Finishing the Season: Three Approaches to Late-Season Practices

The March 8, 2010 ESPN the Magazine has an article titled “Too Much of a Good Thing” about the Texas Longhorns. In the article, Elena Bergeron compares Rick Barnes’ mid-season strategy to that of some other coaches.

“We think the human body can take only three high-level, hard workouts a week,” Barnes says. In the middle of the Big 12 season, with two or three games a week on the schedule, that means less mandatory practice time and more walk-throughs and shoot-arounds. “There are times during the year when we’re going to be on the floor for more than two hours; other times, for an hour or less.”

Barnes relies heavily on one of the top strength & conditioning coaches in the country – Todd Wright – and numerous graduate students who do research on topics related to basketball and performance enhancement. Few other teams follow this methodology. However, what is most important late in the season – the extra time on the court practicing or having healthy, fresh players? Sometimes, less really is more.

Other coaches are not following Barnes’ methodology:

“Shorthanded Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey, who has a seven-man rotation, started two-a-day workouts in February to toughen his squad for a late Big East push. And Villanova’s Jay Wright, who runs an 11-man rotation, says his team is scrimmaging more at this point in the season than in previous years, to give everyone a regular run. Sometimes starters get the day off so Wright can work out his rotational players two-on-two. ‘This season we’re much more concerned with guys who play 10 to 15 minutes and making sure they’re always involved,’ Wright says.”

At the end of my season, I scrimmaged more than ever, as I played 12 players and wanted to keep players in game shape, as most players played less than a half during games. In previous seasons, as the season neared a conclusion, my goal was not to continue teaching new things, but to keep the players fresh and focused for the late-season games.

Different situations require different approaches, and different coaches approach the same situations with a different set of eyes.

By Brian McCormick
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League

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