Summers Were Made for Practice

Written by:  Brian Tonsoni   8/1/2018

Fans get excited for the social media videos from Indiana Basketball in order to get a glimpse of the 2018-19 Indiana University men’s and women’s basketball teams  These highlight videos show players working during the summer in the weight room and on the court. Summer is a tedious delay for fans, as most are counting down the days to Hoosier Hysteria and the start of practice. However, for basketball programs the summer is very important to the success of the program..

What happens in the summer that is so important?  What is a summer workout? It takes players to make an offense work.  It takes players to make a defense work. The development of these players is a year round endeavor.  In order to compete in the postseason, the players must be physically and mentally at their best. Summer workouts are a huge part of this development because they answer this common coaching question,  “Do you want better players in March or do you want more plays?.”

“Practice?  You talking about practice?”  Yes—practice Allen Iverson, practice.  The concept of practice to many may be gathering at center court around the coach for instructions and then going through a two hour planned practice.  However, practice can be defined as a “repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it.”

Proficiency will be achieved through team practice, individual development practice, and physical and mental conditioning practice.  The summer is an opportunity to do all three but is mainly used to work on individual development and physical conditioning.

Recently,  the Indiana Basketball men’s program has released pictures and statistics from their physical conditioning program run by strength coach Cliff Marshall.  The vertical leap numbers were incredible with several Hoosiers testing over 40 inch verticals. A recent photo showed last year’s freshman class when they arrived on campus and what they looked like after one year in the program.  Their bodies were vastly different and stronger. The importance of a quality strength program is making each player physically able to play the entire season at optimal ability. Running, jumping, lateral movement and quickness allows each player to maximize their role on the team.  Injury prevention is another key aspect of strength conditioning. Many coaches are moving to multi-positional players, thus necessitating players that can move quickly. An example of this is a move to more athletic post players.

Individual workouts or on court basketball specific skill workouts are another vital part of the summer  The move to multi-positional players also has changed the individual workouts. Every player must have some ball handling skills and the ability to shoot the basketball.  Summer workouts attempt to improve these skills in every player in the program. When the fans “ohh and ahh” when watching a great move, it is likely that those moves were practiced in the summer to a point where they became game ready.  Shooting the ball is a great skill and can be developed with mass repetitions. These reps should be at game speed and in game conditions to be beneficial. This is where Indiana has a big advantage with Ed Schilling on the staff. He is known as one of the best skill development coaches in the country and can design drills and scenarios to improve skill better than most coaches.

The summer can also be a time for working on team concepts.  Recently the NCAA has altered its rules on the amount of time each program can spend together as a team.  In previous years, the players could workout in the summer for 8 hours, with 6 hours being designated for strength and conditioning.  This summer, those hours have shifted to 4 on the court and 4 in strength and conditioning. The four hours on the court can be used in any fashion by the program.  Many programs have something close to two hours individual and two hours teamwork. This may vary depending on the coach and the makeup of the team.

Most coaches understand that the individual development of their players is important and will not alter what they have done previously.  The change this summer has been the additional team time. This will benefit teams with a lot of new players entering the program. Coaches can implement basic offensive and defensive concepts and techniques that they could only do before in individual work.  Also, with new players, a coach can identify the answers to these questions:


What offensive concepts fit this year’s team?  

Where can certain players score in our offense?  

What do we need to improve on?  

What is our best defensive rotation?

Who plays best with whom?


The ability to work with the entire team allows a coach to improve the team during the summer without really altering the individual work that is necessary.  The biggest change is to the strength coach who has two less hours per week.

Indiana men’s basketball coaching staff is well situated to take advantage of the summer workout.  Every program works hard and implements a strategy for improvement. What seems to be an advantage for IU lies with two coaches:  Ed Schilling and Cliff Marshall. These two coaches are elite in their areas of expertise. Schilling has developed many basketball players over his career as a coach at every level and also in running a skill development business in Indianapolis for years.  Marshall was brought to IU after working in the private sector in strength and conditioning. This is Coach Marshall’s bio from


- Spent 10 years as the Performance Director at Ignition Athletics Performance Group in Cincinnati.


- Ignition is based out of Cincinnati, Ohio, and has trained more than 10,000 athletes, including standouts in the NBA, MLB, MLS, and the NFL.


- At Ignition, he was responsible for the design and implementation of both the strength and speed programs.


These two coaches will maximize the summer workouts as well as in-season workouts.  Indiana has two of the best in the business. The importance of speed and conditioning can also be seen in recent hires in the Indiana Football program.  David Ballou, director of Athletic Performance, and Dr. Matt Rhea are emphasizing speed and explosiveness for the football Hoosiers. Many players are absolutely thrilled with the work they have been asked to do this summer for IU football.

So, while we fans are impatient in the summer, waiting anxiously for the games to start, our Hoosiers have been hard at work.  The time and effort spent by the players and the coaches should be commended. As Henry Clay, former US Senator said, “ The time will come when the winter will ask you what you were doing all summer.”  I believe our Hoosiers will have a great answer to that question.