The Do’s and Don’ts of Off-Season Training

by   |     |   |  

This transcript has been modified from the original podcast for easier reading.


Jonny Gamet: What’s up, Bruin Nation? Jonny Gamet and Coach Tony Miller on the What’s Bruin podcast. Thanks so much for taking the time to be a part of the show today.

Gonna switch things up a little bit for you. We have no students here on campus as everybody’s home for summer, and Coach and I were kind of talking about some different ideas and things we wanted to do. And we both kind of came to the same conclusion that there’s a lot of things out there that high school student athletes—even college student athletes and parents of college student athletes or high school athletes—there’s a lot of information that needs to be shared.

Tony’s been doing this for six years. I’ve now been in my role for six years, so we’ve got enough experience under our belt and have learned some tips of the trade—or tricks of the trade—in the last six years. So, the next couple of podcast episodes are really going to focus on some helpful topics. We’re not going to sit down with a coach or sit down with student athletes. Sometimes we might get some of that. But for the most part we’ll just be giving you information about college sports. We’re gonna have a social media episode coming up here in the next couple of weeks. Just some things that would be very beneficial to you, whether you’re a high school student athlete or maybe a college student athlete.

So, Coach, we’re going to talk today about the do’s and the don’ts of off-season training. Graduation. Everybody from a sports or a player perspective is thinking, I’m going to go home, and I’m going to veg, and I’m going to relax. You know, it’s summer time. I’m going to hang out with friends and those kinds of things. But if they want to be consistent—or if they want to be at the next level, if they’re an high school student athlete—you really can’t take much time off.

I mean, obviously, you’re going to have some rest. You’re going to have some recovery, that kind of thing. But I love this list that you’ve come up with in terms of talking about some key things that student athletes can do in the offseason. First one being, you know, so often particularly the high school student athlete is going to be in an AU where they’re going to try to get in some kind of summer league. And a lot of them will play through that summer league. It’s still competition day in and day out, but they don’t get as much of the practice time, and they don’t get as much of the individual workout. What do you think why the game play, while being important, is not necessarily as important as some of the other things?

Keep doing something—preferably reps.


Coach Tony Miller: First of all, just getting out and doing something is better than nothing. So start with that. You alluded to that. But the free time that a student now has in the summertime—I know a lot of them work. By the end of the day when they’re done with their work day, they’re tired, and they don’t do anything. And then they expect to come back in October—or August depending on what sport it is—to pick up where they left off. But there’s so much time and potential for growth over the next three months, especially if you’re a college athlete. That longer break in between the two semesters—there is the potential there for a lot of growth. But it’s really important how you use your time.

So I would say the first thing is to get some sort of schedule where you are consistently doing something throughout the week. And like you just asked me, when playing in pick up games—whether that’s playing pick up volleyball, soccer, basketball, whatever it is—the thing that you have to keep in mind is that you’re not getting the reps, necessarily, that you would be if you were going into the gym and working on your hitting or your shooting—whether that’s shooting a basketball or shooting a soccer ball—or your dribbling or your passing. Whatever the skill is, the thing that’s forgotten is, it’s about reps. Reps. Reps. Reps. Reps. That’s the only way you’re going to get better.

And so, playing in those pickup games is—it’s not that you shouldn’t do it, but if that is what your idea of “I’m going to get better doing this” is, you’re going to be sorely disappointed when the season comes because you haven’t gotten the reps that you needed.

So I think a kind of healthy balance between the two. I mean, every kid when they enter the gym, what’s the first thing that they always ask? “When are we going to scrimmage?” That’s what they want to do. That’s what they’re there for.


Jonny Gamet: Nobody wants to put in the reps. You know, we all read stories about Kobe and Michael and Lebron and these guys who put up 2,000 shots before they go to practice and those kinds of things.

Talk a little bit more about why why the repetition is so vitally important.


Coach Tony Miller: Yeah, it varies for the age groups. If you’re a younger player, it’s sometimes just doing the ball handling over and over and over stationary. Or if it’s an older player, actually working on decision making. So again, there’s a healthy balance there as well between the two.

Make sure that you’re getting things that are going to be transferrable over into an actual game. The joke always in basketball is dribbling a basketball while you’re tossing a tennis ball up in the air. And the player development guys were like, “That’s the biggest waste of time because it’s not actually doing something that transfers.” Well, if I have a younger kid that doesn’t have good motor skills, then doing something like that—now not doing that for thirty minutes, but, you know, doing something like that—will help build those motor patterns.

Build decision-making skills.

But it’s not just motor patterns that you’re trying to build. It is that decision making. And we even challenge our players, watch film so that you’re getting the repetitions and seeing things in your mind. That could be another topic, but seeing things in your mind and the cognitive side of things is equally important, too.

So varying what you’re doing, not just going out and just “ballin’” is what we kind of jokingly say.

