September 13, 2018 • From the BenchpreparationWinning Hoops

5 ways to combat the preseason grind

by Ashley Hutchcraft, contributing writer

From August to November, our basketball team is in the preseason grind. If we’re all honest with ourselves, by the time October rolls around we’re ready for games.

One of the coaching challenges I face daily is keeping our team energetic and focused. There are five initiatives we’ve implemented into our program that not only are beneficial to our team, but also help us with the preseason grind.

1. Team book read.

This is the first season we’ve done a “team read,” and it has been amazing. There are so many good books on team building, but we chose Jon Gordon’s latest, “The Power of a Positive Team.”

Regardless of the book you choose, it gives coaches an opportunity to engage with the players and discuss how things can improve. It’s a great way to focus on the culture of your program. One thing we learned from our book is that culture is dynamic, not static, and what you do every day creates a culture — good or bad. A team book read is a great way to start discussing your program’s culture.

2. Dietician.

This season we have a dietician coming in and spending time with our players, discussing proper ways to fuel their bodies before and after practices/games. This also provides some hands-on activities for our players to create their own healthy meals.

Not only does this help their performance, but it also teaches them life skills. They get to interact with someone other than their coach, and it’s a lot of fun to see them take ownership in how they fuel their bodies.

3. Yoga.

If you have ever tried yoga — with a certified instructor — then you know better than anyone yoga is challenging. We have always implemented a few yoga days throughout the season using a video, but this season I wanted to focus more on flexibility and core strength than ever before.

Once a week, our team visits a yoga studio with a certified yoga instructor for a one-hour session. Not only is this beneficial to each individual, but it also breaks up the preseason grind while giving your team an opportunity to improve.

4. Strength and conditioning.

I know what you’re thinking: “Everyone does strength and conditioning.” While this is probably true, I ask how much of an emphasis you’re putting in this area? Is it a weekly focus? Are you skipping the weight room to be on the court?

During the preseason months, we focus on team strength and conditioning as much as we do our offense or defense. It’s in the culture of our team. Make time for this, plan for it, implement it and make it functional for basketball players. If this is an area that you’re unfamiliar with, there are basketball-specific trainers who would be more than willing to help you. If you believe in it, your players will as well, and your team will improve.

5. Team bonding.

My favorite thing about the preseason is the opportunity it gives coaches for team bonding activities.

In August, September and October, our top priority is building relationships within our team. The activities/events we’ve done include back-to-school cookouts, football tailgate parties, pool parties, senior dinners, Halloween parties, and ice cream/pizza after practice. Once the season rolls around and games start, you’ll be limited on the team-bonding activities you can squeeze into your schedule. Do them now, make them fun, and your players will love you for it.

Ashley Hutchcraft is the head girls basketball coach at Conway High School in Arkansas and a member of the Winning Hoops Editorial Advisory Board. She has led the Lady Cats to a state championship (2014) and two state runner-up seasons (2015, 2016).