The warm up is an absolutely crucial part of your practice. In warm ups I am looking to increase body temperature, prepare the athlete with dynamic stretching, get them mentally prepared for practice, and teach basketball specific functional movements. It sets the tempo for the rest of that practice and I ask how much time have you taken to structure that warmup? Do you just do the same stretches your coach taught you years ago? Is it something you just expect your trainer/strength coach to do? My warm-ups would include
Short jog to raise the athletes core temperature
Specific drills for developing ankle mobility and strengthening the ankle – this is crucial how many injuries occur at the ankle? What are you doing about it?
Functional moves – specifically I would work on a squatting and lunging movements. To effectively stop we need to be able to control the eccentric loading we see within the lunge, so I want to work on this movement every practice session.
Although this topic is far too expansive for this article, I did discuss it briefly in my article on Shooting warm ups in Volume 1, No 6 of the Fundamentals First Fast Break Newsletter . I would also recommend Alan Stein’s DeMatha Basketball: Warm-Up & Flexibility – Basketball — Championship Productions, Inc. Here are also some great links from Coach Stein youtube site of warm-up ideas.
DeMatha Pre-Game Warm Up
Notice how much ankle work, forward and backward runs, the starts and stops, and lunge like movements they use. These are all key athletic skills that allow athletes to make strong stops and quick changes of direction.
Lunge Matrix with Med Ball
Teach the skill
We need to teach players how to stop, specifically the lunge stop and the hockey. The lunge stop is where the player will athlete will take a long step and drop into a lunge, dropping his hips to gain control of his body. We see this stop executed often with a ball handler having to stop there dribble when the defense cuts them off.
A hockey stop is the stop we see specifically in the suicide. It is where we will turn our foot to an angle perpendicular the new direction we are going, we plant and push off in the opposite direction. This is where the athlete will plant his foot parallel to the end line or free throw line as he/she is changing direction. The key point to making that hockey stop is the head and shoulder position. As we are making that stop we want them leading into the new direction we are running, if it is going the other direction we will lose balance and be unable to transfer force into the opposite directions.
Some drills to work in these include bounding. Bounding is jumping from one leg to another, but on the landing we want to hold it. We are working on balance and the ability to control our bodies. Ensure that we are seeing good absorption of the force at the knee and hip and that head and eyes are up. I would work on bounding in both a linear fashion and a lateral fashion.
To work specifically on the hockey stop, I would want to work at a much lower speed than a full sprint. There is a drill that I got from Alan Stein’s DeMatha Basketball: Agility & Conditioning (here is a link to my review of the video)) I call a short suicide, the athlete simply runs from the end line to the free throw line, executes a hockey stop and then sprints back to the end line and executes a second stop. I love this drill because the athlete can focus on his technique with this drill. Coach Stein has some great variety with the drill as well, working on different types of footwork.
These drills might seem elementary to you, but I think that would have amazing long term benefit if they were introduced to young athletes. Athletic movement is a skill that needs to be drilled and giving an athlete this foundation at a young age would have long term benefit.
How many suicides do you expect your players to complete? At what times? What are your expectations if they don’t make those times? How old are your players? When do they execute them in practice early or late? These are all questions you need to consider with the age, experience, and athletic age of the athlete. I am not sure if I want to do 10 rounds of suicides for an 11 year old after a full day of scrimmaging. From my discussions with other strength coaches, using appropriate volume is their greatest concern.
The drill name “suicide” isn’t the most political correct name. Although not as dramatic, the name “ladders” might be more appropriate and that brings me to the final thought of this series. Coaches love “suicides” because it gives them the feeling that they demand mental and physical toughness from their players. Developing these characteristics is valid but it should be developed with an understanding of safety, technique, and conditioning that matches the demands of the sport. We aren’t creating tough track stars but great basketball players.
Before I close out this series, I am happy to announce I started a partnership with Smarter Team Training.They will be provide blog entries on a regular for the Fundamentals First Basketball network. STT specializes in athletic development and has a number of free videos and podcast that I would encourage you to check out. I recently just purchased their basketball DVD series and will be writing about them in the near future. Check out the site from the link below