program, I include all SAQ training in my regular court skill training work. In this way, I am meeting my client's needs during one workout, while not having to over train them in either area. Remember, it is all about time management.

Flexibility Conditioning?

Flexibility should NEVER be substituted. Players should always arrive early to finish their flexibility routine. Flexibility also includes foam rolling, which will help heal the muscles and reduce "knots" in the fascia (layer surrounding muscle). Foam rolling also increases oxygen flow to the muscle, hence reducing lactic acid and recovery. If you ask any NBA player the one area they have to focus on each day to get through a workout - they will say REST and FLEXIBILITY. Instead of just implementing the traditional areas, focus on hip and core flexibility.

Here is a video from my Green Room Training Program.

Jeremy Russotti is the CEO of Green Room Training, LLC, as well as CEO of Global Sports Innovation, LLC. He is also the founder of www.skilltrainingu.com and inventor of products such as J-Glove Shooting aid, J-Strap, V-Bands, and O-Bands.

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