This week marked the return of three players who were abroad, but as their return ensured that we could scrimmage 5v5 in practices, two starters went out with an injury and illness. We were able to scrimmage 5v5 for the first time since December, but we also played on Saturday without a full team, as we have since October.
I have never coached a team with so many injuries and illnesses. Part of the problem, I imagine, is that we have several 17-19 year-olds who live on their own behind the gym while finishing high school across the street. The living conditions aren’t great – they are teenagers who do not pick up after themselves – and I imagine they do not eat as well as they should. At least college students, when first moving away from home, typically have access to an all-you-can-eat buffet in the dorm. The food may not be the best, but I remember eating a hot breakfast and having salads and different fruits available in addition to the junk food (fried burgers, pizza, etc). My American player continues to encourage the players to drink more milk; I have two players who have lost between 8 and 15 pounds during the season, and both of these players live at home, so they lack the excuse of living on their own and not wanting to cook meals after practice. Their parents cook for them.
Another explanation is the lack of weightlifting. We have access to good facilities, but the weight room is small. There is one squat rack and only one 45 lbs. barbell. If the barbell is being used by someone on the bench press, there are only smaller barbells to use for squats. It is not an excuse not to lift, but it eliminates any chance for the team to lift together. There is no room. The room with the bench press and squat rack can hold maybe five people at one time, and it is a public gym , so we have to work around other people too. I was in the gym for an hour yesterday before practice, and the squat rack was used the entire time. Our town is overrun by senior citizens, so the majority of the gym is accessible machines, and the actual weight room is an afterthought in the back.
Because of the facility, we do not lift as a team. They have workouts that they are supposed to do. I am in the weight room 3-4 times per week, so I oversee them some of the time. Several of the guys are doing corrective exercises because they cannot body-weight squat; they cannot pass an FMS, so I do not want to load them with a squat or deadlift. Instead, they do corrective exercises and use step-ups to get some load.
I have found recently that several guys lack full end-range of motion in their knees, and some also cannot externally rotate their hips. The more that I learn about things that could go wrong or limit their performance, the more that I find things to correct. In our basket college workouts for the teenagers, we have started to end each session with body weight workouts and mobility work to ensure that those players are working on mobility at least twice per week. The problem beforehand was that they would come to me with an issue, I would prescribe exercises to fix the issue, and once they felt better, they would stop. These guys (and the girls) need to do the work consistently, not just when they have pain. We have so many players with different issues that I don’t have any of my own equipment anymore; different players have my bands and my compression bands to work on their particular issues and corrective exercises for their ankle, knee, or hip.
With the new guys back, we worked more on 5v5 this week. We had to go over the plays, once again, for the returners. I made the post/guard breakdowns more competitive, working on 2v2 with each group rather than doing drills. We also played end-game games for much of Friday’s practice because we had access to the clock, which we do not have very often.
Whatever we did, it worked, as we put up 47 points in the first quarter of our game on Saturday without two starters. We won 100-58. In our u20/D3 game on Sunday (without our 3 u20 players who start for the D1 team), we played a team that was much bigger than us, and we had only 7 guys including one 15-year-old, and we nearly won. Our defense in both games was much better, especially in terms of running to shooters and helping each other in rotations. If we can continue to play with the same time of defensive effort against better teams, we will be okay and give ourselves a chance to win any of the remaining games.
By Brian McCormick, PhD
Coach/Clinician, Brian McCormick Basketball
Author, Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League