Take it to the Next Level

 In Players

Playing at the next level.  You can do it.

For every Phil Scrubb or Elizabeth Roach who currently star for the Carleton Ravens basketball men’s and women’s teams there are many players who seem to have the ability to play at the ‘next level’ but don’t make it.  Why do some players with comparable skills succeed while others fall short?

Many players on our competitive teams want to take their game to the next level.  What does that mean and how do players get there? For most players on the Stars the next level is making the next competitive age level team and/or eventually playing at a post-secondary institution – be it college our university.  It’s hard to do it alone, though, so below are some thoughts on how to reach your dreams of playing at a high level and reaching peak performance at the game of basketball.  Some are obvious while some are more difficult as you will need the help and guidance of others to steer you in the right direction.

Work hard in practice. Everyone thinks they ‘work hard’ but where they often fall short is in practice where they are happy to work as hard as the next player and fail to take the lead and raise the level of play for themselves and for their teammates.  Working hard in games is relatively easy but working hard in practice is even harder, but relatively more important as teams usually practice two or three times more than they play.  If everyone works hard in practice everyone’s game will improve so get out there and be the hardest working player in practice.  The Ravens men’s basketball team’s toughest opponent is…….themselves in their 90-100 practices where they make practices harder than games so everyone improves.  Encourage yourself and your teammates to have a solid work ethic in practice – you will become a better player.

Working hard on our own. A coach can motivate you to work harder at a practice or game but it is a special player who can motivate themselves to work hard when they are on their own.  Tip – do drills where you work hard for 30-60 seconds then ‘rest’ by taking foul shots. This helps you maintain a high level of play throughout your training session.

Coaching. Listen to your coaches as they can help you to achieve your goals.  A good coach should help develop the required skills at your age group so you can be successful at the next age group.  Ask questions, ask them to help you with your weaknesses and ask them for advice on training, camps and skill development in the summer.

Skill Development. Work on all the skills. If you are a 5’11” bantam girl playing post you should work on your guard skills in practice and in the off-season as you may be a guard at the next age level.  Another example – you see many short players who are among the top rebounders on their team by putting a focus on boxing out, positioning and crashing the boards hard every time.

Training.  It is said that’ champions and championships are built in the off-season’ so make a plan to improve your game in the off-season.  Many players play other sports in the summer which is great (there are many complimentary skills to games like soccer, lacrosse etc) but players can still improve their basketball skills by planning: go to one or two camps in the summer, look for a summer league, go to the gym or park three or four times a week to work on skills for 30 min.  The OBA has summer elite programs and there are more AAU summer teams cropping up each year (our house league Jr. Boys went to Potsdam last June and had a great experience).  Last summer the Stars ran a weekly skill session every Monday so check the website for opportunities for the summer of 2014. Tryout and stay involved.

Nutrition. Eat right and make the right decisions when it comes to drugs and alcohol.

Breaking through walls (fatigue, complacency). Players who play at the highest levels get as tired as the next player but they are able to motivate themselves to get through the workout or practice where they are extremely tired by focussing on key short term or long term goals.  These players have a ‘no excuses policy’ and plan accordingly – if you miss a workout due to studying then you look for another time to make up the missed practice.  If the gym is closed and you can’t shoot then go outside and play or do an alternate workout (ride a bike, lift weights etc.).

Mentors and advice from others who have been there. Look for that special coach or older player who could help you along your path to success.  Most coaches want to help and are willing to spend the time with you in the gym to help you improve.  All you have to do is ask.

Attitude. Much of the above depends on your attitude in how you approach the challenges that sports presents to us.  Be positive, don’t be afraid to make mistakes, learn from mistakes, learn how to win and learn how to lose, be a good teammate and be a player the coach can count on to help convey his or her philosophy to the team.

Tips from an elite player.  I once spoke to Rob Saunders who played guard on three CIS Championship teams for the Carleton Ravens and I asked him what advice he would have for young players and what he would have done differently if he started over again.  He thought it was important to be the hardest worker in the gym and to really compete against teammates every practice. He thought it was important to always try to guard the best player in practice and in games, when possible. He also said if he had to do it over again he would play more 1 on 1 and get in the gym and shoot more on his own.  Good advice from a three-time CIS Champion.

There are many paths to take to get you to your potential as a player but a good work ethic, willingness to reach out to others for help and a ‘no excuses’ attitude will help you achieve your goals. The Ottawa Shooting Stars are committed to working with you to be the best player you can be.

Paul Armstrong

Ottawa Shooting Stars Technical Staff