How to Gain a Competitive Edge

Written by Kylor Berkman, Illinois Boys General Manager 

Everyone always asks, “Coach, what can I do to get better, to start, to move up, etc.,” The answer to this is easy, but the process is tough.

Simply put, the answer is: You need to gain a competitive edge over your opponents. Your competitive edge comes outside of practice. Everyone practices with their team. Everyone spends a few hours a week at practice, but the countless hours spent training on your own, in the backyard, with your friends, that is where the edge is gained. Your opponents and teammates might not be working that hard outside of practice, and to beat them, you need those hours to build up over time.

Successful Edge Ratio:

10% is the games

40% is the practices with teammates

50% is the edge

If you can get to that ratio – where you practice on your own more than you practice with your teammates, then you’re setting yourself up for success.

There are many things you can do to get that competitive edge, and I break them up into five categories:

Wall Ball

The wall never misses a pass. The wall always passes back to you. The touches you get here matter. Focus on the right form; Are you engaging your wrist? Staying in the phone booth? Could you perform a certain skill better? Focus on the pace. Challenging yourself to get faster, then the game slows down. Focus on different skills; challenging yourself to do different things that may be hard at first but become easy with practice. The wall makes you a great stick handler. You can get rid of the ball quicker, possess better and make the right decisions appropriately.

Shooting

Form, accuracy, quickness of release, the strength of the shot, and deception. Practice each of these categories. Practice hitting your spots; all four corners with the same stick angle. Be sure to practice dodging and finishing so that you form the comfortably of executing the movement in the game. So you can perform under pressure, practice getting rid of the ball quickly off a dodge. Practice using deception with fakes, leaners, etc., so they become part of your repertoire. Practice shooting it as hard as you can. Pick a focus for the day. All of these, over time, will blend, and you will become a great shooter.

Footwork

In order to dodge and create space, you have to have good footwork. Changing speed and direction are the fundamentals of dodging and require good footwork. Try some ladder drills, cone drills, jump rope or dot drills. There are a ton of options here. Not sure what to do? YouTube is a great resource for good footwork drills.

Weight Room

Strength training and resistance training are becoming more prevalent at younger ages. Understand where you’re at with your age and what you should be doing to gain muscle and connect those fast-twitch muscles that make you bigger, faster, and stronger (BFS). Most players average two or three times a week. However, if you want gains, four-five times is best for high school and five-six in college.

Nutrition

This one is often glazed over, and excuses are in abundance when it comes to nutrition. I get it. There are obstacles! Just know that there is someone out there that isn’t making excuses. 90% of your activity or exercise routine will either be helped or hindered by your nutrition. Abs are made in the kitchen. Remember that the next time you hit the pantry. Educate yourself on good foods to fuel your body and to help you build yourself properly as you grow.

One of my favorite quotes:

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” When you get the opportunity in the game, your edge will take over and get you the goal, the assist, the right play, etc. Spend time getting the edge over your opponents and your teammates in order to be the best player you can and want to be!!