Pre-Competition Considerations

PHOTO CREDIT: | In 2007, Serbia won the U19 World champion beating the USA in the gold medal match.

Our Canucks lost to Lithuania last night ranking them as 10th of 212 basketball countries in the world. An accomplishment needless to say – especially in light of the fact that this is the first time we’ve qualified for the world championships with a team at this age group (U17).

Things To Acclimate To…

Yoda Master (as I affectionately refer to my good friend and mentor) Mike MacKay, and I were chatting yesterday about all the things that go into preparing a team to compete and be mentally resilient at an international competition. Here’s a list we created for development coaches to reflect on:


  • Will it be hot? Cold? Wet… dry? (Novi Sad has been 40+ degrees Celsius or 104 Farenheit indoors! The heat and humidity have been intense. Teams have gone so far as to scheduled hydration breaks throughout the day and also within their pregame warm ups.)
  • Is there air conditioning in the gym? (This one is a hot box! This is an important factor to research in advance on attending an international tournament.)


  • How long is the trip to get there? Have your athletes traveled before?
  • Elevation… is it a mountainous region?
  • Distance between hotel and gym? Will your team walk or take transportation?


  • How well do they deal with having teammates?
  • Do they travel well?
  • Have they ever had to share a bedroom and bathroom before?
  • How do they deal with being away from home, family and friends?

Nutrition & Food

  • Do your athletes have an adventurous palettes? (The food in North America, Europe, Asia, South America and the Caribbean are all drastically different. With hydration and nutrition playing such an important role in performance, how do you prepare your athletes/team for this challenge? Some of our kids are only eating bread and eggs—ALL DAY!)
  • Will the tournament provide water throughout the day or will you have to provide it?


Style of Play

  • How do you (and the players) deal with the different ‘styles of play’ of each of the countries? (The things that made players successful at ‘home’ don’t necessarily hold true internationally.)
  • Officiating is different too… Speed of the game… Length of defenders. In Serbia, the help is big and comes big! How do they deal with all of these factors? And, how will you help them cope in advance of the tournament or on the fly during the competition?
  • Do they have the ability to take a visual of a team on video or a drawn up adjustment on a board and execute a strategy change on a days notice?

Adversity of a Reduced Role

  • How will your athletes respond to having a reduced role? (Be mindful that the higher the level of play, the more likely it is that the make-up of your team will consist of “stars” at the previous level.) Do they adjust to the benefit or detriment of the team?

“Mental Toughness”

  • How well does your team – individually and collectively – minimize the highs and lows within such an intense competition? (This is what the best teams do well.)
  • Note: I prefer referring to this as mental resiliency as ‘mental toughness‘ connotes different things for different people.

These are all considerations that need to be made in athlete selection and pre-competition preparation. We’ve seen these issues come up this week with our teams and also with the other teams. I think, too, that some of these will hold true for many in the context of high school tournaments and university/college settings.

Ideas… just ideas.


“Athletes must be confident in three areas. Their skill level, resilience, and how they think. Best predictor of success is resilience.” —Dr. Paul Dennis