Building unity with ‘Team Ladders’ From Matt OÕBrien, contributing writer

Getting your players in great physical shape is a critical element to the success of any team. Running lines, or what some coaches call “suicides,” is one of the more popular ways to condition basketball players.

Sprints are completed in a short period of time, which is beneficial to coaches who are limited on the amount of time they can use their gyms. Each year, we begin our season by trying to find a positive spin on executing the inevitable task of chasing air.

Last season, we implemented “Team Ladders.” Instead of running for themselves, our players perform sprints as a team. We ask our players to get into groups of three to run each sprint. This is a fantastic opportunity for our captains to exemplify leadership by arranging players in the best groups possible to complete the sprints in the allotted time. The slowest players should be paired with two of the faster, better-conditioned players.

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The results of this program have been both rewarding and exciting. Previously, our players utilized minimal communication during sprints. Now, they’re clapping for each other and showing great enthusiasm.

We also found that our better-conditioned players are giving maximum effort, rather than coasting, to ensure the best time in a team effort. The slowest players do not throw in the towel because they are last — they continue to sprint to guarantee that their team completes the workout in time.

The Team Ladders workout takes approximately 20 minutes to complete.

Executing Team Ladders

There are three players in each group. When an athlete sprints the full length of the court in one direction, it counts as one sprint. Going down and back equals two sprints.

DIAGRAM 1: Team Ladders. Break into teams. The start of the Team Ladder (completing two sprints in 30 seconds) includes each member of the group running down the length of the court and back in 30 seconds total.

Chart one shows how to build from two sprints to 10, and the amount of time the team has to fulfill each repetition.

Matt O’Brien is the head men’s basketball coach at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas.