November 16, 2017 • Strength & ConditioningWinning Hoops

Final preparations for the new season

by Henry Barrera, contributing writer

Coaches and players all over the country are diligently working to get ready for the upcoming season. I’m personally entering this year with great anticipation as we’ve continued to refine what we do and how we do it.

From a sports performance perspective, I’m eager to see how our offseason work translates to the court. I’ll share a couple of thoughts to help us maximize the work we’ve put in to prepare for the season. It’s popular right now to say that performance is about the process. I totally agree, but if we’re honest, it’s also about results.


When you’re trying to be the absolute best, everything matters. Our “performance model” is an ecosystem where the whole is greater than its parts. There are five major pillars: mindset, sleep, nutrition, training and readiness. When these things come together, we create the opportunity to accelerate improvement.

Here is a brief definition of each:

  • Mindset: The psychological framework that makes up who you are, how you see the world and how you operate in this context.
  • Sleep: The bodies ultimate source of recovery and restoration.
  • Nutrition: Fuel for the body and brain.
  • Training: Our attempt to improve overall athletic attributes, especially those specific to basketball.
  • Readiness: How athletes are adapting and adjusting to training and stress.

Do not stop lifting. It blows my mind that players and teams can spend months preparing to be at their best, and then minimize or stop training all together as the season begins. There will be a shift from training to Xs and Os, but it’s important to continue to refine what you’ve done to this point. I have never liked the term “maintain,” because it communicates the status quo. I don’t want to maintain anything, I want to improve it.

There is a shift in training strategies, and in my world this involves volume and intensity. During the season, I don’t want players sore and I don’t want players fatigued. I want to reinforce the performance qualities that we’ve worked hard for. This means I want to work toward what I call thresholds, which for us are typically between 80 percent and 93 percent for core lifts implemented in a periodized scheme.

Too often, players and coaches go into “maintenance” mode and don’t lift hard enough to make a difference. They operate in the space between and don’t get what they’re looking for. It’s imperative to look at your schedule in advance and see where this fits in and how it works for your program. This is assuming that you’ve have been lifting and preparing for the season.

Systems and strategies

Dominating sleep and nutrition is a matter of having a system and executing your strategy. Similar to what I talked about earlier, there is a specific threshold at which things start to make a difference — a tipping point. Helping players understand the value of preparation and planning go a long way, especially during the season. I call this lifestyle management.

We share with our players daily the value of planning. When you take time to organize your week from training to social time, you become more efficient in your everyday life. We also talk about consistency, especially as it relates to sleep and nutrition. Establishing a consistent sleep and wake time gives your body the consistency to adjust and adapt to the stressors of life and training.

Finally, we challenge our players to hydrate consistently and always have a healthy option on hand. If you’re serious about anything, you never leave it to chance. Be prepared.

Everything matters. We often talk about the purpose, practice and pursuit. When your purpose becomes personal, it becomes real. When your practice habits match your passion, you begin to improve. When your pursuit becomes relentless, you give yourself an opportunity to become elite.

Henry Barrera, CSCS, is the director of performance for men’s basketball at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @hoopdiaries.