One of the most important aspects of a player’s daily life and is the preparation for practice and game, where players are expected to give their best every single time. The content in preparation for practice/game are extremely important, either as a team or as an individual. Team preparation (warm-up) is mainly part of team practice/game, within which there are small individual deviations from the team preparation program. Therefore, in top-level sports, there is a need for individual preparation in all aspects (Calleja et al., 2018) that is ahead of team training.
The new term used for this purpose is “pre-formance” – the individual preparation for practice/game within which contents and loads are applied and adapted to the acute and chronic needs of the player. The basic functions of the pre-formance system are: improving performance in practice/game, injury prevention, and long-term development of the athlete’s characteristics.
Personalization of preparation for practice/game is closely linked to the principle of individualization and personalization. Creating an individual training program takes into account players’ (Jukić et al., 2020):
• chronological and biological age;
• body structure;
• injury history;
• training history;
• cultural profile;
• mental profile;
• affinity for different types of training;
• playing position;
• the current state of fitness;
The personalization process should begin with detailed diagnostic procedures and continues through short and long-term sports development programs with the monitoring of the exact parameters of fitness and wellness.
360° approach to individual preparation for practice/game
The components of the pre-formance system are mental, medical, nutritional, physical, technical, and tactical preparation. The program for a particular pre-formance axis is created by clubs’ recognized experts for a particular field (psychologist, doctor, nutritionist, strength and conditioning coach, head coach) or personal experts privately hired by the player. Pre-formance program should be professionally managed and in line with the club’s training programs.
Individual preparation takes place on the day of the practice/game, lasts from 10 minutes to several hours and consists of various contents (Kilduf et al., 2013). It depends on: the personal needs of the athletes, the pre-formance segments involved, the daily schedule, available facilities, the equipment needed, and the experts who carry out each part of the preparation. Experienced, self-aware and disciplined athletes, who are well educated, can perform pre-formance on their own without expert supervision. Pre-formance protocols can be carried out at home, in a hotel (in a room or a specially designated hall), basketball gym, weight room, locker room, or in other places that are suitable for the implementation of certain pre-formance contents.
Figure 1: 360° individual pre-formance for basketball training and match
Physical pre-formance prepares players for the movement structures, forces, and energy expenditure that occur in practice/game (Andrade et al., 2015). Equally, the continuous implementation of the pre-formance protocol ensures long-term changes and the development of targeted physical capabilities. Namely, by implementing daily pre-formance programs, it is possible to accumulate a significant amount of training time that can improve the characteristics of the player (e.g. 300 days x 30′ = 150 practice hours per year!!!).
Physical pre-formance is an individualized routine of exercises. Sometimes it looks like a mantra, with which players prepare themselves before the team’s warm-up (Silva et al., 2018). Routines can be different, depending if they are executed before practice or game.
Some examples (just to list the most common exercises used by basketball players) are breathing exercises, stationary bike or elliptical, myofascial release, passive or active stretching, balance training, whole-body vibration, stability, core-work, muscular firing with rubber bands, jump rope, low-intensity plyometrics, footwork, agility drills, med ball tosses, and strength training (Gabbet et al., 2013., Kilduf et al., 2013., Andrade et al., 2015). Scientific evidence shows these exercises can be very useful to prepare players for a high-intensity effort, like playing basketball, but is not well-known which combinations are the most effective.
We know, for example, that self-myofascial release can be combined with dynamic stretching for the effect on the range of motion, jump, sprint, and agility performance (Richman et al., 2019); that balance training and agility can improve neuromuscular performance (Zemkova and Hamar, 2010); or that strength training can enhance speed in some basketball movements (Gepfert et al., 2020). Many other separated examples are known, but unfortunately, the ideal routine doesn’t exist yet – it has to be tailor-made for every single player, including his personal history and judging from his own experience.
Pre-formance for training and the match differs in: content (e.g. pre-match exercises are simpler and easier to perform in different conditions), volume (e.g. pre-match is the lower in number of exercises, number of repetitions, and number of sets than pre-training pre-formance programs) and intensity of external loads (e.g. fast and explosive exercises are preferred before a match).
Each player should have their pre-formance protocols created for different types of practices and especially for the games. It is extremely important that each player, in collaboration with their coach, selects and modifies protocols based on their effects on their practice/game performance.
