Tis the season!!! Conference play is winding down across the country and teams are; gearing up for post-season runs, hoping for post-season magic, or starting to lay the foundation for next season. Whichever you are doing it is so incredibly important to understand there is value to everything you do for the rest of the season regardless of your record or your conference standing.
It is so easy at this time of year to become complacent. It's been a long season and repetition sometimes can lead to boredom or complacency. Combine that with the snow melting and the sun shining and there are more distractions than usual to keep players minds out of the gym. As coaches it is up to us to find new ways to keep your team excited and anxious to come to practice, to watch film, and to study scouting reports. Too often the players hit the wall right now and put it on coast mode because "we've already played this team so we know what they do" or they get so excited for conference and post-season tournaments that they over look these last few weeks. It is ABSOLUTELY your job to keep them as excited about these next few weeks as the post season for one simple reason. Winning these "GRIND TIME" games gives you a better shot at winning in the post season. How many times have we seen that conference leading team get upset in the last few games of the season? It happens all the time! And when it happens, it usually has an effect on post-season seeding for the conference tournament, potentially costing that team a first round bye! It is also very important to know the NCAA Tournament Committee looks at a teams last 10 games. They want to see how you are playing down the stretch. Are you handling your business and getting better, or are you in "coast mode". Will that "coast mode" make you a #8 or #9 seed instead of a #6 or #7? Remember as a #8 or a #9 seed, if you win your first round game, your reward is a #1 seed!!!! Surely you and your players would rather be a #6 or #7 and avoid the #1 seeds for as long as possible!
It doesn't take much to re-energize your program at this time of year. A surprise day off, a movie night on the road, a day of fun at practice instead of the usual. Use your imagination and be creative. One of my favorite traditions is a "Whiffle Ball" game instead of practice. There is nothing more fun than to watch All-American basketball players swing a little plastic bat. And yes - I swing for the fences!
Whatever you do always remember the big picture - I know we get so focused on looking only to the next day and the next game. But when you keep your team excited and focused during this "GRIND TIME" you will have a much better chance of success in March and April!
ENJOY YOUR SHOT!!