Getting better in the off-season used to be simple, cheap, and enjoyable.

Now, it’s complicated, expensive, and frustrating.

This saddens me, and it’s simply not right.

Let’s rewind the clock for a minute…

For decades, there were two things every dedicated player did to transform their game in the off-season:

1. Players practiced on their own

It was simple – imagine a defender, work on a move, shoot a game-like shot, and chase the rebound.

In recent years, this age-old practice has been replaced by players working with a personal trainer.

While this can be beneficial, what most parents don’t realize is what they trade off in the process. When you practice on your own, it requires initiative and self-discipline — two critical life skills to develop.

But, being told what to do and when to do it by a trainer does not foster these traits and players suffer because of it.

2. Players played in pick-up games (usually against older, better players)

The beauty of pick-up games is you can make mistakes and try new things over and over again. And, in an afternoon of pick-up ball, you can get hours of experimentation.

Contrast this with an AAU team where players get yelled at or benched for making mistakes and spend an entire weekend at a tournament only to have the ball in their hands for a few minutes.

This can represent a lot of time invested for little to no gain.

While the principles of practice and experimentation never change, it can be tough to know how to truly get better on your own and even tougher to find great pick-up games to have a place to experiment.

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