As any player who has ever played for me will quickly verify - my teams run a lot. We run in the preseason. We run during the season. We run in the off-season. Of course, we don't think it's a lot because that's just who we are and how we do things but I'm sure there are players out there who would cringe at how much we run and at how hard we work.
As a program we acquire several benefits from our approach to running. First of all, we obviously get and then stay in great shape which helps every facet of our playing style. Running helps our fast break; helps our shooting percentage (especially later in the game); helps us stay in a defensive stance longer; and even helps our focus and concentration throughout each individual game and throughout the season.
As we get into the second half of our season we cut way back on the quantity of running we do in order to save some wear and tear on our legs but we don't completely stop conditioning as do some programs.
The second benefit we get is in the form of team bonding - the kind of bonding that only comes when groups experience some shared adversity together. Think for a minute about those troops who go through boot camp together. Some of those relationships become stronger than family and usually last a lifetime, which is exactly what the armed forces are trying to accomplish. Do you really think that once in the battlefield a soldier needs the ability to stand at attention for hours or to run for miles while holding a rifle up above his head? No, of course not! But what he does need is the respect, loyalty, camaraderie, and even love that naturally grow out of enduring hardship together. Basketball teams and players are no different!
The third benefit is more for me than for anyone else. You see, I can learn a lot about you by simply watching you run and that insight into your personality helps me more effectively coach our team throughout the entire season.
For example, let's say we are running what many players and coaches call "suicides," where you sprint to the free throw line and back, to half court and back, to the opposite free throw line and back, and finally to the opposite baseline and back. They can be hard on the feet and legs, are definitely not fun and require some mental & physical toughness.
How are you going to run those suicides? Are you going to hang your head and mope and then complain the entire time under your breath while just going through the motions? We've all seen players do that.
Or are you the type of player who accepts the fact that you have to run but that doesn't mean you have to run hard. You don't visibly protest but you certainly don't push yourself either. You just mentally and physically get through it by finding ways to pace yourself and to take a short cut here and there. You're not complaining and you're not the slowest so you convince yourself that you're doing a good job.
Or are you one of those special players who looks at the running drill, even though you might hate it, as a chance to get better both mentally and physically by sprinting as fast as you possibly can? You don't care what anyone else is doing or how hard anyone else is running - you are going hard because that's who you are and that's how it's supposed to be done!
Which type of player do you think has the best chance of being All League, All County, or All State? As a coach, which player am I going to be able to count on at the end of the game and which player am I going to recommend when the recruiters start calling?
As I said before - I can learn a lot about you by watching you run. Even more importantly, you can learn a lot about yourself!