Dealing With The Long Layoff — A Sure Topic
For at least a couple of weeks a common topic of BigTen basketball has been what is a coach to do concerning a layoff period of between 11 and 14 days. Coach Izzo seemed to have a genuine fear of going out early in the conference tournament. He was not alone, as others also chimed in.
Coach Beielin addressed the situation in a post game television interview by stating he did not know how to deal with this anomaly, it was a new, uncharted situation. But we can all bet he spent time getting some input from others. Coach understands there is merely advise, his own thoughts, and a gut decision to determine the process/strategy. No doubt he will have a plan and it will be best mind and foot put forward.
I mentioned a week or so ago that the best team I ever coached ran out of gas and was another entirely different team before going into a US Regional four team pod match-up. From that situation best practices of thought were put forward that seemed sound. The competition was good, but nothing that overmatched in any manner. The three other teams were coming off three or four days without action.
What was learned is condensed somewhat below.
First, the biggest problem in retrospect was that there were no classes, the term was officially over, finals done, grades in the mail. Michigan does not have this problem. Classes resume today. One would intuitively think that having a week of nothing but practice would be nice. No, not so; the worst thing for a college student to do is not have a routine and either lay around doing little or finding a way to get in trouble. Athletes and college kids in general, need to get up, get with it, have a purpose, and get to work. Routine is important, so is everyday rigor. This is the light switch phenomenon: keep the light on and spend a little more energy, do not turn it off. If the light stays on, the effect is better than turning off the light and risking it will not come back on.
Second, we gathered data on how long a team could go without demonstrating a clear drop in important, discrete skills. In basketball discrete skills could include shooting accuracy/technique, foul shooting, two-man offensive sets, etc. The result strongly supported that 24 hours off had little effect, but 48 hours of doing nothing yielded a downturn that clearly became visible. Coach will likely give the guys Monday off physically, but maybe not mentally.
Third, this group has been through quite a bit, a grueling grind the last six weeks. The question sometimes is asked “Is the tank empty.” Refer to point one, these guys are young and do not need two weeks on a beach right now. The energy needs to be constant, without lessening, although clearly there can be overkill, trust Coach not to overcook the situation.The primary mission will be to demand and obtain mental focus. This is a strong point of the Beilein program.
Fourth, some things to consider to accomplish the above would be to take foul shooting and end game situations and have very rigorous team (5×5) competitions; really get after it. Set standards and get after it with duress. Game preparation will start Monday of course after Selection Sunday. That we know will be well done. Whoever draws a short week or even a day to prepare for Michigan will quietly sit in the office and say “Why me?”