'Tis the (Basketball) Season

TAGS: By the Coach for the Coach: Tis the Season, sports teams, basketball players, todd hamer, training athletes, weight room, coaching

Every November, the same thing happens to coaches like me. I'm talking about the start of basketball season.

First, I'll give you some background information so that you'll understand where I'm coming from. I'm the director of strength and conditioning at my university. I oversee all the teams on campus, but I only work hands-on with football and men's and women’s basketball. Each sport is fun in its own way and each has its own issues. In previous positions, I've had the opportunity to work with every sport that you can imagine. When I first started my current position, I personally had more than 12 sports. While I can't say that I miss coaching 10 to 12 straight groups without a break, I do miss experiencing the different cultures of each sport.

Knowing that each sport has a different culture as well as different movement patterns, a good coach had better coach each sport differently. Notice that I didn't say change your style. Just be good at tweaking your message and goals to each team and coach. Basketball isn't any different. And with that in mind, I'll give you some basic ideas for dealing with basketball teams.

men's basketball shot hamer 120914

Men’s Versus Women’s Teams

Before you find a solution to your problem—the problem being how to motivate and improve these athletes—you must first define your problem. This is very similar to an article that I wrote a few months back titled “Know YA."

Women's basketball

First and foremost, know your athlete. My women’s team is very international. Last year, over half the team wasn't from the United States. Knowing this, I can safely assume that our training age is around –5. Few teams in other countries lift weights and are as strong as we are here in the US. I'm sure that there are many strength coaches out there who can “prove me wrong” by showing me an athlete from oversees who had trained, but from my experience, most haven't. Knowing what I’m dealing with, I have to educate this team about why training is important. One thing that made this very easy for me is that my most successful female athlete (maybe in school history) bought into what I was doing. Never underestimate the importance of this! Getting buy in from a successful athlete will always make your job easier.

So knowing that over half the team had never trained and knowing that one of my upperclassmen would help sell my program to the team, my job was much easier. Now I had to address the other issues, including when and where we would be training.

The first thing that a good coach should know before programming is when and where you'll be training! This is so important. Imagine that you were an Olympic-based coach and your facility didn't have any good Olympic bars, plates or platforms. This would be quite a challenging arrangement!

woman's basketball block hamer 120914

My challenge was knowing that I would have to share a weight room with a football group due to a last minute scheduling change that was out of my control. We overcame this by extending our warm up and increasing volume on some accessories in the warm up so that some barbells opened up as football finished and dumbbells and other areas of the room were open when football finished their core lifts. This wasn't a perfect arrangement, but we made it work. Also, I mentioned that football was the other team in there, and if you remember, I coach both of these teams. This is a separate problem, but it means that I had better have a strong team around me to help keep all these athletes moving (a big thank you to my assistants and interns).

Now that I know what I'm working with, I can actually address the issues I want to work on. With the internationals, I knew that they were weak, which I loved because they would only get stronger. The programming was very basic. I taught them the Olympic lifts and how to jump, and we pushed and pulled weight. The program really was this simple.

I also didn't forget about the few girls who were born in the ole US of A. With them, they had lifted, but most had huge imbalances and very tight ankles, so we addressed this is our warm up. I don't change the program for each athlete, but I review them every day and add or subtract as I see issues.

I've attached a sample week for this team so that you can get an idea of what we did. Also, with this team, I tell them their weights for all exercises. This is one nice thing about working with basketball as opposed to football. Because it's a smaller team, it's easier for me to keep track of the weights for each athlete. I know what each athlete did in the last workout and what she should be doing in the current workout.

hamer week six female bb day 1-01

hamer week six female bb day 2-01

hamer week six female bb day 3-01

hamer week six female bb day 4-01

hamer week six female bb day 5-01

This is just a sample. It doesn't include all warm-up and cool down work performed.

Men's basketball

My men's team is much different from my women's team. Everyone on the team was born and raised in the US and most are from Philadelphia, New York or New Jersey. They all want to be strong but have no idea how to be strong. Most have never squatted, and every one of them has very tight calves, which is something that we address often in warm-up periods.

The men always lift after practice. Because of this, the guys tend to come in beat up and tired. However, in our program, this is never an excuse not to lift.

The entire staff attends all lifts and most perform the lift with the team. There have even been times when the coaches challenge the players on a lift and, if the coaches win, it means that I've lost because I haven't prepared the players for the work.

Here is a sample of one of our weeks going into the season. This workout is one week out from season and we already have an exhibition game, so the volume is reduced.

hamer week 11 male bb 1-01

hamer week 11 female bb day 2-01

hamer week 11 male bb day 3-01

With this program, we have three main lifts each day, and the table details whether the lift is dynamic or repetitive in nature. However, these lifts should still be limited to 40 minutes. Notice from the percentages that the dynamic effort percentages are above Prilipen's Chart numbers. I believe that most athletes don't effectively create force against a light barbell and need a slight bump in percentages, so that's why we do this.

I just laid out two different programs from two different teams of the same sport. I'm sure that some of you will punch holes in these programs. I hope you do because no program is complete and that's where periodization occurs. At the same time, all programs are dynamic. I promise you that we didn't follow either of these programs to the letter. There were days when the athletes felt good and we worked up in weight and then there were days that the bar moved like crap, so we decreased the weight or reps or even cut an exercise or two. The important thing to remember is that we must all continue to evolve and work on making our teams better. One of the reasons why I wrote this article is so I'll get texts, emails or Facebook messages from readers with ways to make my program better!

'Tis the season for basketball and good luck this season!

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