For high school, college, or pro, tournament play is the climax of every basketball season. It is often said to be the beginning of a new season and more important than the regular season.
The team should be at its peak for the tournament. I hope all of you have used great care in bringing your team along during these later weeks of the season. Keep the tournament in front of your team. Make it their main objective.
Everything you do in practice should be done with the purpose of getting them ready for the tournament. Having your team in condition is one of the major factors of successful tournament play. The coach should give the players just enough work to keep them in condition. Hard scrimmages in preparing your team for various offenses and defenses will defeat the purpose both physically and mentally.
After enduring a long season, players need rest and a mental vacation from basketball. The coach needs to spend ten to fourteen days in restoration of his team with the tournament as the goal.
Give more time with reserve players because ten-man teams and good conditioning are deciding factors in tournaments. A good tournament team must know how to conserve its energy, both prior and during the tourney. Team enthusiasm is the biggest asset your team can have at the tail-end of a season. This is best attained through mental freshness as a result from vacations from practice. Lots of fresh air and sunshine often helps. On sunshiny days, take the team outside for short passing drills.
The wide variety of conditions in connection to tournament play makes it impossible to give a set of standards on the management of a tourney team. Foremost is the proper time to arrive prior to your game. I personally believe it is harmful to be there too long before you play.
If you live less than 125 miles from the tourney site, it is best to stay at home and let your players sleep in their own beds. However, if living more than 125 miles, it is most probably best to arrive at the tourney site the night prior to your game.
Proper feeding can become a big problem. Your players must have plenty of wholesome and balanced foods. Both, overeating and undereating can be detrimental to a team. Stick to the same type foods players are used to during the year. Don't try new menus.
Most coaches believe that the team should not watch their next opponent play and I am one of them. If you are staying at a hotel, it's best your players go there immediately following their victory; however, special considerations may dictate otherwise.
Today, high school tournaments are far shorter than in older days; therefore, rest isn't as important as years ago. In this age of basketball, we often see four teams in the semifinals. If your team plays first, most coaches see fit to keep the boys for the second game; however, the mental and spiritual composition of your team should be the controlling factors of your choice.
Today, most teams have video available of all prospective opponents, either acquired or borrowed. However, a coach or scout should remain behind to chart a note any possible changes in the opponent's play or style.
Changing your regular offense to another style for tournament play usually is not a good idea. The stress and emotion of a tournament makes it difficult to properly execute or easily learn a new offense.
Stick with your old offense; however, it is appropriate to add some new play possibilities for certain opponents. If you have ample manpower, the tourney is short, and your team has demonstrated fast-breaking style, by all means use it at every opportunity. However, understand the value of ball possession.
A successful tournament team must be a good ball-control team and able to protect a lead, late in the game, with a good delayed offense. Any weakness in ball-handling will be costly.
Play your games one at a time. Your players should never think of the final game before the first is won.
A flexing zone defense, pressing man-to-man, and shifting man-to-man defenses are good tournament defenses. However, I would not recommend that a team try to learn them just for the tournament. If you have used these during the season, then, your team is well prepared.
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