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Preparing For Your Season Opener

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One of the most difficult and yet most important things that a coach will do throughout the season is the process of preparing his team for an upcoming game. What complicates this process even further is when little or no information is known about the opponent that they face. The first obvious example of this is preparing for your season opener.

When playing the first game of the season there is going to relatively zero information available on your opponent due to the fact that no one in the conference or perhaps the state has played them yet either. The only information that is possibly available might be from the previous season seven months ago. However, in those seven months there may have been coaching changes, impact players graduating, injuries, or significant additions to the team.

Over the years I have noticed that many teams have lost their season opener simply because of poor game preparation. Don't be a victim of this mistake! When preparing your team for your season opener, make sure to include these 6 things in the practice plan.

Review your Man to Man Defensive Principles: For the majority of the teams, man to man defense will be their go-to defensive scheme. Unlike zones where the foundation is built upon team rotations, man to man defenses are built around individual techniques. Review with your team how to defend the most basic movements in basketball; down screens, flare screens, pick and rolls, fronting the post, chesting up cutters, boxing out, etc.

Work on Your Press Breaker: If you want to win more games in the preseason, consider using some type of full court press since most teams are relatively unprepared for pressure early in the season. Since this isn't a well kept, don't be alarmed if you see an enormous amount of full court pressure in your first few games of the season. Make sure your press break is in and operating at least a week before your first game. Consider working 7 on 5 or 8 on 5 to make sure you're ready.

Go Over Your Offensive Sets: With the first game of the season less than 24 hours away many of your players will begin to feel some nerves or butterflies in their stomach. When nerves are involved one of the first things to leave the gym is the player's memory of their offensive responsibilities. By taking 10 minutes or so going 5 on 0 with your offensive sets it will help calm the nerves and restore some of the athletes' confidence.

Get Shots Up: The day before your first game is not a time to be teaching your team anything new. The day before a game is primarily to review what has already been taught and to build your team's confidence. Make sure you designate a period of at least 10-15 minutes of just pure shooting. Seeing the ball go through the net over and over will reinstate everyone's confidence. The key to this is to have everyone take game shots and game speed. Whether it is back to the basket post moves or "catch and shoot" shots from the perimeter, everything needs to be as game like as possible.

Zone Team Rotations: As mentioned above, a man to man defense is based on individual technique while a zone defense is built around the rotations of every defensive player on the floor. To further ensure players are in proper position a great drill to use is the basic shell drill, where the offense begins by passing the ball around the perimeter. Instruct the offense to hold the ball long enough until the defense gets in proper position before passing it again. Coaches must make sure the basics are being executed and include a lot of talk. If your team is going to make mistakes make sure they are made going full speed and with lots of communication!

End Practice on a Fun Note: Basketball is a fun game but sometimes nerves get the best of us. End practice on a fun note so players will leave feeling good about themselves and their teammates. This can be done with either a relaxed team huddle or with a fun game. Some examples of games are bump/knockout, half court shot contest and team bowling. For team bowling have everyone start with a ball at one of the corners of the baseline and sideline. Open a door at the far side of the gym. One by one have the players try to bowl a ball through the doors. Anyone who successfully rolls the ball out the door gets a Gatorade.

Remember, it's a long season and the championship isn't going to be awarded to the winner of the season opener. Have your team as prepared as possible under the circumstances and use the game as a building block for the rest of the season.

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