This article was written by USC Trojans basketball coach Chris Capko.
All of us at the amateur level have finished our season and are moving on into our off season. This is a very important part of the year. Even though your record is not currently on the line, the strides and gains that are made now will have an important impact on your record when the season does come.
Setting Player Goals
How do you approach the off season? The very first thing that we do is have an individual meeting with each player in our program. In this meeting we discuss the previous year, the players' goals for the upcoming season, and how we will look to attack these goals in the off season.
We like hearing our players’ goals. This allows us to remind them of what they are working for during the off season. For example: One player might say, “Coach, I want to average 20 points per game and be first team all conference this up coming season." Which is great!
This communication allows us to be able to remind them of this goal everyday in the off-season, and to help make sure that they are putting in the work required to meet that goal. We understand that all of these goals might not be realistic, and with some guys we try to reach a happy medium. At the very least though, we are re-enforcing on a daily basis that “YOU” are the one who wants this specific goal to happen, so what are “YOU” doing about it?
Off Court Development
The next part of us attacking the off season happens in the weight room. In my experience, most basketball players do not embrace the weight room, especially at a young age, although most could benefit from an additional 10 to 15 pounds of muscle.
You will hear excuses such as “It messes up my shot” or “I don’t want to get too big.” Those are just excuses though, and unless your blessed with great size and athleticism, it’s a must. This extends to conditioning as well. You will rarely find a good team that is not also in great shape. Why wait until the season to begin this? There are several different methods in attaining this, but the concept is all the same.
Working on Player Weaknesses
At USC, how we work our guys in the off-season will be different than how we work them during the season. During the season, our players will only get shots or work on facets of their game that coincide with what they will do for us in our system. If you can’t dribble, were not going to work on pick-and-roll shots. If you’re a big man and can’t score facing up than were not working on that, and so on.
In the off-season though, we will work on multiple areas of skill development with all of our players. We will do ball handling with every player on the roster and we will also get into breaking down every individual players shot. It starts with form shooting and then we move out to a spot that is more realistic, and we help to develop a consistent shot for that player.
Our players will do triple threat moves, mikan drill, and different rebounding drills regardless of position. We will also have our guys play in 1-on-1, 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 situations with a structured set of rules such as a two-dribble limit to help with different facets of the game. This also makes it more game realistic.
Playing Pick Up
I have talked to a number of different coaches in regards to their players playing pickup in the off-season, and I have heard many different opinions on this topic. Because of our location we have gotten lucky, and we almost always have current and former professional players around as well as current and former college players.
These guys know how to play the right way, and it really helps with the quality of the games that are being played. Be open to having the good players in your area around your gym, and always be willing to have your former players come back to help the current ones out. All of the basketball drills that the kids do are great, but they are intended to be applied in a game setting. Playing pick up allows them to work on all the things that they have been working on.
Attacking the Off Season Conclusion
The off-season is such an important time for players. We all need breaks from time to time, but once you have gotten past that, attack this time of the year with your team. The regular season will bring a wide variety of challenges, but the more prepared your players are going into the season, the better chance of success you will have. Attack this off-season!