I have always put great store in the saying champions don’t have an off-season. I’ve let it influence my career as a coach, and it’s why I usually call springtime and summer the “improvement season” at my club. I want to see my players working hard at building up their skills during these times. To motivate them properly, I believe in leading by example. I try to improve my talents as a coach and help make our program stronger during the so-called off-season.

Whenever a season ends, I take the time to plan carefully out exactly how I intend to strengthen our program over the coming months. I review it with my fellow coaches thoroughly and ensure that we will all be working towards long-term improvements for our club. Here are some suggestions you can use to work up your off-season plans.

Pick A Theme
A lot of programs can benefit by concentrating their spring and summer training on specific areas of play. This can correct deficiencies in your skills and shore up chronic weak points. If you want to build up a better ball screen offense, for example, gather together a list of all the resources that can help your coaches learn more about the subject. (e.g. books, videos, websites, coaches and teams with great ball screen offense, etc.) Set up a schedule for reading and reviewing those resources and meeting as a coaching team.

Give Players A Roadmap
Each of you players should go into spring training with specific written instructions from you regarding how they need to train. Schedule their workouts and give them a list of the drills you want them to concentrate on. Make sure they measure their progress: You can specify target shooting percentages or repetitions for specific drills. Make your instructions specific for each player; think hard about how each can help make the team stronger once the season begins.

Coaching Mini-Clinics
Take advantage of your professional contacts! Arrange a meeting with coaches you know and admire, former players who have gone on to coach, and other professionals. Aim for as much time as you can get from your participants — a one-day clinic is useful, but two- or three-day meets can be more productive. Set an agenda to keep everyone focused and ask your fellow coaches to prepare presentations.

Top Ten Lists
Write a pair of lists to help guide your spring and summer activities. One list should detail ways you can foster leadership in your players. Remember: Leaders who train leaders will multiply their influence. Make another list giving yourself ten ways to help your assistant coaches do more for the team in the coming year. Once you have a written record of your objectives, develop a concrete plan for taking action and making them happen.

Learn From Greatness
Make an effort to get some one-on-one time with a coach whose achievements you truly admire. Whether it’s a coach you’ve met in a clinic, a college-level coach, a coach who has taken a team to a state championship, or simply a coach whose team you admire, you can learn a great deal from someone successful. Encourage assistant coaches to find their mentors, too.

Brief Isolation
Set aside a solid block in your weekly schedule where you can devote yourself to thinking about making your program better. A half hour to an hour should be sufficient. Consider your goals, the areas you want to improve on, basic steps you can take to improve your program. Keep a voice recorder or a notepad handy so that you can capture new ideas and goals as they occur to you. This may give you a lot more material than you need, but exploring all of the possibilities helps you figure out what you consider to be truly important.

Document Your Work
The time in between seasons is perfect for catching up on your record-keeping. Great coaches have written records of their best ideas, from general philosophies down to specific drills. You’ll learn plenty through the course of getting your principles down on paper, and once you’re done, you’ll have a valuable resource that your assistant coaches and players can rely on. Remember that philosophy is just a notion in your head if you haven’t committed it to writing.

You should have an extensive roster of books that will help you cultivate your leadership and coaching skills. Set aside at least a half-hour every day for reading.

Review Film
Make watching game films from the previous season a regular part of your spring and summer schedule. Pay particular attention to teams that ran strong defense against you and teams with offensive strategies your team had trouble dealing with. Record the improvements your team needs to make to handle these situations better and plan out the drills that will be necessary to make the necessary improvements. Watching films during the off-season is less stressful and emotional than reviewing them during the season itself.

Set Statistical Goals
Decide well in advance what statistical achievements you want your team to aim for in the coming season. Plan out how you can help them get there. Don’t forget that you can set goals for the season as a whole, for individual games, and for practices.

You have practically unlimited opportunities to make yourself a better coach. Recognizing your level of professional development and the needs of your program will help you put together an effective plan for coaching improvement. Hopefully, you’ll find these ten key points as useful in your career as I have found them in mine.