Every team you coach is new. Every team is different. Even if you have most or all of your players coming back, the team is different. Everyone is a year older, hopefully better, and individually they all have different goals. If you just repeat the same process and approach every year with a different team, you’ll won’t make the necessary progress to be successful.

Going into every season I liked to evaluate where we stood as a program by looking at 3 things – strengths, weaknesses, and our identity. I’d start by evaluating and listing the strengths of my team. Not necessarily the strengths of last year’s team (although obviously there will be a lot of crossover), but what are the strengths of this year’s team? I like to list out the things I’m confident we are going to be really good at.

Second I make a list of the weaknesses of the team going into the season. Where do we need to improve the most? What are other teams going to dot beat us? Honest self-evaluation is really important here. If you weren’t a very good 3-point shooting team last year, and you return most of the same players, odds are you won’t be a very good 3-point shooting team this year either. You can’t simply hope that guys are putting up a lot of shots in the off-season. Be realistic about the things you aren’t very good out so you can plan the right approach to improve them.

Lastly I ask myself what I want the identity of our team to be. This may not change a ton from year to year, but there should be some differences based on new personnel. When teams come in to play us, what are they going to have to prepare for? What are we going to stand for as a team, and as a program? I think it’s really important that you start to form an identity for your team based on your personnel and your personalities. Great teams have a true identity, and over years of success it almost becomes a brand. Establishing what you want your teams identity to be helps you determine what’s most important to you as a coach, and what your non-negotiable are.

So with a list of strengths and weaknesses, and a clear idea of what you want your identity to be, you can then go about establishing a big picture approach to planning workouts and practices. You have to decide how much time you want to spend on strengths and weaknesses, and the best way to attack both. And by writing down what you want your identity to be, you’ll be reminded every day what’s important to you and make sure you incorporate it into your practice plan.

I’ve never been a big believer in mapping out practice plans in advance over weeks or months, because I’ve found that things never go as expected. Things change daily. But by assessing your strengths, weaknesses and identity you can form a big picture approach that guides what you do with your team every day.

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