This article was written by Basketball HQ co-founder Kyle Ohman
During the season you spend a lot of time in practice working on plays, building team chemistry, and primarily working on team focused skills; as it should be. During the off season though, it is all about personal development. As a player you finally have the time to get in the gym and spend the needed hours working on developing your game.
However, all hours spent in the gym are not equal, in fact this may actually be one of the biggest understatements you have ever heard. I just want to get something clear though and really make sure that as a player you understand this, GOING TO THE GYM DOES NOT AUTOMATICALLY MEAN YOU ARE GOING TO BECOME A BETTER PLAYER.
I have seen too many kids go to the gym for hours a day and not get any better while they are there. They choose to spend their time in the gym putting up half speed undisciplined shots, hang with their friends on the side, or play pick up games that promote more bad habits than good.
My challenge to you is simple, don't be that player this summer! Spend your gym time wisely and come back in the fall ready for the best season of your life. Here are some keys for dominating this summer.
Work Smart: I was fortunate enough to play division one basketball and professionally in Spain during my career, and when I was younger I spent a lot of time in the gym working hard to get better. However, I didn't really know what I was doing when I got in the gym until I got to college. I would spend time a lot of time in the gym working hard, but not really working smart.
That is one of the primary reasons that I helped to found this website, so that coaches and players can get in the gym and know what to work on and develop. Before you think this is just a shameless plug for Basketball HQ, I don't care if you use our videos and plans, another plan, or have a coach/parent that you trust, just make sure that you are maximizing your gym time by working smart.
The analogy that I like to use is, if I asked you to go dig a two foot deep hole in the backyard and gave you a shovel it wouldn't be a big deal, but if you only had a teaspoon it would take you a lot longer to get the same exact job done. Learning the correct way to do a move, having the right basketballs drills, etc. is like having the shovel. You can get so much more done if you have the right tools, so work SMART this summer as well as hard.
Game Plan: One of the best ways to make sure that you don't waste time in the gym is to come into your workout with a game plan. Spend 10 minutes in the morning or before you go to the gym, and write out what you are going to work on. Budget out how much time you are going spend on a certain drill or how many shot you are going to make with a certain move.
Doing this will help keep you on task and give you something to aim for. Make sure that your workout plan is realistic though and that you will be able to accomplish it. Writing down, "make 3,000 shots" sounds awesome, but is it something that you realistically can accomplish? Give yourself goals that are going to push you, but are still realistic.
You can set up goals for an entire summer as well. It could be a total number of shots that you are going to shoot/make before the season starts, a commitment to a certain amount of ball handling a day, etc. Once you make your goals, set it as a reminder on your phone or place the piece of paper somewhere that you will see it everyday. This will help to hold you accountable.
Strengths and Weaknesses: During the season you are pretty much committed to your role on the team, you may work your way into more minutes, more shots, etc. but there isn't a ton of time to work on individual skill development. This is not the case during the off season though. During the off season you have the time to really develop your game and focus on turning weaknesses into strengths.
One of the best examples of this is Michael Jordan. Coming out of college, people said that he wasn't a good enough jump shooter. So he spent hours and hours in the gym working on his shot, and ultimately he became the most clutch shooter of all time. It may not be very fun at first to spend time working on your weaknesses, but it will be worth it as you begin to turn them into strengths. Don't shy away from your weaknesses this summer, face them head on!
Like Minded Partners: A great way to make sure that you are getting after it in the gym is to to have other players that are like minded and are going to challenge you everyday. On the other hand, if you hangout with players that just want to waste time in the gym it can be hard to stay motivated as the summer goes on. So find workout partners that have the same goals as you and are willing to put in the work.
Not only will they help you to stay focused and challenge you to work hard on days when you aren't quite feeling it. They will help push you to get better through natural competition during different drills and playing. A great workout partner(s) can be a real game changer, find like minded partners that will push you this summer. If they are also your teammates, that is a huge plus.
Pick Up: Playing games during the summer can be a great way to improve your skills and really allow you to work on the moves that you have been practicing when you train. It is important though to make sure that you are playing in the right kind of games. As mentioned previously, all gym time is not equal and that goes for playing pick up as well.
You need to find places to play where people are playing at a high level and are playing the right way. If you can't find a great place to play, than just workout and train, but finding a good group of people to play with on a regular basis can add a lot of value to your game. It will allow you to use the moves you have been practicing in your workouts against live competition.
AAU (High School/Middle School): During the summer AAU basketball is in full swing and it allows players to play against some of the best competition around the country and help them get exposure in front of college coaches. This is a great chance to really improve your game and it is important that you maximize this time.
A couple words of caution to any player that plays AAU though, make sure that you are continuing to learn how to play the right way and don't try to force your game. Don't fall into the trap that college coaches are only evaluating you on the amount of points that you score.
This is simply not true, play your game and do all of the little things that go along with being a great player. Here is a great overview of what college coaches are looking for: Anatomy of a College Basketball Scholarship.
Camps: Basketball camps in the summer are a great chance to gain exposure, learn, and develop your game. If you can get to a couple of camps this summer and really learn from some great coaches you will help to set yourself up for success. The key is to learn as much as possible at the camp, and then from there spend the following weeks and months mastering the skills you were taught at the camp. Go into every camp with an eagerness to learn.
One on One: Playing one on one offers a great opportunity to practice all of the moves you have been working on in your workouts. It also teaches you to compete, because there is no hiding in one on one. You either step up or get exposed. It is also great because it allows you to work on both offense and defense.
Make sure that you set up realistic games of one on one. Give yourself a dribble limit, reset after defensive rebounds, etc. Remember that you are really preparing for real game situations, and that means taking into account help defenders. Most of the time you are not going to be able to score with a large amount of dribbles. Learn to be efficient with your scoring moves.
Weight Room: During the off season you should be living in the weight room. Find a plan specifically for what you want to work on; gaining muscle, improving quickness/speed, vertical, etc. and then get after it. If you are inexperienced in the gym make sure that you find someone to show you correct form before performing the different exercises. Here are a couple of plans that we offer: Custom Basketball Training Plans
Conditioning: It doesn't matter how skilled you are if you aren't in good enough shape to execute the moves. So it is important that you are maintaining your level of conditioning during the off season. A great way to maximize your conditioning time is to do basketball drills that have a conditioning aspect to them. Whether it is a full court ball handling drill or a shooting drill that requires you to sprint if you miss a shot, you can find drills that also help to conditioning you.
Make sure that you are executing moves the correct way as you get tired though. Don't allow yourself to practice poor shooting mechanics as you get tired or get out of athletic stance when doing different ball handling drills.
The off season is really what allows you to set yourself apart from everyone else. You have all of the time that you need to really get in the gym and develop yourself. It takes a high level of commitment though. So I ask you this question, are you ready to dominate this summer?