Commentary

Polish your game for club season

Updated: April 11, 2012, 9:37 AM ET
By Rebecca Gray | HoopGurlz

Rebecca GrayAP Photo/Carlos OsorioRebecca Gray says it's important to stick with your strengths during club season and not to try to become a player you're not.

Now that you've hopefully cut down the nets and possibly hung a state championship banner for your high school team, you might be wondering how you should be adjusting your focus for the club basketball season.

Everyone is different in how they approach and treat these situations, but I have a few tips that might ease the adjustment.

It is important to stop and take a step back to allow yourself to switch gears and refresh your state of mind. At the end of each high school season, I made sure to give myself a couple days of complete rest to not only rejuvenate my body, but to refocus my psyche for the long summer ahead. The style I played in high school was not too different from my club team, but it was a complete change in mentality.

High school is where the team must come together as a group and work as one to advance as far as possible in hopes of winning a championship. The club season, on the other hand, places more of an emphasis on the individual and what you can show the scouts along the way. Now, you are still playing on a "team" in the club season, but there are many more working parts that go along with it because you will be playing in front of scouts every game of every event and competing for their attention.

The state of your game after high school season and before club ball could be very different for everyone. After my short rest, I had a better sense of what my strengths were on the court and what still was in need of polishing. Since the break between the two seasons is limited, you don't have too much time to make drastic changes in your game. Instead of looking to change everything completely, just build on what you already have in place.

You should work on your strengths to stay sharp and then start making small efforts to extend your game outside of your comfort zone to add more versatility. This could come in the form of adding an additional post move, extending your range as a shooter, working on mid-range jumpers off the dribble, improving on footwork, increasing ballhandling skills, and many other forms of development. Remember that it takes time to develop these skills. You cannot become frustrated if you do not see immediate success with the new extension of your game.

In the end, do what you do best and stick to your strengths and what I call your "meal ticket." The worst thing you can do during the club season is try to be someone you are not. If you are a shooter, for example, and have not had a chance to refine another dimension to your game yet, then be the best shooter out on the circuit. Once you show your skills as an excellent shooter, pretty soon you will see more and more opportunities to drive on opponents who have overplayed you on the perimeter. That is when you can put your mid-range jumpers and other new additions on showcase for the scouts.

Some of the best advice I received when I played was to just relax and play the game the way I knew how to play it. If you are able to relax out on the court and play to your strengths, your confidence will grow with each play. Club season is the place where you are expected to put your individual skills on display, so don't be afraid to step up and make a big play on your own.

If you are now rested and still working on some new additions to your game, then keep up the good work. You still have a little bit of time before the club season officially kicks off, and there will always be room for improvements along the way. Remember that the spring and summer seasons are the time for you to showcase your skills. So stick with your "meal ticket," and refocus your mentality on the individual state of your game.

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Rebecca Gray is an intern for ESPN HoopGurlz. She previously wrote a column for the website about her experiences as a freshman on basketball scholarship at the University of North Carolina. She transferred to and played at Kentucky and now plays basketball and golf at Union College. A 5-foot-10, sharp-shooting guard out of Georgetown, Ky., Gray was named Miss Basketball in the state of Kentucky after averaging 25.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.1 steals and 4.8 assists during her senior season at Scott County High School. She can be contacted at rebecca@hoopgurlz.com.

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