Summer is such a great time of the year, especially for youth athletes and coaches who work with them. This is the time of year when so much improvement can be made—not just to physical attributes, but also academic growth and mindset maturation, as well.
I especially enjoy the summer months because this is the prime basketball offseason. Most teams start to drop out of their postseason play in late March or early April and everyone but the pros are done before June. This leaves so much time for improvement in several aspects of a young player's life.
The problem is that so many good young athletes waste this time and experience little to no growth during their offseason. With that in mind, here are three offseason traps that stymy the development of many youth basketball players.
1. Not Diversifying Their Movement
During a young athlete's career, it is imperative that they diversify their movement repertoire. This means performing other forms of physical activity besides basketball to further their mobility, strength, agility and overall wellness.
I can speak on this as a former player and coach: Basketball players are very prone to early sport specialization and neglecting strength training. It would be an absolute waste of a young athlete's offseason to exclude other forms of physical activity on a consistent basis. Whether that activity be other sports, strength training or something else, simply giving a young player the opportunity to move in ways they don't on the court is vital.
Even if you do specialize in basketball, diversifying your movement during the offseason as opposed to playing game after game of pick-up will greatly help reduce your risk of both burnout and overuse injuries.
2. Taking 'Offseason' Too Literal
On the flip side, wasting your summer away playing Fortnite until 4 a.m. and partying every weekend isn't going to do you any favors when the season rolls around. The summer is certainly a great chance to relax, but it shouldn't mean doing nothing for three straight months.
Rest as needed. Get your body feeling right. By all means, take care of yourself. But don't become a slug during the summer. There are improvements to be made, and your competition is out there working. The easiest way to get yourself motivated and goal-oriented during your summer offseason is to work up some courage and ask your coaches and teammates these three questions:
- 1. What do I need to improve on as an athlete?
- 2. What do I need to improve on as a teammate?
- 3. Is there anything I can help you with this summer?
Use those answers as fuel for your offseason activities. Attack your weaknesses. Get together with teammates to work on your game and make each other better. Take your coach's recommendations to heart. Focusing your offseason will pay dividends in your future play.
3. Totally Neglecting Their Academics
Last, but definitely not least, comes academics. Remember, you're a student-athlete—that's student first. If you ended the school year with poor grades, suboptimal study habits and a bad attitude toward academics, the summer can be a time to fix those issues.
Basketball is a game that can be taken away from you at any moment for reasons completely out of your control. But academics are certainly within your control. If you want to keep basketball in your life for as long as possible, remaining eligible is a must. And the better grades you have, the more opportunities you'll have to continue your basketball career at the next level.
Talk to your past teachers and find out ways you can get ahead for future courses. Reach out to the teachers who are teaching your classes in the fall and see how you can prepare yourself. Most kids do absolutely nothing over the summer when it comes to academics, so even a little effort can go a long way toward making your life easier and your GPA higher come the school year. Your teachers and coaches will notice your effort, and most importantly, you'll be setting yourself up for success should basketball ever come to an end for you.
Photo Credit: Aleksandar Pirgic/iStock, IcemanJ/iStock, dejankrsmanovic/iStock
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