The pre-season is all about getting prepared. It can set you up to be successful once the season starts or bury you on the bench.
To help you get going, here are five ways to maximize pre-season basketball so you earn more minutes and play a bigger role on your team.
1. Be a Listener
Whether the coach is talking about team rules, a basketball drill, or a game-winning play your team will run later in the season, you need to pay attention, to show your coach you are fully engaged in what’s going on. It will also help you become a better basketball player.
Think of it like this: If your teacher was going to give a test tomorrow and provided all the answers today, you’d pay attention. Your coach is giving you answers to a test.
Make sure to listen even when the coach is not speaking directly to you. If he or she is instructing or correcting another player, pay attention. You don’t want to make the same mistake as your teammate. If there is one thing that can really frustrate a coach, it is explaining the same thing over and over again.
Find out more about learning how to listen.
2. Be a Communicator
When you’re on the court in practice or a game, it’s extremely important to communicate with your teammates. The best basketball teams at any level know this. Communication of relevant information keeps everyone on the same page, prevents mishaps and discourages your opponents.
Here are a few examples of good communication.
- Say “good pass” to the player who just passed you the ball for an open shot.
- Call out “Watch your back” to the ball handler with a defender trying to pick their pocket from behind.
- Call for the ball if you are open for a shot and a teammate doesn’t see you.
- Call out “screen right” or “screen left” when a teammate is about to be screened.
- Communicate your presence “in the gap” or “helping” when you are guarding off the ball.
- Say “cutter” when the other team cuts a player through the defense.
“If you are not talking, you are not playing defense.” —Doc Rivers, NBA head coach
3. Put in Extra Work
If you come to practice and put in the same amount of work as everyone else on your team, how can you expect to distinguish yourself? It’s not enough to show up on time for practice and leave immediately when it’s over. If you look at the best players in the world (Kobe, KD, LeBron, et al.), you will see they are also the hardest-working.
To stand out, you need to be willing to put in extra work. Show up early to practice and stay late to work on your game. Whether you are doing basketball shooting drills, ball handling drills or whatever, you need to spend time working to improve your individual skill level.
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4. Make Time for Recovery
Depending upon your level of play, the season can be long and physically draining. It’s important for you to learn how to take care of your body and spend the time you need for recovery, whether it’s stretching, foam rolling, ice baths, etc. This will keep your performance fresh and prevent injury.
5. Learn Off the Court
A lot of improvement happens off the court. You need to spend time meeting with your coaches to learn what they want from you, to better understand the offense/defense, and to develop your overall basketball knowledge.
A great way to learn with your coaches is to watch film. If you have trouble understanding something, ask the coaches to show you on film. This will give you a different perspective. As the saying goes, “film does not lie.” Along with helping you to better learn the plays, defense, etc., it will show your coaches you are trying to improve and develop.