March/April 2017
Taking a look back
At season's end, coaches begin program evaluations.
By Henry Barrera

How do you go from where you are to where you want to be?

As the season ends, it’s time to look back and evaluate your program. I tend to break things down as much as possible at each major junction within a basketball season and reflect by asking three crucial questions: what, how and why?

This gives me the information I need to adjust in preparation for the next year. As I get older, I realize more and more that every detail adds up. I’ve been fortunate to be around a few great professionals and have picked up on some of the habits, behaviors and choices they make on a day-to-day basis. One of the key characteristics of those that have success is how relentlessly they pursue improvement.

Notice I didn’t say perfection. The only way we can improve is by looking at what we do through a critical lens, win or lose. The ones who win consistently constantly look for ways to challenge what they are doing. It’s what makes them special.

This excerpt from sports psychologist Dr. Keith Bell articulates what it takes to win.

“Winning isn’t normal. That doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with it. It just isn’t normal. It’s highly unusual. Every competition has only one winner. No matter how many people are entered, only one person or team wins the championship. Winning is unusual, as such it requires unusual action. In order to win, you must do extraordinary things. You cannot just be one of the crowd. The crowd doesn’t win. You have to be willing to stand out and act differently. Your actions need to reflect unusual values and priorities. You have to value success more than others do. You have to want it more. Wanting it more is a decision you make and act upon, not some inherent quality of burning inner drive or inspiration!

“You have to make that value a priority. You cannot train like everyone else, you have to train more and train better. You cannot talk like everyone else. You cannot think like everyone else. You cannot be willing to join the crowd, to do what is expected, to act in a socially accepted manner, to do what is ‘in.’ You need to be willing to stand out in the crowd and consistently take exceptional action. If you want to win, you need to accept the risks and perhaps the loneliness because, winning isn’t normal.”

At Liberty, I’m looking at what our program needs as a whole and how I can help each individual be the best they can be in mind, body and soul. To me this is more than a game, more than playing basketball — it’s life. Achieving your best involves the constant management of many variables. We use our performance model as a framework, a blueprint, a template to guide our players and program. This has become the foundation for what we do and how we do it, but more importantly why we do it. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

I believe our job as professionals is to put our student-athletes in the best position to perform on the court and in life. The heart of this is to cultivate our culture. This helps us build a community of people who pursue excellence in life. Our training ecosystem is the foundation for what we believe drives elite performance.

From a performance perspective, I evaluate two areas as the season ends: health and movement. In terms of health, I’m looking for indicators or clues throughout the season, but especially as we wrap up. I want to know what happened, how it happened and why it happened. If you have players that are constantly sick, there is a problem. They are not handling the stress that their system accumulates. Basically, I call this lifestyle management, but it can sometimes be caused be deeper medical issues.

From a movement standpoint, we want to make sure that every player has the mobility, stability and neuromuscular patterning to perform basic human movements. In other words, can they squat, lunge, reach and rotate without pain? Typically, we use the functional movement screen as a baseline to assess our players. We highly recommend our guys take at least a week off and get away from the game. Not only does this give the body a chance to recover from the repetitive movement patterns of playing, but it gives players a chance to decompress mentally.

As we wrap up the season, we essentially take inventory of our program and each player assessing where they are, where they want to go, and we begin to formulate a game plan to make it happen.

For some it was a season to remember, and for others it was one to forget. Regardless, if you’re a true competitor, you’re still looking for ways to do what you do better. The challenge for all of us is to continue to push ourselves and those that we’re entrusted to lead to find new levels of improvement, deeper levels of commitment and courage to be different, because winning isn’t normal.

Henry Barrera, CSCS, is the director of performance for men’s basketball at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @hoopdiaries.

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