However, there are definitely ways to gain an edge OUTSIDE of practice and workouts that great players take advantage of as well.
Talent level, accessibility to gym time, and training available to players has steadily increased year by year. With this comes more competition. It's always important to train efficiently and as hard as possible in practice. But in order to become great, players must completely dedicate themselves outside of practice as well.
Below we'll break down 6 things that great players usually find themselves doing outside of their regularly scheduled practices.
1. Eat Healthy
This is something that is often overlooked especially by younger players, but is incredibly important to staying healthy and playing at peak performance. Every coach/player/professional is always looking for ways to gain an edge at their craft. Specifically for athletes, one of the easiest ways is by being cognizant of what they're putting in their bodies.
I think it's safe to say we've all tried competing at a high level after an unhealthy meal. And it's also safe to say that wasn't a pleasant experience. When you have a healthy diet, everything in life seems to be easier - especially on the court. Your mind is sharper, you have more endurance, you enjoy working out, etc.
Much like shooting form, there isn't one specific diet that we recommend that EVERY basketball player should adopt. The best athletes in the world have different diets, but in general eat healthy so they can play at peak performance.
2. Proper Sleep
Much like eating healthy, getting proper sleep is something successful people in general are great at doing on a consistent basis. This can vary between players but a general rule of AT LEAST 7 hours of sleep every night is great to aim for to allow your body to rest, heal, and be completely ready to dominate the next day.
Getting sleep is often much easier said than done and often depends on developing solid habits. While it can be addicting to spend time on the phone, watching TV, or playing video games before bed, those habits often hinder getting proper sleep.
When you exercise and eat healthy, oftentimes sleep becomes more natural. By having a consistent routine and putting the phone away at night, it becomes easier to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep throughout the night. In turn, players then feel better and play better.
3. Stretch, Lift, Recover
This is something that players of all ages often skip. It's easy for players to put their shoes on and immediately start shooting/working out. But that's a dangerous habit to get into and can lead to injuries and ailments throughout the season and/or off-season.
Again, much like getting proper sleep, it comes down to having a routine. Proper stretching BEFORE and AFTER practice/working out can do wonders to a player's body and help them perform better.
Also, having a weight lifting routine is great for injury prevention and keeping player's bodies ready for battle. For basketball players, this doesn't mean that a "power lifting" plan should be executed year-round, but even a few days a week of light lifting can make a big difference.
Last, allowing the body to properly recover is extremely important. We, along with hundreds of other outlets, constantly preach hard work, hard work, hard work. However, it's essential to listen to your body to avoid over-working it. Nothing is worse than allowing an insane work ethic ruin a season because a player pushed themselves too hard.
4. Study The Game
This is a great thing to do when your body is recovering. With the ease of access to so many great basketball resources on TV, the internet, books, etc., it's easy to constantly learn more about the game.
The simplest way to study the game is by watching it as much as possible at all levels. If a player is a point guard, they should watch the best point guards in the NBA and college to find out what makes them so successful.
How do they attack a pick and roll? What's their go-to move? How do they find their teammates? How can I incorporate their tendencies into my game?
These are are questions to ask as players watch the game.
Other than watching the game, there are tons of other resources on the internet to read and watch. Taking a little nugget from a tweet and another from a blog post, can help take player's games to the next level. Just make sure to think critically do your best to be cognizant of what is good information and what isn't.
5. Get Up Extra Shots
Especially during the season, it's easy to overlook getting up extra shots. Be careful not to overwork like we said earlier, but getting up shots before/after school/practice is almost always a good idea to keep building good muscle memory and habits.
Many times, players think that practice is "good enough" to keep their shot fresh. But in most practices, players don't shoot very many shots during practice. Between offensive and defensive concepts, fine tuning plays, scouting opponents, and special situations, there just isn't enough time to put up a large volume of shots.
Once again, we may sound like a broken record, but developing habits and a routine can make a HUGE difference. If that means getting to practice a half hour early to get an extra 100 shots up or getting up before school starts, great players find a way.
And of course the most effective and efficient way to get up shots while tracking progress is by utilizing Dr. Dish basketball shooting machines. While it's well-known you can use Dr. Dish in the off-season, it's also a great idea to use Dr. Dish in-season to maximize reps and skill development opportunities.
6. Work Relentlessly on Ball-Handling
Much like getting up extra shots, too many players think that they don't need to work any extra on their ball handling outside of practice. Of course there should be an emphasis on skill development during practices, but oftentimes this isn't the case.
This isn't something where we recommend intense skill work/dribbling for 30-60 minutes every day either. Just 10-15 minutes is often all that is necessary to build/refine skills.
Getting as familiar with the ball as possible is the goal here. An extreme example would be Steve Nash constantly dribbling a tennis ball around campus in college. When he got on the court, dribbling a basketball was way easier.
If players can do these 6 things on a daily basis, progress and improvement will undoubtedly happen for them. Basketball practices are great forums for learning and refining skills, but great players understand that in order to be great they have to do extra.
Ultimately, it's about building and sustaining healthy habits throughout the entire year that will end up showing on the court.
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