Have you ever worked really hard on a school assignment only to turn it in and realize you ignored a crucial guideline? Maybe you didn't quite understand the instructions or didn't use the required format.
Either way, your hard work likely went unrewarded.
My goal for this article is to make sure that doesn't happen to you this basketball season. I'm going to take the guesswork out of what you should be doing and help you make the absolute most of your opportunity.
Whether it's your goal to be All-State or to simply make the team, these 10 tips will help you gain an edge.
1. Set the Standard for Energy/Attitude
If you want to immediately catch a coach's attention, be the player on your team who always shows up and gives great effort and does everything with great attitude.
At first glance, this sounds like it's simple and easy to do.
However, there are undoubtedly going to be days where you're tired or something off the court is going on that could drag down your enthusiasm. These are the days when it matters most.
For the couple of hours that you are on the court, you must fight through the bad vibes and attack everything with a great attitude and high energy.
And guess what? This doesn't start the first day of tryouts. This starts during preseason workouts and time spent training on your own. Whether you're working out, playing pick-up or working on your shooting with some teammates, attack it with a great attitude and give your best effort. The days you don't want to do that are when it matters most.
2. Know Your Role and Master It
Coaches are looking for players who can really fill a role and add value to their system.
Although roles can consistently change as a player continues to develop their game, there is a good chance your coach already has an idea of what they're going to be looking for from you. So go meet with your coach and ask them how they see your role and how they envision you making the team better.
Not only will this show them that you are invested in helping the team win, but it will also give you a better idea of what you should be working on during the run-up to the season!
3. Be in Shape
If you show up out of shape, that's going to be a huge red flag for the coaches. It shows you haven't valued getting prepared in the offseason, and it also forces them to spend valuable practice time running you into shape rather than working on other important areas.
But if you come into team workouts, tryouts, practices, etc., and are running circles around your teammates, coaches will notice what great shape you're in. That will immediately impress them and give you a chance to carve out a bigger role.
4. Be a Shot Maker, Not a Shot Taker
If you want to add value to your game and to your team, learn how to score efficiently.
Don't be a volume shooter that forces shots and then thinks they're amazing because they average 15 points a game on 20-plus shots.
Learn how to score within the offense and take shots that are high-percentage and you feel confident shooting. If you want to take more difficult shots, you must first be willing to master that shot in practice. Low-percentage shots for some can become higher-percentage shots for others because they have put in the time mastering that shot or move. But you can't just practice such shots only in games and expect good results or a happy coach.
5. Train Game-Specific Shots
With the players I work with at Tampa Basketball Training, one of the areas that we really focus on is game-specific shots.
This refers to practicing the type of shots a specific player will often have the opportunity to take during the course of a real game.
This seems like it would be common sense, but I can't tell you how many players I see working on shots they'll rarely get in a game while spending minimal time on the more realistic opportunities.
As you are preparing for the upcoming season, sit down and figure out what shots you are most likely going to get during the course of a game, and then work on mastering those shots. If you are unsure of what shots you will be getting, go talk to your coach. I'm sure they'll be happy to clearly outline what you should be working on.
6. Value the Basketball
One of the biggest things that will limit your playing time is turnovers, especially if they are live-ball turnovers where the other team is getting layups or dunks on the other end.
If you want to earn more minutes for this upcoming season, learn to value the basketball and limit your turnovers.
This doesn't mean that you don't play with confidence and move the ball, but it does mean that you need to be conscious of making sure that you aren't throwing wild and risky passes or dribbling into areas you have no business going. Treasure and protect the basketball!
7. Create for Your Teammates
No one likes a ball hog. Being able to create not only for yourself but also for your teammates makes you the type of dynamic player coaches love.
The better the defense you play against, the more players will have to help each other get open for quality looks.
If you are always putting your head down and looking to score, the help defense will just load up to the ball. However, if you are willing to create for others, you will force the help defense to stay home with their man. Learn to be unselfish and look to create for the other four players on the floor.
8. Grow Your Basketball IQ
It isn't enough to just be able to perform a move or shot, you must also know when and where to use it.
For example, if you bring the ball up the floor and look to make a dribble move past your defender, it is most likely going to fail because there was no ball movement before you attacked and the defense is sitting in the help.
However, if you make the same dribble move after the ball has been swung around the perimeter or after a teammate has driven and kicked the ball out to you, it is going to be much more effective because the help defense is not set.
This is just one example, but the better you are able to think and understand the game, the more prepared you'll be for the upcoming season and the more you'll be able to grow throughout the season.
When you watch games, study what great teams are doing and why they are doing it.
9. Be a Quicker Learner
As you continue to improve your basketball IQ, there are going to be areas where you're more advanced than others. And that's OK!
It is critical, however, that you are able to be a quick learner when your coach is explaining something. If a coach feels like they have to keep explaining things to you, they are going to lose trust in you.
However, if they are able to explain something and you are able to pick it up right away, that is going to give them the confidence to trust you in late-game situations or scenarios where they must make small adjustments. So when a coach is talking, make sure you are locked in and listening with both your ears and your eyes.
And if you leave practice feeling like you still don't get it, don't be afraid to ask coach afterwards.
Consistently showing up with great energy and enthusiasm and demonstrating that you're eager to learn are things you'll always have control over, and not only will they make you better, but they'll also go so, so far with your coaches.
10. Work on Both Sides of the Ball
Too many players think it is all about being able to score.
If you want to add instant value to your game, work on becoming a lock-down defender. Coaches need players whom they can trust to play defense and come up with big stops. This only happens if you are willing to put in the time working on your defense.
As you prepare for the upcoming season, make sure you are spending a balanced amount of time on both ends of the floor.
Going back to the classroom analogy, this article is like a study guide the teacher just handed out. All of the answers to the test are in this article; it is now up to you to spend the needed time working on them. Don't show up to the start of the season unprepared and trying to play catch up. Be the player who is setting the tone and is ready to dominate this season.
And if you haven't already done so, meet one-on-one with your coach immediately! Not only will this give you guidance on how to prepare for the upcoming season, but it will signal to them that you're serious about your commitment to the team.
Photo Credit: Kat72/iStock
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