Strengthen your strong skills.

Jonny Gamet: Absolutely. One of the things that that you bring up all the time, I know, with your student athletes—and really this is something that, until you get to the college level, you don’t really think about. I’m going to use an example. So, we have Nate Ellenwood on the basketball team. When Nate played in high school, Nate was everything. Nate was the biggest guy on the team. Nate was expected to bring the ball up. He was expected to be the scorer, the leading rebounder, leading shot blocker, defense, all these kinds of things. And then Nate gets into the college game, and Nate quickly realizes he’s not able to do everything for the team because there’s another guy that’s 6’8” that can take care of the rebounding. There’s another guy over here that’s going to take care of the shooting. Another guy over here that’s your lock-down defender.

You talk about focusing as a student athlete on those one or two things over the summer that you’re going to really get better at. And at the high school level, again depending on the size of your school, that could be a little bit difficult because sometimes you’re everything. You’re the man, and you’re expected to do everything whether it’s soccer, volleyball, or whatever. Talk a little bit more about how you can focus on those one or two things that say, “Ok, I’m gonna be better as a result of this summer by working on these two things.”


Coach Tony Miller: This probably sounds too easy, but just ask your coach. If you’re a high schooler going to college, ask your coach. He’s watched film. He’s seen you play, or she’s seen you play. And the thing that she also has or he also has is the perspective of, this is what they need out of you to contribute. You said it, and it’s so important: just know your role.

But for a lot of players they don’t know what that is because—as again you said—there is how ESPN portrays it. They show Lebron. He shoots, he passes, he scores, he dunks. He does everything. So these players then think, “I have to be great at everything.” And what you end up with is a good or slightly above average player that, across the board, they’re good at a lot of things. But they’re not great at anything. And so it’s a college coach’s job to put together the pieces. And like he said, “I need somebody that is the ball handler and the floor general. I need another guy who’s a knockdown shooter. Or I need somebody that’s a front row hitter. I need somebody that’s a setter.”

And so what can you do to really hone those skills? What are those two or three things that you’re great at that you can be even better at? Whatever you’re like, “This is really my strength,” make it your ultra-strength. I don’t know if that’s a word, but really focus on that because even in the workplace this is transferrable. I say this to my sport management majors all time: “When you are going out into the workplace employees or employers are not expecting you to be great at everything. You’re coming in to be a very important component in that team, but you have to bring something that you’re great at to the table.”

Know your role on the team.

So really, just asking your coach and focusing on the thing that they said. Also, be prepared sometimes for them to say something that you really don’t want to hear. And that’s hard, too. But once you get there, you’re going to be extremely frustrated if your goals and the things that you were working on are different from the coach’s. And then what you end up with is, “Oh, the coach held me back.” Or the thing that you always hear is, “Well, they’re playing me in the wrong spot. I should have been doing this.” And coaches have that perspective of the whole picture to know what’s best for the team.

So I think just kind of being self aware—which is difficult for all of us at any age no matter if it has to do with sports or not with sports—and really asking other people so that they can give you advice. And again watching film to see where you fit in, what your team needs. Just simply ask the question, “What does my team need for us to be the most successful this coming year.”


Jonny Gamet: Because as the team shines, you’re going to shine a lot better. Those who watch the game–I mean even if you bring up the NBA or whatever—we all focus on Lebron. But we understand—well, maybe Lebron’s a bad example because he’s kind of taking the whole team on his back. But if you go to Golden State or you go to other of these kind of super teams, each one of those guys is fulfilling a specific role to to perfection.

I would say to those student athletes, whether college or high school, you know, Coach talked about talking to your coach and getting that kind of information. Go with fellow teammates. Or there is so much information out there on the internet. So say my position is a setter in volleyball, I can go to YouTube and find coaching information and find coaching clinics on how I can be a better setter. This is foreign to a lot of younger people: go to the library and grab a book on setting or grab articles that you can read online. Because it’s out there. I mean, just use that wonderful Google machine, and search, “how can I become a better setter?” And I’m sure that there’s all kinds of coaching clinics and things out there for you to grab that information. You read that or you watch that and then go out into the front driveway or go into the backyard or whatever and work on that skill.

Speed up.

One thing that I know you stress a lot—and this is important for any high school student athlete or college student athlete—is so often you have game speed and you have practice speed. And so often there’s a difference between the two. You know, you get in the game, I’m going hard, I’m going one hundred percent. When I’m in practice, I’m taking the casual jump shot, more or less goofing around, getting up reps, getting up shots. But I’m not doing it like I am in the game. And you really have to be at the right level and the right speed.


Coach Tony Miller: Especially for those athletes that you talked about where they were the best player in high school or on their team or whatever. They were able to get away with going at three-fourths speed. I heard a college coach from a major Division I college basketball team say, “I recruit the elite of the elite, and the number one thing that I deal with when they first get here is helping them see that they are going three-fourths speed.” I joke with my players that I want them thinking and hearing my voice in their head saying, “Faster! Faster! Faster!”

