So here it is, holiday break, you’re home from school and you don’t know what to do. Your parents are telling you to stay off video games and get your household chores done. There are likely no basketball practices or games this week to keep you in peak basketball season mode. So what do you do if you’re a middle school/high school hooper in this situation?
Relax. I’ve got you covered. Here are five things that can keep you busy and in the right frame of mind for the critical January and February months of your winter season.
This one sounds like common sense because it is! You can never practice enough! Take the free time you have and get the new basketball you received as a gift and just dribble. Find a gym or even just a stretch of blacktop and work on your handles. Right hand. Left hand. Cross overs. Through the legs. Concentrate on strengthening your weak, non-dominant hand. Remember, you’re much harder to defend when you can dribble and move quickly in each direction.
Take 100 free throws a day and get up at least 100 jump shots inside the arc. Focus on mid-range shots you’re likely to take in a real game. If you’re advanced enough, you can work in a series of three-point shots from different locations around the perimeter. Work on driving to the basket and finishing lay-ups.
2. Workout/Stay in Shape
Staying in shape also sounds like common sense, but you HAVE to do it or you’ll definitely notice when you go back to your team. No coach wants to see you huffing and puffing at a practice or a game.
Run or jog. Do suicide sprints. Work on getting faster and staying fit. The more fit that you are, the less likely you are to get tired down the stretch in a game when your team really needs you!
If you belong to a gym like Planet Fitness, use your time to go workout. Lift weights (responsibly) and work on your agility and jumping skills (box jumps, squats, single leg jumps, calf raises). Even if you don’t belong to a gym or don’t have access to one, you can still do a lot of exercises without leaving home. All you really need is enough space and the dedication to get it done.
3. Attend Camps or Trainings
The good news is that a lot of basketball players are in the same boat this week with not much to do and an abundance of time. You don’t have to look any further than right here at No Excuse Produce to find ways of getting in extra work over the break. A Winter Break Basketball Camp is being held from Tuesday, December 26 through Friday, December 29 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Visit the website to sign up online. Even if you can’t attend the camp, there are opportunities to sign up for group or individual trainings. In addition, don’t miss out on the middle school open runs each Friday! The next one is Friday, December 29 at 6 p.m.
4. Read About Basketball
This tip kills two birds with one stone—improving your basketball IQ as well as getting in your necessary reading that your teachers and parents are always reminding you about. I’ve recently read three books about basketball and life that I would highly recommend to any youth, middle school or high school basketball player. Definitely check out these titles via Amazon or through your local library!
Mental Toughness for Young Athletes: Eight Proven 5-Minute Mindset Exercises for Kids and Teens Who Play Competitive Sports – by Troy Horne and Moses Horne
Mental Toughness for Young Athletes: Volume 2 Grit – How to Use the Secret Mindset Hack – by Troy Horne and Moses Horne
Shoot Your Shot: A Sport-Inspired Guide to Living Your Best Life – by Vernon Brundage Jr.
You may also enjoy these, two of my all-time favorites:
Fall River Dreams: A Team’s Quest for Glory, A Town’s Search For Its Soul – by Bill Reynolds
Basketball Junkie: A Memoir – by Chris Herren and Bill Reynolds
And don't forget to check out Coach Robert Hunter's e-book, The Basketball Guidebook: Unlocking the Secret to Becoming a Versatile Hooper.
5. Watch Basketball Games
When you’re not playing basketball, you should be watching good players play it a high-level. You can really learn a lot just by watching. On any given night you can catch NBA or college games on TV or online.
We’re lucky that here in Massachusetts that we have perhaps the best team in the NBA this season in the Boston Celtics. You can check them out on Thursday, December 28 at home against the Detroit Pistons at 7:30 pm and then again at home on Friday, December 29 against the Toronto Raptors at 7:30 pm. They also go on the road to play the San Antonio Spurs on New Year’s Eve at 7 p.m.
When you watch a game, pick out a good player who plays a similar position to yours and study what they do. How do they get by defenders when on offense? What do they do when they don’t have the ball? How do they react when things don’t go their way? Do they pick their teammates up when they miss a shot or make a mistake? These are all important aspects of the game to be aware of.
Locally at the high school level, you can check out the Laska Yuletide Tournament semifinals on Wednesday, December 27 at Assumption College. Shrewsbury takes on St. John’s at 6 p.m. followed by Doherty versus Wachusett at 7:30 p.m.
If you’re up for taking a car ride, the defending state champion North High Polar Bears will be participating in the Boston Amateur Basketball Club (BABC) Holiday Classic on Wednesday, December 27 and Thursday, December 28 at Archbishop Williams High School in Braintree. North squares off against Hillhouse (CT) at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday and battles host school Archbishop Williams on Thursday at 3 p.m. For those that can’t make it in person, both games are scheduled to be streamed online via Facebook at North High Hoops.
Additionally, don’t miss out on seeing some of the best high school players in the country right here in Massachusetts at the Spalding Hoophall Classic on January 11-15 at Blake Arena on the campus of Springfield College. This premier event features 43 of the top 100 players in the Class of 2024 including the nation’s top player and Maine’s own Cooper Flagg of Montverde Academy. Also featured will be Cameron Boozer of Christopher Columbus High School (FL), the number two rated recruit of the Class of 2025 along with his twin brother and teammate Cayden Boozer, the number 16 recruit of the Class of 2025. Also expected to play are A.J. Dybantsa, the top recruit of the Class of 2025 and Tyran Stokes, the number one player in the Class of 2026.