Make the Most of Your Pre-season Training

STACK Expert T.J. Allan applies the 80-20 rule to pre-season basketball practice to help you achieve success on the court.

Every year, a few weeks before high school basketball or football season starts, players flood the gym trying to work the last few kinks out of their game so they can guarantee themselves a spot in the starting lineup. Although this task of cramming an off-season's worth of basketball training into the pre-season seems daunting, it's as simple as following the 80/20 rule.

The 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto principle, is simple: 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes. It works in business, economics, and, most significantly, in football and basketball training. Twenty percent of the time you spend in practice results in 80 percent of your success on the court. Inexperienced players spend the pre-season trying to work on everything and improving in almost nothing. Experienced players find the 20 percent of their games that make an 80-percent impact on their performance and spend the three weeks before the season starts perfecting it.

This past summer, I worked with a varsity basketball player. During the summer league, as the game wore on, his shooting percentage declined—not just in one game but in almost every game. He was the point guard, so he handled the ball during the press, ran the offense, and usually guarded the other team's best offensive player. Thus, by the fourth quarter he was gassed. He couldn't shoot consistently under fatigue. As his legs wore out, he tried to "muscle" his shot to the rim, often resulting in a line drive that bounced off the front of the rim.

Although several facets of the player's game needed improvement, once football season finished, we only had two weeks to get him ready for pre-season basketball practice. Instead of trying to improve everything, we focused on his biggest weakness, the 20 percent of his game which, if he improved it, would have an 80-percent impact on his statistics—shooting under fatigue.

Like Pareto's principle, our plan was simple. We held 90-minute workouts focused solely on shooting under fatigue. We used sleds and battling ropes to speed up the fatigue process, then we'd shoot a certain number of shots and repeat. One workout looked like this:

  • 220-pound Sled Pushes - 200 feet
  • Ray Allen 3-Point Shuffle Shots - 20 shots
  • Repeat for 8 minutes
  • 165-pound Sled Pushes - 200 feet
  • Left Side Screen Curls - 20 shots
  • Repeat for 8 minutes
  • 165-pound Sled Pushes - 200 feet
  • Right Side Screen Curls - 20 shots
  • Repeat for 8 minutes
  • 165-pound Sled Pushes - 200 feet
  • Jab Step and Push Dribble Left and Right Side - 20 shots

If at any time the player's form had a major breakdown, we would stop the drill and perform a few technique drills, then resume. It took only three workouts to start noticing a difference. Check out the video player above to learn why Sled Pushes are such great exercises to add to your training routine.

Remember, this was his 20 percent. Your 20 percent needs to be specific to your game. And although I used the term weakness, it doesn't necessarily have to be the weakest part of your game. If you're a big man, the weakest part of your game might be dribbling or shooting beyond the arc. But improving those skills won't translate into success on the court, because you don't actually perform them during a game. However, your conversion rate for finishing with your left hand in the paint might be 30 percent compared to your right hand at over 60percent. Because you perform that skill often during a game, that would be your 20 percent skill that could truly translate into an 80 percent improvement in your game.

Constantly evaluate your game, and develop a laser-like focus during the pre-season. Practicing is good. Practicing with a specific purpose is great!

RELATED: Oak Hill Academy Pre-Season Basketball Workout Program

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock