Strength Performance Network

It's the PlayOffs. Time to Practice.

College football coaches have long enjoyed the extra time with players that qualifying for a college bowl gives a team. The extra team practices and skill development time are crucial for schools to build (or maintain) their programs. In fact, the benefit of the extended season probably has a greater greater payoff for the season to come than for any outcome in that final bowl game. The college football progression of Spring football, summer training, pre-season, regular season, bowl season, off season is its own cyclical calendar, and the common thread throughout is practice. The continuity helps team culture and individual athlete development to work hand-in-hand.

Professional sports have regular seasons that go for so long that cyclical patterns of games, practices and individual workouts become impossible. Player development in the NHL and NBA are tasks steeped in planning and logistics, and not just a matter of getting young players to show up, work hard and absorb quality coaching. At the team level, full-squad practices get increasingly rare as the season goes on and on, eliminating uniquely valuable opportunities to cultivate creativity and collaboration among coaches and players (and with minimal injury risk).

The regular season situation changes during the playoffs. Games on consecutive days are extremely rare. The best of seven series format limits the scope of travel and focuses in-depth preparation on a single opponent. Perhaps, most important teams get to practice. And teams that get the most out of practice give themselves real post-season advantages.

The Portland Trail Blazers are a team that improved as the regular season went on (14-21 record before January 1, 30-17 record after January 1). Safe to assume that the players and the team gained competency in how to better their performance. The competence has served them well, first against the Clippers in the playoffs’ opening round. Los Angeles’ tactic to double-team the Portland guards forced an increased playmaking role for Mason Plumlee, who responded with a stream of assists for teammates in those games.

Penguins goalie Matt Murphy has a reputation for practicing like a ...,  according to Sam Werner at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 21-year old Murphy emerged after the injury to number one goalie Andre Fleury and he has shown his quality throughout the NHL playoffs’ opening rounds. A single series or individual player might be less significant benchmarks compared how teams perform over the entire playoffs, at least when it comes to assessing the quality of a head coach and his staff.

The Cleveland Cavaliers perfect 8-0 record through the first two rou...  Word has come out that the Cavaliers are working hard, very hard, to make the most of the opportunity. When the Cavaliers decided to replace the head coach in mid-season, bringing in Tyronn Lue, much was made of his stated objectives to hold players accountable and to get players in better shape. It’s only now, as the playoffs get serious, that we can see Lue’s objectives for his team in concrete reality. At least part of that reality is serious practice preparation.

An athlete management system like CoachMePlus is one tool among many in the coaching toolbox. It’s especially valuable for practice and practice continues to become more important to teams’ success. The job description for head coaches in basketball and hockey is becoming more collegiate. Practice management has joined game management and player management as core skills for head coaches to succeed at.

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