Like most basketball coaches, I always felt summer was the greatest opportunity for a player to improve himself individually. Of course, there were also other areas that we wanted to address as well but simply having more time available within the day to improve your athleticism and skill level is invaluable. Even for kids that work during the summer, not having the obligations that come with being in school allows for a greater opportunity to improve your game. Without a doubt, successful programs provide plenty of opportunity for their players to get better during the summer.
Before I delve into the contents of our summer program, I need to state a few things about our situation at White Oak. First of all, almost all of our basketball players played at least 1 other sport in which they were expected to invest some of their time. For some of our kids, it wasn’t uncommon for them to have 3 sports going on in June and for that reason, the first part of their summer was very busy.
Secondly, in 25 years I only had 1 player participate in an AAU program and he mainly did this during July once our leagues, tournaments, and team camp were completed. So, obviously, our situation could be different from other programs. However, particularly for programs in East Texas, I believe our situations are similar.
With this entry of Coach With A Purpose, I will outline the components of our summer program and the goals we set out to achieve. Overall, the main things we wanted to accomplish were 1) strength training through our summer Power Program or personal workouts 2) skill development through individual workouts in our open gym sessions 3) start to identify who could or could not compete on the varsity level through summer league games and tournaments 4) start developing leadership to replace our graduating seniors 5) begin developing chemistry and learning new roles 6) incorporating any small changes within our offensive system.
We actually began our “summer” activities in the spring once our players had completed their spring sports. We would start with our open gym sessions in April after the district track meet. Up until this time, almost all of our kids were participating in a spring sport so there was no need in having open gym because I never expected players who were in season to come to open gym. I expected them to give their full attention to their spring sport just as I wanted them to do during basketball season.
Our open gym sessions would be for 2 hours (format lined out in other blog entries) for 4 days per week during April and May. Once school was over the schedule would change to Monday, Wednesday, Thursday since we usually had summer league games on Tuesday. This schedule would continue throughout June then change to Mon, Tues, & Thursday in July until I started football meetings toward the end of July. Most of our kids understood that our league games, tournaments, and team camps would be during June so they (and their families) would do their best to take vacations and such in July. As I’ve stated in other entries, it takes everyone buying in to make a program successful and our basketball parents were very dedicated to doing their part in the summer.
Also in June, most of our players participated in our summer Power Program (strength/conditioning) or worked out on their own to improve their strength. Toward the end of my tenure some started to use personal trainers but I was always a firm believer that just as much could be accomplished on your own if you were disciplined and wanted to succeed bad enough. To me, the weight room, track, and bleachers were just as effective as bands, cones, rollers, parachutes, etc….and, for sure, a lot cheaper! However, I wasn’t near as concerned with the method as I was improving overall athleticism.
As far as evaluating personnel, this was done in open gym, league games, and tournaments. We were fortunate to have many of our Alumni participate in our open gym sessions so this was a great evaluation tool. Our Alumni knew what it took to play at White Oak and I would often ask them to give me their evaluation of our current players based on playing against them in open gym.
Our league games were normally played on Tuesday nights in June for a total of 8-10 games. I was very fortunate to usually have a former player to coach our JV and Varsity level teams and this allowed us to accomplish so many things. First of all, they knew our system so they could actually coach the team and make adjustments. Secondly, as I stated earlier, they knew the expectations of being in our program so they were capable of evaluating players. Thirdly, if we wanted to make any offensive changes for the next season they, along with our offseason players, were able to install these changes during our summer practices at the beginning of the summer. We would normally have 2 practices then not practice any more because of commitments to 7 on 7, baseball, etc. that many of them also had.
Any player that was projected as a possible varsity player would get a look during our league games or tournaments. I always used these games as evaluation tools so winning was not necessarily the main objective. In order to get a look at all potential varsity players, at times, it would be necessary for seniors or other possible varsity players that weren’t projected to be in the main rotation, to play with the JV. This would always tell me a lot about attitude and whether or not a player would be able to put the needs of the team before themselves. I would much rather find out in the summer if a player is going to struggle with their role instead of finding out during the season. This approach was not always well received by some players or parents but I was normally looking much farther down the road than they were.
We would normally play 2 or 3 tournaments in late May and June along with going to the Texas A&M team camp. Our varsity players always looked forward to the A&M camp (even the diehard Longhorn fans!) and I would strongly recommend it to anyone. The tournaments were used to evaluate personnel, start to play new positions and roles, and to begin developing chemistry. Team camp was used for the same purpose and was a great opportunity to start to build relationships between the players. Again, I was very blessed to have former players willing to coach our tournament games as well as coach/chaperone at team camp.
Once we reached July, we no longer participated in league games, tournaments, or team camps. Though we wanted to get as much accomplished as we could during the spring/summer months, I always felt that we didn’t want to over do it. As I mentioned, we still had our open gym sessions but I always felt it was necessary for our players to get away from organized games after June. Also, as we approached the middle to end of July, it was necessary for our football players to begin concentrating on their upcoming seasons.
When 2 A Days began for football, our senior offseason players would normally start to organize strength & conditioning workouts in order to be prepared to do their best once offseason workouts began in August. They would still put in some gym time on their own during August but it was fine with me if they got away from the game for a few weeks. Once school began, they always knew we would test in the weight room to see how hard they had worked on their strength training and then begin our conditioning phase of fall offseason.
I always believed a coach would find out a lot about his team during the summer when workouts were optional. There is no doubt in my mind that there was a correlation between our summer investment and the payoff of the season. Our best teams didn’t need a big push from me, just maybe a few nudges along the way. The big push came from themselves. As the saying goes, “There will always come a day when winter will ask, ‘What did you do all summer?’”
Thanks for reading and Coach With A Purpose!