Planning a basketball season at Club Estudiantes required careful consideration of both macro and micro cycles. This was an alien concept to me so I took a huge interest upon arriving in Madrid, getting my hands on as many season plans as possible. The macro cycle is the overall structure of the season, including the duration, the number of games and practices, and the specific goals of the team. The micro cycle, on the other hand, is the detailed plan for each individual practice session and game. Below is a guide on how to use macro and micro cycles to plan your youth basketball season and some examples of what I saw at Club Estudiantes.
The macro cycle is the foundation of the season, and it is important to establish clear goals and objectives for the team. For example, the primary goal may be to develop individual skills, build team cohesion, or win as many games as possible. Once the primary objective is determined, it is important to develop a detailed plan that outlines the schedule for practices, games, and other events. At Estu, the goal was always 1v1 play, shooting, and fast breaks. Coaches would always have good and bad patches to their season, like we all have had, but even with a change of direction during the season, coaches still ticked the boxes of developing 1v1, shooting and fast breaks.
In a youth basketball season, it is common to have two phases, the pre-season and the regular season. The pre-season usually lasts for about four to six weeks and involves conditioning and skill development. During this phase, it is important to establish the team’s identity and work on developing individual and team skills. For players who had been at the club for years, although there would be new skills/tactics to learn, training would still focus on the aforementioned areas of development. For new players, preseason was a chance to set the tone for how the Club plays (it is worth noting that players at Estu were often recruited so they would actively seek out players who fit the club model) Additionally, coaches should focus on building team cohesion, teaching players about their roles on the team, and establishing expectations for the season.
The regular season, on the other hand, is much longer long and involves a lot of games. The regular season is where the team can test their skills and compete against other teams. During this phase, it is important to continue to work on individual and team skills while also focusing on game strategy and preparation. At Estu, it rarely mattered who the team was playing against as the goal was to develop the players rather than concerning ourselves about who the team was playing that weekend, but, if a team presented a particular challenge, eg a passing focused team, or a team known for post play, coaches often took this as a chance to develop their players/freshen up training. Above all, development was always seen as a long term project and that takes years. The club took great pride in seeing players go from U10s, all the way through to the senior ACB/Liga Femenina Teams.
Once the macro cycle is established, it is important to create a practice plan that will help the team achieve its goals.
The micro cycle is the weekly plan that outlines the specific objectives for each individual practice session and game. The micro cycle should be tailored to the team’s specific needs and goals for the season. For example, during the pre-season, and the overarching plan for the season the focus should be on individual skill development and team building, while during the regular season, the week to week focus should be on game preparation and strategy.
The first step in creating a micro cycle is to determine the specific objectives for each practice session. These objectives should be based on the team’s overall goals for the season and should be broken down into specific skills and areas that need improvement. For example, if the team’s primary goal is to improve shooting, then the practice sessions should focus on shooting drills and techniques. At Estu, all teams shot the ball from at least 20 minutes per session, over the weeks/months/years this would add up to a lot of shooting. In addition, 1v1 was a focus therefore the skills needed to go past someone with a change of rhythm/speed was needed as well as a change of direction.
Once the objectives are determined, it is important to structure the practice session in a way that maximises the team’s time and effort. This can be done by dividing the session into specific segments, such as warm-up, skill development, team-building activities, and cool-down or as they did at Estu, the sessions were divided up into 10 minute drills, giving the coach 9 activities per session (this wasn’t a set rule for the club, as I saw some coaches mix it up, but generally this was the pattern coaches followed).
Game preparation is another important aspect of the micro cycle. Coaches should develop a game plan that outlines specific strategies for each game, including offensive and defensive strategies, set plays, and specific roles for each player. The game plan should be tailored to the team’s strengths and weaknesses and should be adjusted based on the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. It is worth pointing out that this depends on you as a coach and the focus of your programme. At Estu of course they wanted to win but it had to be done playing the Estu way, player/team development always came first. Teams were never stacked and the best players were spread out to ensure they had the time to shine and grow. If the team won or lost this did not matter as long as the team played well.
Finally, it is important to monitor the team’s progress throughout the season and make adjustments to the macro and micro cycles as needed. I saw coaches who stuck to the plan to the letter and other coaches who switched things up. Either way as long as there is a plan in place your players will grow.
That’s it, easy peasy, right??? At the end of the day, we are all looking short and long term with our teams/players, but sometimes putting things down on paper can help us see the bigger picture. With the help of micro and macro cycles it can help frame your plan. If you want to see the contents of the week to week and session by session account of what was taught at Estu during my time there, check out the Hoops Europe shop, and feel free to contact me if you have any questions.