A lot of players are afraid of going faster because then they make the mistakes, and they think, “If I make the mistakes then I’m not good, or I’m not doing what I need to be doing. So I need to slow down.” And the reverse is true. You need to be going fast. Now, you need to be doing it with right technique and right skill, but you need to be pushing yourself so that you actually are getting better.

The number one thing that I hear from players when they’re transitioning from high school to college is, “Wow, these players are really big,” and, too, “They’re really fast,” or a combination of the two—”I didn’t know that a player that big could go that fast or hit that hard or jump that high.” Everything is done at just a higher level. And so, if you’re not accustomed to that, it’s going to be a shock when you get here and realize, “Wow, I need to be going faster.” So for the majority of our players when they get here, usually the first half of the season is just acclimating to the speed of the game.

Work out hard for short periods.

So definitely going hard. I think, also with that is when you practice, get in the gym or card and get out. Don’t get in there and mess around. And I’ve had players and heard of players that tell their coach—I don’t know if they’re trying to impress him or what—”I’ve been in the gym for five hours.” And the coach is standing there thinking, “What are you doing in the gym for five hours?” Get in, work hard for an hour. Some of our workouts are thirty minutes long. But work hard in those thirty minutes or an hour. Anything longer than that, you’re going to get tired, you’re going to start using improper technique, and all you’re doing is basically getting up repetitions doing things improperly which is going to hurt you in the long run. So making sure that you perform those things with the right skill, with the right technique, but doing them quickly.

Get a plan and stick with it.

Jonny Gamet: Wrapping it up, the last point that I know a lot of younger people struggle with. In season, there’s a lot of discipline. There is a lot of time management. When you get out of that and you get into the summer—you mentioned a lot of these guys have jobs. But some of them don’t, and they’re playing ten hours of FIFA a day. And they’re eating Taco Bell every day. Or Fortnite. Exactly. I’m sorry. I’ve got to catch with the times here. But they’re eating Taco Bell or Chipotle or those kinds of things every single day. Not hitting the weights as much as they should. Talk about how detrimental that is because I know you do a lot with with the guys over the summer, even just in individual weight lifting and giving him plans of, “This is what you need to do with your body in order to continue to play at that high level.”


Coach Tony Miller: Yeah, the word again is consistency. Getting a plan and sticking with it. Everybody has their plan where they say, “This is the workout that you need to do,” or whatever. And you know, some are better than others. We can get into that another time. But being consistent with a plan. Whether that’s a nutrition plan or a workout plan. And really it needs to be both of those.

People will leave out the nutrition part of it, especially teenagers, and just will eat whatever they see. And that, of course, could be detrimental as well. That’s fuel for your body. If you’re not fueling your body, don’t expect to see growth in your muscles and everything that goes along with that. But making sure that you do have the right nutrition to go along with the right work out plan and doing that consistently.

For some people it needs to be in the morning. I think for us it’s better in the afternoon. Whatever just fits in your schedule. Be cautious with doing stuff in the evening. That may be the only time you have to do it, but then you end up working out right before you go to bed. You’re elevating your heart rate, then you’re having a hard time getting to sleep, and you’re not getting the rest and the growth that you need for your muscles. So you have to be smart about it.

But get a plan and stick with it. And really, especially for basketball, if there’s somebody out there that needs something like that, feel free to email me. I have things like that that can be helpful, forms and that kind of thing. But again, depending on what the sport it is, contact your coach because, again, so much of that, like you said, is out on the internet and is available. You just have to go looking for it.


Jonny Gamet: And a lot of your coaches already have that information because they’re trying to get better and they’re trying new techniques, new offenses, and those kinds of things. I know I hear our coaches talking all the time in our offices about, “Hey, I found this new platform,” and “I found this,” “Have you checked out this?” or “This guy has a really cool whatever, and it’s free! It’s just on YouTube,” and those kinds of things.

The do’s and don’ts of off-season. Great stuff.

I want to give a little bit of a shameless plug here for this summer for those high school student athletes that are considering what it takes to be at the college level. We have a whole host of Bruins sports camps this summer, and a big portion of those camps focuses on individual player development: you know, what you can do to improve yourself before next season, whether that’s soccer season, basketball season, volleyball. We’ve got all of that information up on our website. If you go to, there’s, I think, somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty-something camps, ages ranging from second grade all the way up to college-bound players. So if you are interested in that, be sure to take advantage of those kinds of things.

Again, thanks so much for taking the time to listen to the podcast. Find us on Anchor, iTunes and everywhere else in between. With Coach Tony Miller, I’m Jonny Gamet. And that’s What’s Bruin.


This podcast was originally published on


The BJU Bruins is Bob Jones University’s intercollegiate athletics program.