Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Using the off-season to improve

Back in March, during Final Four time, I saved a bunch of articles on various players, including one I posted on my refrigerator for my kids to read about Joe Alexander and his "maniacal" work ethic.

As a senior at WVU, Alexander started sleeping on a sofa in the team's locker room because "it's close to the court" where Alexander would practice on, by himself, late into the night.

As I've blogged about previously, the draft picks who typically excel as rookies are those who fit the coach's system. From what I've read about Alexander, he'll fit in well with new Bucks coach Scott Skiles.

For any player at any level -- AAU, high school, college or pro -- the off-season or summer is when you have to get better. It takes 35-40 minutes for my 12-year-old to make 10 shots from seven spots on the floor, then 20 free throws, and 10 layups( 100 made shots) Do that 1-2times a day 5 days a week during the summer, and you'll become a better shooter in 90 days. Double or triple those goals, and you'll be that much better.

And it's not just players. The best coaches at every level are reading books (both old and new), visiting with other successful coaches, and playing with new ideas on how to improve their offensive and defensive schemes.

I look back at the best coaches and players I've had the privilege of working with and they all used the off season to improve. Gilbert Arenas, for example, methodically records every shot he takes during the offseason, charting his progress.

When I coached in the CBA and USBL, I'd keep a notebook of minor league players who had made it to the NBA by guts and work ethic -- working their way through the minors. I'd also cite examples from minor league baseball of players who worked their way from rookie ball all the way to the Majors -- a process that can sometime take more than a decade.

Anyway, if you have a couple of minutes, I'd recommend you check out the story on the Bucks' Joe Alexander. If you don't have time to read it, and you have kids or coach a team of young players, print out a copy for them to read.