Basketball Conditioning

conditioingThe time between the start of school and the first day of practice is always a tough time for basketball players who aren’t in a fall sport.  It seems like it will be forever until the beginning of practice.  A pre-season conditioning program allows players who are not in fall sports to be involved in positive activities that can help them as both players and students.

I have always looked forward to the start of basketball conditioning as it is the first milestone for basketball during the school year.  Since you have the opportunity to be around your prospects in an organized setting, you have an opportunity to impact them positively in many ways.

All states have different rules that change frequently, so make sure that you are up on the latest rule changes  prior to planning your conditioning.  Within the rules, you want to design your pre-season so that you get more out of the program than just basketball conditioning.

You have probably been told by prospects that they are going to work out on their own.  I have never had anyone who made that statement that ended up being a contributing member of our basketball program.  Even if a prospect does work out on their own, they miss out on many of the extra benefits that come with being involved in an organized and professionally supervised basketball conditioning program.

Basketball conditioning program objectives for the physical development of your players.

  1. Be in game ready shape by the first day of practice.  If your players aren’t in shape, they can’t work at a game pace once practice starts.  If they can’t work that hard in practice because they aren’t in condition, they are not going to make the needed improvements to put you in a position to win games.
  2. Improve overall sports performance including strength, agility, quickness, flexibility, explosiveness, and jumping.
  3. Reduce the risk of injuries once practice starts through proper strengthening and stretching of vulnerable areas.

Other objectives for pre-season basketball conditioning.

  1. Provide opportunities for players to do individual skill workouts.  If your state association allows you to work with small groups during the pre-season, that is the best use of your and your players’ time. Even if you are prohibited from working with players, you can teach your players how to work out on their own during times in the season or summer when you can have contact.  Then, in your pre-season, you can provide open gym opportunities for them to work out on their own.
  2. Play 5 on 5 in open gym.  Make some special rules to help your players get more out of pick up games.  Here are some ideas for rules that will improve the quality of play in your open gyms.- Play to 15 by twos and threes.  That simulates a high school quarter.

    – To force players to play hard, make it a rule that every defensive player must be past the half court line when the offense scores.  If the defensive players are not all in the frontcourt, the basket counts and the penalty is that the team that just scored gets the ball back.

    – All five offensive players must be across the ten second line when their teams scores.  If any offensive players are still in the backcourt when a basket is scored.  The basket is wiped out and the other team gains possession of the basketball.

    – Validate your games.   When a player makes the game winning basket, that player must go to right to the free throw line and make a free throw.  If the free throw is missed, the basket does not count.  The other team gets the ball and the score reverts to what it was prior to the basket.

    These rules will force your players to play harder.  Not only will the games be more competitive, but your players will play harder, resulting in the benefit of gaining basketball specific conditioning.

  3. Monitor support and motivate players academically and with behavior at school.  Especially for freshman or other players new to your program, it is good to have daily contact with them as soon as school starts.  If they are having any academic or citizenship issues, you will be able to help the player correct them right away rather than having them continue for the first few months of school
  4. Develop some team camaraderie.  Going through a challenging conditioning program will bring your player group together and offers opportunities for team building.  For players new to the program, they can begin to bond with returning players as well as the coaching staff and will be more comfortable when practice begins.Here is a suggested program.Use it as a guide to develop your own basketball conditioning program that fits your coaching situation and your state association rules.  I recommend a six to eight week program leading up to the first day of practice.This is a general schedule.  You will need to make adjustments for Fall Break, Early Dismissals, and other activities.  Also, it is fun for the players for you to include team building activities as a change of pace.  Frisbee games, touch football, relays, or other games offer a break in the routine.

    Make sure that players are properly stretched and warmed up prior to all activities.


    – 7:00-8:00 am Open gym for individual skill workouts
    – 3:30-4:30 pm Agilities
    – 7:00-8:30 pm: Open gym for 5-on-5 play


    – 7:00-8:00 Open gym for individual skill workouts
    – 3:30-4:30 pm Weight Room
    – 7:00-8:30 pm: Open gym for 5-on-5 play


    10:00 am to Noon:  Open gym for 5-on-5 play

    In all of your strength, agility, and performance training  exercises, start out with low reps and time requirements and gradually increase the demands until you are pushing players to be in game shape by the end of conditioning.  There is no need to rush things.

    The idea of basketball conditioning is to decrease injuries, not cause them.  But don’t shortchange your players by limiting your workouts to physical conditioning.  Following this suggested program will also improve their basketball skills, their mental toughness, and your team unity.

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