The Best (And Most Fun) Way To Get Better This Offseason

By Jeff Huber

Two times in my life stand out to me in terms of my development as a player. One was after my senior year of high school. The other was during my sophomore year of college.

I always worked hard, shooting hundreds of shots a day. That made me a good shooter and built my confidence.

However, the two time periods I mentioned above were different - not just different, but better.

What made them better was this - I worked out daily with a friend & teammate who was a similar caliber player that I was.

The foundation of our workouts were a series of 1 v 1 games (here are some other examples).

The results were tremendous! Read on to find out why.

5 Unique Benefits Of Having A Workout Partner

You don't have to look far to find the benefits of a workout partner:

  1. Accountability - it's much harder to hit snooze or skip the gym when there is someone waiting for you. Everyone has days they don't "feel like working out." The accountability provided by your partner can help you push through those days.
  2. Most of the time, once you start, you work through that feeling and are glad you did it!

  3. Fun - it's just more fun to workout with someone else. You can push and support each other.
  4. That feeling of support you get from your partner is impossible to simulate working out by yourself. The social aspect is important and should not be overlooked.

  5. Variety - your training options expand greatly when you have a partner. You can still do all the things you do on your own. But now you can also do 1v1 drills and 2v0 drills.
  6. That gives you more ways to improve!

  7. Bonding - you and your teammate are building sweat equity! There is a connection that is forged from being in the gym together.
  8. You get a lot of that during the season. However, it's different when it's the offseason and you are CHOOSING to be there. You and your teammate will become closer and more confident as a result of the time you put in.

  9. Team improvement - In Urban Meyer's book Above The Line, he tells the story of a player who proudly came to lift at 5 AM. While Meyer was happy to have him there, he told him don't come back at this time unless you bring a teammate.
  10. When you workout with a partner, you are making your team even stronger. Instead of one of you getting better, two of you are!

How To Choose the Right Workout Partner (and Which Traits to Avoid)

Who you pick as a partner is important! In this case, it's not necessarily about picking your closest friend - unless they meet these qualities:

  1. Reliable - it's really frustrating when you can't count on your partner. You should pick someone whose commitment to the game is similar to yours. Your partner should be prompt. They shouldn't skip workouts. If they are, you should rethink your partnership.
  2. Competitive - the goal is to make each other better - iron sharpening iron. For that to happen, you have to push each other.
  3. Some people don't like competing against friends and teammates. Others love it. Make sure you pick someone from the second group.

  4. Similar in ability - to get the most out of your workouts, you want someone who is a similar caliber of player to you. Ideally, pick someone just a little bit better than you.
  5. In doing so, you will still be able to experience some success. Yet, you'll always have to be focused and competing to do so. That's how you will improve.

    If you are way better than your partner, you won't be pushed. If they are way better than you, you'll get discouraged. Find the sweet spot that allows both of you to improve.

  6. Someone who challenges your weaknesses - this is a little different than the last point. Beyond a player of similar ability, see if you can find someone who pushes you to get better in areas of weakness.
  7. For example, maybe you need to work on handling the ball against pressure. See if you can partner up with someone quicker than you who is a strong on-ball defender. They will force you to develop that part of your game.

    This may not always be possible, but it is something you should look for. Or maybe you can find a couple teammates to workout with who challenge you in different ways.

  8. Supportive - ultimately, you want a partner who cares about your improvement as well as their own. Pick someone who will support you and help you. Training is tough and it’s uplifting to know your partner has your back!

How To Maximize Your Workouts and Avoid Wasting Time With a Partner

As mentioned earlier, you can still do all the drills you would do individually with a partner - namely shooting and ballhandling drills. Having a partner does allow you to make them competitive (although you should be tracking your individual drills and competing against yourself).

However, you can also do those drills on your own time. During your partner sessions, focus on drills that you can't do by yourself - namely 1v1.

Why 1v1 Should Be The Centerpiece Of Your Partner Workouts

1v1 is a great way to improve, offensively and defensively.

On offense, it forces you to learn to create and keep advantages. It forces you to learn how to finish from different angles and with your defender in different positions.

On defense, it forces you to learn how to stay in front of the player you are guarding. You learn how to guard players who are bigger or quicker than you.

It also translates to the game. If you can consistently beat your player to the rim, your coach will find a spot for you. Likewise, if you can stay in front of your player, your coach will know they can count on you when they need stops.

Another strength is that you can't hide in 1v1. You have to compete!

The Most Common 1v1 Mistake That Hinders Your Progress

1 on 1 is a great game. But you must play it the right way - with intention. Don't just goof around like most players do. They take bad shots and play half hearted defense. Those are not the habits you want to develop.

So play with purpose. The great thing about 1v1 is there are countless ways to do it effectively. Here are 5 variations to try. You and your partner can continue to cycle through different variations that work on different skills.

Beyond the 6 tips here, other things to vary are:

  1. Where you start - not always the top of the key! Are you always at the top of the key when you catch the ball in games? Then why start every 1v1 possession there?
  2. Where the defense starts - you can go from a neutral start, with the defense in front of you. You could have the defense start with a closeout. You could have the defense start on your side or behind you.
  3. All present different looks that vary the advantage for the offense and defense. This allows you to challenge yourself in different ways.

  4. Scoring system - if you need to work on weak hand finishing, make those finishes worth double points. If your partner needs to work on 3 point shots, award those shots an extra point.
  5. Use your scoring system to incentivize the skills you want to work on.

  6. Including a passing option - one shortcoming of 1v1 is there is no pass decision. The offense HAS to shoot. This can lead to bad shots.
  7. If you have a third player or coach at your workout, allow the offense to pass out if the defense has the advantage. This forces the offense to recognize if they have an advantage.

    Instead of taking a bad shot when they don't have an advantage, they can pass out to a teammate, relocate and receive a pass back. They can then try to re-attack. I'd suggest limiting the offense to one pass per possession.

    If you don't have a third person there, the offense can self-toss when their only option is a bad shot. In other words, they can throw the ball out somewhere on the court and go get it (simulating receiving a pass from a teammate) and make a second attempt to score.

    3 Checklist Items to Ensure Successful Partner Workouts

    If you want to improve, playing 1v1 with a partner is a great way to do it. Make sure your games are:




    I look back fondly on those two offseasons where 1v1 was a centerpiece of my workouts. If I knew then what I know now, I'd have done way more of it, and would have been a better player for it!

    So what are you waiting for? Find a friend and get to work!

    Related Resources

    Nate Sanderson's Game Based Training

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