The most frequently asked question during the off-season that I hear as a coach is “What can I do to improve my game this summer?”

The answer that is usually given is something along the lines like: “If you want to improve your game, you need to go to the gym and take more shots.” This is undoubtedly true for the most part. After all, everybody needs to do extra ball handling work and shooting during the off-season. However, it won’t enable you to maximize your effort during the off-season so that you can reach your fullest potential.

The true answer for the above question just has one simple reply: In order to improve your game, first you must understand how to identify your weaknesses and strengths as a player. Around 95% of all athletes fail to take this critical step. As a result, they most likely miss those great strides of improvement. A majority of players think this is an unnecessary step and will frequently jump straight into workouts without doing any planning or thought first. I will share with you a process that will help you to understand what your weaknesses and strengths are. It has worked well for me so far:

Find a trusted adviser to sit down with
Find someone who has a good understanding of your game and is somebody you can trust. It would be great if it was your coach. However, it also cold be a friend, grandparent or parent, as long as it is someone with basketball experience. Keep in mind two heads are usually better than just one.

Write it down
It may sound silly, but this is something that is very effective. Start off by writing down your strengths. List everything and anything the two of you can think of to put on your list. Your strengths are something that should easily flow out without having to do a lot of thinking. There is no such thing as a silly answer. Next make a list of your weaknesses. Include everything you do currently. As an example, shooting the ball too low. Also list all the things you don’t do currently but would like to do later on. For example, being able to dribble behind your back. Listing your weaknesses will be harder and more time consuming than it was to write down all of your strengths. Just be sure to be completely honest with yourself.

Making your Strengths even stronger
After you have listed your strengths, return to the list and circle your game’s strongest aspect. Be ready to work on this to make it even better. As an example, maybe you are a great shooter already. However, you wouldn’t want to neglect shooting work completely. Instead you would still keep working on your shots on a daily basis.

Analyze your Weaknesses
Once you have given serious and long thought to your weaknesses, what you want to do next is determine which three things if you could improve them would have the largest impact on your game. Then circle those three things.

Below your lists, on the bottom of the page, write down the three weaknesses and one major strength you identified previously.

Make a Plan
It is now time to start to make your plan. Determine how much time you have to invest into your future as well as how frequently you can practice. Next create a workout which will help you take your weaknesses and strength to a higher level. Keep in mind that any quality individual workout will include some conditioning, some ball handling and some shooting no matter what your specific goals, weaknesses and strengths happen to be.

Record your Results
Keep a workout journal that details what you are doing. This is the final touch to your individual improvement session. Keep track of how long the workout session was, what skills you worked on total shots attempted and made, and so on. Any information can be good information. You journal will help you keep track of your progress as well as help to keep you accountable when it comes to your own improvement. Also it will be a great source for your motivation, especially as the pages continue piling up. You should evaluate your progress each and maybe make changes to your workout in order to make them even more effective.

Repeat this process at the ending of the off-season and at the end of each month. Evaluate your weaknesses and strengths once again. Pretty soon your weaknesses will turn into strengths, while your strengths will become unstoppable.