Off-Season Training for High School Girls’ Basketball

Last week, I posted my availability to work out players or teams in the Salt Lake City area. Instead, coaches from other areas have emailed multiple times asking for advice on their off-season plans. Rather than respond individually to each one, I figured that I would make one post.

First, the beginning of the off-season is a great time to empower players. The off-season is about individual development, not team development. However, what are the team goals for next season? What expectations do players have for each other? Rather than set rules or requirements as a coach, why not ask the players for their opinion? How often do you want to train? When do you want to take breaks? How many games do you want to play? What do you want to accomplish next season? How hard are you willing to work to make your goals into a reality?

Once the team decides upon their commitment level and goals, ask individuals to make their goals. Individually, what do you want to accomplish next season? What are your goals? How hard are you willing to work in the pursuit of those goals?

After meeting with the group and the individuals to create general and more specific goals, the coach can create a plan. Obviously, the plan should be based on the players’ answers or there is no point in asking for their opinion. However, there are certain things that should fit into the off-season plan, regardless of the individual and team goals.

First, movement skills. I watched the state play-offs here, and girls move horribly. Even the ones who are not injured typically do not move well. There is little fluidity of movement. There is poor technique when running, jumping, landing, and stopping. It is no surprise that so many girls tear their ACLs: they appear to have very little lower-body strength, poor motor control, and a lack of coordination. Unfortunately, oftentimes the worst offenders are characterized as athletic because they can beat other players from baseline to baseline or jump higher than their peers despite atrocious technique.

Therefore, first and foremost, I would emphasize movement. I would train all the major movements: sprints, stops, backpedals, jumps, landing, shuffles, crossover steps, etc. I would emphasize my dynamic warm-up every time the girls are in the gym. I honestly saw a great improvement in my boys this season in terms of coordination and body control, and I felt repeat hops for distance was the most important exercise that we did.

Additionally, I would get the girls in the weight room. I don’t care if there are too many things to work on and the coach thinks lifting weights does not provide enough benefits. Basketball is a game of movement. Every basketball skill will be improved if the players increase strength, and the chance for injuries will decrease. My focus would be major movements: front squats, deadlifts, step-ups, lunges, etc.

Beyond movement, I would emphasize shooting. Shooting makes the game easier, and there just are not that many great shooters. It seems everyone is a volume shooter these days, which is a euphemism for a bad shooter who makes enough shots to appear to be a good shooter because of the sheer number of attempts.

Depending on the player, I would start at the beginning. I would issue the 30-day challenge: practice a new habit for 30 days to make it an engrained habit. Change shooting technique and practice every day for 30 days focusing on repeating the new technique.

Next, I would emphasize footwork. Players need to be able to use both feet, even if you prefer the permanent pivot foot. There is so much traveling in the game that it makes it unwatchable. I emphasize footwork in passing drills, lay-up drills, post drills, etc. However, I would do something that practices footwork every session. Footwork is not just the ability to use either foot as a pivot foot, but the ability to position the feet correctly to make a move or shot more efficient.

Finally, I would play. I would not worry about wins and losses or running plays. I would not even worry about playing as a team or playing 5v5. However, players, and especially girls, need more practice making decisions out of system. I would encourage players to play pick-up games or play in spring leagues. During sessions, I would play a lot of 3v3 to increase touches and opportunities to make decisions. I would encourage the better players to play with boys.

To me, from a player development standpoint, these would be the four things that I emphasized: movement skills, shooting, footwork, and playing. Beyond that, I would use the off-season to create the type of team environment and team cohesion that I and the players want.

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