If you are a high school basketball player in the United States, you are probably about to start (or have just recently started) official practice for the 2009-2010 season.
As the season gets underway and you begin practice, don't be surprised if your body is overwhelmingly sore the first couple of days in particular. This is normal! This does not imply you aren’t in great shape; it’s just your body’s way of adjusting to the new demands placed on it. You are finally going full speed with contact on a daily basis; which is understandably more intense than anything you did in the pre-season. In particular, your low back may be constantly tight and your ankles, knees, and hips may get sore. It is very important you take care of your body throughout the season, but especially now, while these are minor issues. For these little nagging aches and pains, you should apply ice after practice (unless told otherwise by your athletic trainer). With parental consent, you can also take an occasional ibuprofen or Advil to help alleviate soreness. Foam rollers are another great tool for recovery and restoration. Make sure you eat well, get lots of rest when you can, and properly warm-up and cool down before and after every practice. If you incur any major injuries or issues, make sure you tell your coach, athletic trainer, and parents immediately so you can get the proper help. It is important to address these issues when they are small so they don’t turn into something big!
However, as far as the minor aches and pains are concerned, you have to tough it out. Basketball is an intense sport and if some part of your body isn’t sore, then you probably aren’t playing hard enough anyway. Learn to be comfortable with minor discomfort.
Make sure you enjoy this time of year as it is an important part of the journey. There is no time like the present, as playing well and competing during practice is the reason you put in so much time over the spring, summer, and fall working on your game, lifting weights, and running sprints. This is the time real players thrive. Regardless of how things start during the first week or two of practice, you have to keep in mind that it is a long season. If you get off to a rough start, don’t throw in the towel; there is plenty of time to turn things around. Most high schools don’t start playing games until the beginning of December, so you still have a few weeks to show what you can do and try to earn some playing time or a starting position. And if you have started off hot, don’t get cocky or complacent, as staying on top is one of the hardest things to do in sports. Don’t take anything for granted. Continue to play hard every practice.
Here are some tips to make sure you play your best this season:
1) Get rest whenever you can, your body and mind need it! Try and get to bed early and sneak in naps whenever possible (on the weekends; not during class!). While the off season regimen is tough, there is nothing harder on your body than in-season practices, games, and travel.
2) Eat well and stay hydrated. Your body is a machine and it needs to be properly fueled. Make sure you eat a healthy breakfast every morning and try to eat a light snack an hour or so before practice. This will ensure you are well fueled without making you feel full and lethargic. You also need to re-fuel immediately after practice. And don’t forget your body does everything better when hydrated, so drink water constantly.
3) Warm-up and stretch properly before all practices and games. Hopefully your team has a standardized warm-up, but if not, you need to make sure you do. This will ensure your body and mind is ready to compete and help reduce the likelihood of injury.
4) Continue to strength train during the season. Strength is an attribute that is quickly diminished. In as little as three weeks, you begin to lose functional strength on the court if you don’t continue to strength train. So if you don’t train during the season, you will be physically at your weakest come playoff time. All you need to do to maintain strength is one or two brief (but quality) workouts per week during the season.
5) Get in extra shots before/after practice and before games. Shooting is all about rhythm and repetition. The more game like shots you can take in practice and before games, the more automatic you will be when you play. The best players in the world get in shots before practice and stay after practice to do the same.
6) Be a good teammate. Do the little things to help your teammates and be very positive and enthusiastic, even when things aren’t going so well. The teams that play well together and communicate effectively with each other win more often. Period.
7) Talk to your coach. Your coach is the leader of your team and it is important you show proper respect at all times. No exceptions. If you don’t agree with something your coach says or does, or if you have questions on certain things (like why you aren’t playing as much, what your role on the team is, etc.), it is important you communicate effectively, appropriately, and maturely. Most coaches are more than happy to talk with you if you have an issue.
8) Stay on top of your school work. I know how hard it is to balance a busy schedule during the hectic season, but as a student-athlete, your academic work must always be a priority. Don’t let issues in the classroom distract you from handling your business on the court. And don’t do the bare minimum just to stay eligible; do your best to in every class, every day. Creating that standard of excellence will carry over to every aspect of your life.
I wish each of you the absolute best this season. Please keep me posted on how you are doing and drop me an email if I can be of service in any way (Alan@StrongerTeam.com).
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Train hard. Train smart.