Technical/tactical pre-formance is a decisive complementary help to build adaptable (not adapted) players. In general terms, players should be educated to analyze the situation and select adequate preparation for training and competition (Button et al., 2021., Winkelman, 2021). However, if a player is preparing himself for an off-season learning session, using random and differential learning organizations might foster significantly the training effects.
Technical pre-formance is when a player feels that executing some specific exercises before practice/game (ball-handling, passing, shooting, free throws, etc.) can help him immediately to be more prepared for the imminent task. They can be chosen from the player’s habits or advice from coaches’ technical experience. It can include extra work on player technical weak points (shooting movements, angles, positions, etc.), where he can enforce his self-esteem through the quality of his execution.
Tactical pre-formance is when players look at any detail on the pre-game scouting report and game plan, searching for as much information as possible; some players don’t like to be overwhelmed with too many thoughts before the game and prefer just to focus on the main tasks. Knowing how to help players, considering their needs, habits, and feelings, is a very important aspect to improve the quality of their pre-formance.
Medical pre-formance has the purpose of health preparation and protection of players related to the high requirements and risks of practice/game. A large number of top basketball players have certain health problems due to previous or current sports injuries. Also, due to the congested competition schedule and high competitive stress, players’ immunity may be compromised. Equally, several players have chronic health problems that need to be kept under control. Therefore, medical preparation is important to personalize pre-formance interventions based on the individual needs of athletes (Keany et al., 2018., Bolling et al., 2020).
The basic interventions, undertaken by the medical team before training/match are:
• medical examination (as indicated) to assess training or competition availability and/or ability
• invasive medical interventions (e.g. intra-tissues injections)
• taking prescribed (permissible) medications based on medical diagnosis
• manual physiotherapy to prepare sensitive regions of the body
• taping and bracing
• prescribing and controlling the use of protective agents (orthosis, mouth guard, special protecting wear…)
• prescribing and implementing personalized preventive programs.
Nutritional pre-formance assists basketball players by taking care of two fundamental nutritional issues that provide optimal health and performance: (1) keep well hydrated before, during, and after practice/game, (2) ensure the optimal provision of energy-dense foods before the exercise.
For instance, “drink to thirst” should be considered for short duration exercise sessions (< 60 min) and lower intensity exercise, while planned drinking should be considered for longer duration training sessions (e.g. > 90 min), higher intensity exercise, and high sweat rates (Kenefick 2018). Carbohydrates should be ingested before and during the competition to align with players’ goals of maximizing whole-body rates of carbohydrate oxidation to maintain exercise intensity and ultimately performance; current evidence demonstrates that high-fat diets impair exercise economy and do not improve high-intensity performance (Burke et al. 2011). And of course, an individual approach is a must!
Mental pre-formance for practice/game is key to reach high performance. Deliberate mental practice should be a constant goal for athletes and coaches. Research with competitive athletes indicates that mental preparation is a tool that can be used to help athletes feel ready to perform, especially in high-stress environments (McGowan et al., 2015., Gould and Udry., 1994., Brewwer et al., 2021.). This fact is important for stress management and injury-protective effects, among others.
We recommend the use of mental warm-up, including:
• Arousal regulation: techniques to regulate the general physiological and psychological activation of the organism, such as autogenic training, progressive relaxation, or stress management training.
• Emotional regulation: techniques to regulate the intensity, duration and appearance/utility of the emotions before practice/game.
• Mental preparation routines: systematic, routinized patterns of physical actions and preplanned sequences of thoughts and arousal-related cues.
• Cognitive preparation: techniques such as self-talk, goal setting, cognitive reframe, or attentional focus, help athletes to prepare for the challenges of the practice/game.
• Imagery: the use of mental pictures or words to create an impression or mood, needed to perform.
The mental preparation has to be individualized, attending to the specific needs of each athlete.
Personalization of sports preparation for basketball players is an unstoppable trend that has many benefits. The 360 pre-formance system represents a major contribution to this trend. Pre-formance strategies and protocols should be created according to the individual needs and preferences of athletes. Personal trainers, nutritionists, doctors, and psychologists can also participate in the creation of the pre-formance protocol for players, but always in coordination and under management of clubs’ experts. Individual pre-formance protocols and team warm-up should be a unique whole, whose basic task is to prepare each individual player for the best possible performance in basketball practice or game. One athlete, one specific warm-up training plan!
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