1. Never Get Out of Shape - Take great pride in structuring, watching, developing and evolving a yearly plan that forces players to be in playing shape year-round. This includes focusing on the amount of open gym time, skill position work with the coaches, the collegiate environment, and the data that shows where each and every player is at from a body composition, strength, and conditioning standpoint. In simple terms, it's great that if in July an athlete can play several hours a week of open competitive gym against top players and still see improvements in maximal strength. This can be done. I saw it work for five years. All it takes is extreme attention to detail! Remember, strength is a justification to a means of basketball skill improvement.

2. Do Not Be Afraid to Get Basketball Players Strong -  It seems that the craze of sport-specific training has created a backlash against heavy lifting with basketball athletes. I've seen many top-25 programs that do as little as 12 work sets per session, lasting less than 15 minutes. Basketball players are great athletes. Many have the capabilities to achieve amazing strength to body weight ratios. It's not uncommon to see five or six players on our team lift over 300 pounds in the bench press, 365-400 pounds in the box squat, and have the ability to do 185-250 pounds for 3-5 reps in the hang clean to a complete front squat. We also emphasize body weight strength. Most, if not all, of our players can do 18-25 full pull-ups and we do several intense bouts of resisted push-ups per week. For the lower body we put a huge emphasis on glute hams for body weight records, manual partner leg curls and single leg strength. Don't allow your players to believe that average strength is good enough. We test 1-3 rep maxes and do cluster work (timed sets in the same energy system demand as the game of basketball) in the 78-90% ranges for 2-4 reps with sets ranging as high as 20! It's simple, our strength work is to get strong and our assistance work is to stay healthy. I think you've seen how this has truly worked for us, as we've been able to impose our will over much bigger teams than us the past few years simply because we were stronger.

3. Let Your Basketball Coaches Do Their Job - We have some of the best basketball coaches in the country. They have a skill development structure that is truly amazing. It's the cornerstone of our system. If we over-do our job and over-condition, over-train, or simply do too much, our players will not be at 100 percent for these sessions with the coaches. All of our training year-round is dependent on what skill development session the athlete will do that week. If we impede on that, we haven't done our job. Our job is to prepare and facilitate those skill sessions. These sessions, along with the amount of year-round open gym played, are specific conditioning for the game of basketball. Our conditioning sessions are to help facilitate these sessions, allowing the players to come in at 100 percent. These skill sessions with the sport coaches are where good players become great players!

4. Weak Points, Weak Points, Weak Points - Get direct and specific feedback from your coaching staff in order to focus on each and every athlete's weak point. If an athlete is undersized, plan accordingly in your yearly plan. If you have a player that needs to be tougher, stronger and more physical in the post; work it into his training. We use a lot of heavy medicine ball basketball-specific footwork drills to develop such weak points. Think outside the box! Sometimes you may have a great athlete, but he has not yet become a great player. What we found is that in many cases the raw athletes' major issue is their body control, so it does very little good to do high speed development drills with these athletes that don't include stopping and controlling the body. Also, realize that many weak points on the court can be fixed with a simple combination of getting stronger while working that skill development with their specific coach. We define agility as the ability to control the body under a high level of speed and change of direction. If you can't control your body, you can't control your opponent or the ball. Another huge weak point we see with even the top programs is deceleration. Yes, you heard right, not acceleration, but deceleration. Once again we contribute this to the athlete not being able to control his own body. All of our conditioning drills include a sudden stop, pause, and a specific body control segment. Moving fast and out of control is useless. Being able to jump incredibly high while out-of-control doesn't yield positive results on the court, but being able to move at top speeds and get to where you need to be on the court in the proper body position is what wins plays and games!

5. Get to Know Your Athletes - Sometimes restoration can be one of the best means of training. Collegiate basketball is a year-long endeavor. No one really cares what you're doing in July. No games are won in July, but they can be lost. So it's imperative to have a fluid plan that is constantly changing. Last year one of our top players was playing national ball and was asked to attend many of the top pro camps in the world, including the Lebron James Camp. It was evident when he returned from such trips that his body had taken a beating. It would've been stupid to follow the plan on these days, so we'd back off. We created a day or week of restoration while still attacking his weak points. We got the bar out of his hand in favor of medicine balls, bands and recovery drills. Strength wasn't his weak point. One of our other top players decided to stay on campus all summer -instead of playing on national teams- to develop his weak points. These weak points were strength, body control, and body composition. He had the best season of his carer and became stronger at a lower body weight! We knew he was doing extensive, grueling work with a skill coach for his post-game several times a week, so we cut down on his assistance work and really put a focus on his major strength lifts and nutrition. Get to know what is happening with your athletes outside the weight room. Are they going through a tough time at home? Having girlfriend problems? Issues with team dynamics? Struggling in school? These things will help you understand your athletes better, allow you to be fluid, and show that you truly care for them outside the weight room. With Division 1 athletes, the strength coach spends as much (if not more) time with the team as anyone! With all the stress that major college coaches (head and assistant) are under, it's great if the strength coach can step in and handle a situation to keep that stress off the coach's desk.

In conclusion, I just wanted to give a brief overview of the top aspects that make up a national title-caliber program. Obviously there's much more, but I don't feel comfortable sharing all the details of a program that has reached back-to-back final fours. What we do has a huge impact on our team and allows us to peak at the appropriate time each season. Head Strength Coach Jim Peal, my mentor in the field, is one of the smartest coaches in the game. His ability to understand a team's dynamics, weak points, and to structure a plan accordingly is amazing. He can be reached via e-mail on the Butler University Web site and is very open to answering  questions. My bio is below. Feel free to e-mail with any question you may have.