Didn’t Make the Playoffs? What to Do in Basketball Off-Season
We won’t argue — it’s a huge bummer to miss out on the playoffs. However, there are benefits to having the time off, and more importantly, knowing how to best utilize that time. After all, wasting it away frivolously instead of using it to your advantage will not only hurt your personal success, but that of your team. It’s important to balance the necessary rest you need and the necessary conditioning in order to stay in shape so you’re ready to play again when the time comes. This can be one of the best times to really improve as a player on a larger scale. And let’s not forget schoolwork — the off-season can be a terrific opportunity to get caught up from work you might have missed during the season, and even get ahead on your upcoming classwork so that you have more time to devote to the game when the season starts again.
Rest and Recovery
Make sure you begin the break with a few weeks’ rest. This period is important — it gives your body a great opportunity to heal itself and replenish your energy stores that have been depleted during the season. Basketball especially can be tough on the musculoskeletal system, and playing continuously over time can be harmful. Make sure to get some time in where you’re just relaxing — but don’t do it for too long, or you’ll see the negative consequences when the season re-starts.
It’s important to stay in communication with your coach throughout the off-season and vice-versa. Oftentimes, coaches will set up regular meetings to discuss plans and goals for the season ahead. If you have concerns or questions about your personal progress or goals as a player, this is the perfect time to speak to your coach about it. Coach meetings can also provide a structured period of time that can include things like watching games from the previous season to figure out where you need to focus your energy, as well as getting general feedback on where you need to grow as a member of the team. Honest evaluations will only help you improve.
Camps and Clinics
Attending a basketball camp or clinic is a great way to hone your skills during off-season. There are camps and clinics that are specifically geared toward helping basketball players excel both physically and mentally. These camps, if they are good ones, will focus not just on improving physical performance, but enhancing mental skills as well. Basketball is a sport requiring things like mental toughness, clarity, decision-making, leadership and teamwork. Make sure your camp or clinic has a holistic emphasis.
Strength Training and Conditioning
Basketball requires players to be both fast and strong, and muscle-building or weight-bearing activities can help with both, resulting in a higher vertical jump and increased speed and endurance. Generally, you’ll have better overall control and stamina on the court.
Because basketball is a high-impact sport, particularly for the knees and ankles, many basketball players end up engaging in non-impact activities in the off-season. Swimming is a great way to maintain your cardio fitness level, because it’s completely non-impact. Other potentially effective cardio activities include tennis, pilates, even Zumba. Pilates might seem like a silly way to get exercise, but it actually does a very important thing that benefits basketball players specifically: it strengthens the core, which allows them to put more weight in their hips rather than in their knees. This helps to prevent all-too-common knee injuries, like torn ACLs, that could keep you out of the season altogether. Surprisingly enough, jumping rope is known to be an essential method of staying agile and many pro players swear by it.
Honing in on Skills
Speed, accuracy, agility and focus are some of the main skills you should be zeroing in on during this time. Don’t keep the focus only on plays and moves, although that is important — look at the game as a whole and take into consideration the feedback you get from your coach. They will let you know which of these major skills you’ll need to focus on during the off-season.
Staying Sharp Mentally
Skills like leadership, mental stamina, focus, and motivation are just a few of the important mental aspects of the game that you’ll need to keep nurturing in the off-season. Finding ways to focus on character building and mental acuity will only help your game once the season starts up again.
Keep It Fun!
Make sure you’re taking your break seriously, but make time to enjoy the game, too. Head to the local park with friends and play some pickup games. This will keep you from getting mentally burned out, and will allow you to remember why you love the game in the first place!
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