I remember talking with a Division I head coach a few years back about the summer access rules and our ability to work with our players in the off-season. He said “We really need it, because these kids don’t know how to get better on their own.” And my response was, “Well, if they played for you for a year, shouldn’t they know how to get better on their own?”

Most players need to be taught how to get better on their own. What are they doing when they are alone in a gym or on the playground in the summer? There is a big difference between working on your game and shooting around, and at some point everyone needs to be taught. If you play a musical instrument, somebody taught you how to practice, and how to get better. You didn’t just pick up the flute and start playing it. Somebody taught me math, and showed me the problems I needed to work on to get better at algebra. Similarly we need to teach our players how to get better.

I would say that most players when they get to college don’t have a great idea how to get better when they are alone. I know there are workout people everywhere nowadays, and everyone has a guy or two that they “work out” with. It’s not that hard to ask someone to work you out, rebound for you and pass you the ball – if you go hard, you’ll get better at some rate. I’m talking about guys going to the gym by themselves, or with a teammate to work on their game.

If you are coaching in high school or college it’s one of the most important things you can do. Show your kids how to get better when they are alone in a gym. They don’t have to take a day off just because they don’t have someone to work out with. Show them full-court ball-handling drills. Show them how to get shots and make one on one moves off of spin-outs to themselves. Show them the pace they need to work out at, and how to catch their breath shooting free throws in between drills.

Too many young players are reliant on other people to help them get better. They’ll go to the park or the gym when there is pick-up to play, and they’ll join a work out when someone has room for them. But when they are on their own, what are they doing? They need to be taught how to get better on their own.