PAB Newsletter #9 – Off-season period for elite basketball players: take your game to the next level!

Jun 28, 2021 | Home News, Media, News, Performance

The end of each competition season leaves many traces behind. Highly competitive pressure, accumulated fatigue, mental satiety, and injuries are the reasons for seriously designing off-season programs (1). The off-season period has different durations in different national leagues, but it generally begins with the end of the previous season (mid of June) and ends with the start of the preparation period for the next season (mid of August). Competitions in the new season generally begin in early October.

However, despite repairing the consequences of a tough season, it is necessary to take into account the pitfalls that the off-season period poses to athletes and sports experts. This primarily refers to the risk of loss of physical capacity, acquired during the competition period due to lack of training (detraining effects). Detraining effects have been extensively researched in the last few decades (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8), and require the appropriate attention of experts. Therefore, creating a balanced off-season program for each player poses a significant challenge for club and personal sports professionals (1,9, 10), to be perceived as a ‘window of opportunity’ for players to both recover and ‘rebuild’ for the following season.


Goals and purpose of off-season period

The basic goal of the off-season period methodology comes down to meeting two basic goals (Figure 1):

  1. Providing mental and physical recovery
  2. Keeping the physical performance at the highest possible level

Reconciling these two tasks is by no means easy. On the one hand, it is necessary to enable the athlete to recover mentally and physically from the accumulated load from the previous season (14). On the other hand, it is necessary to keep the level of physical performance at the highest possible level for the athlete to enter the new preparation period and the new competition season from as high a level as possible. To complete this task, it is necessary to balance physical loads and rest. First of all, it is necessary to minimize the time the player spends in passive mode, without any physical activity. Therefore, it is recommended that complete passive rest is no longer than 7-14 days. In the remaining off-season time, it is necessary to implement stimuli that will ensure a sufficient level of neuro-muscular and energetic activities, and which will slowly grow towards the beginning of the preparation period.

Figure 1: Relationship between recovery and performance in off-season period

Players enter the off-season period from different starting positions. The players differ from each other in terms of the load they had in the previous season, and especially in the last few months. Special treatment is required for players who have played most games with a lot of minutes (more than 70% of games with more than 25′).

Some players have played and trained most of the season but have not had significant minutes in games (less than 10 ‘on average). Also, some players missed a significant part of the season (more than 30%) due to injury, and this is especially true for those players who were injured in the last part of the season.

A special group of players consists of those players who have activities in national teams (Continental or World Championships and the Olympic Games) during the summer break. Preparations for such a competition usually take between 30 and 45 days. Sometimes such preparations are set just in time for the off-season. Very often, the players who play in national teams belong to the group of players who have significant minutes in a large number of matches.

For these reasons, a special personalized off-season program should be prepared for each player belonging to one of the mentioned groups (9, 11, 12, 13).


Phases of off-season period

The off-season period can be divided into three basic phases (Table 1):

  1. Passive rest
  2. Activation
  3. Development

Table 1: Contents of different phases of off-season period


Phase 1: Rest

The main goal of the first phase of the off-season period is passive recovery, which means a complete mental and physical “reset” related to the previous season. In this phase, players dedicate themselves to activities they did not have time for during the competition period (family, friends, cultural activities, financial aspects, media compromises, sightseeing…). At this stage, the opportunity is given to biological processes in the body to secure the restitution of the most stressed organs and organ systems. Also, the absence of standard professional obligations allows for a mental “reset”. This time is also an opportunity for self-evaluation of what was done last season (12).

The off-season is also an opportunity for players to afford comfort in their private life that they did not have the opportunity to do during the season (favorite food, parties, sunbathing,…). Due to the passive lifestyle, it is necessary to take into account the caloric intake to keep the body composition within acceptable values.

In this phase, a sports psychologist can do a reflexive exercise which aim is to be aware of the athlete’s improvement in every area monitored.

Players who are injured or have chronic health problems at this stage continue with rehabilitation activities depending on the stage at which their injury is.

Sometimes, some clubs organize post-season training that lasts 1-3 weeks. The point of such an approach is to avoid abrupt cessation of activities, and it is very often applied to young players and players who have not been significantly burdened by competition.


Phase 2: Activation

The second phase of the off-season period is marked by the gradual activation of players in semi-organized activities. The recovery process continues but in active mode. This primarily refers to alternative physical and non-contact sports activities (walking, swimming, cycling, hiking, tennis, volleyball…). This is a good opportunity to start with personalized corrective programs (9) that target chronic health problems or acute health problems from the end of the previous season. Also, if the player has a good motivation to improve, it is possible to start training basketball techniques aimed at correcting mistakes and improving certain elements.

In addition to continuing to maintain body composition and body weight within acceptable limits, this phase is also favorable for new changes in diet.

At this stage, players are encouraged to provide a personalized program to work on those skills needed to keep progressing, according to the athlete’s specific needs (15).

Players who are injured or have chronic health problems at this stage continue with rehabilitation activities depending on the stage at which their injury is.


Phase 3: Development

The third phase of the off-season is marked by the developmental character of the work. Based on precise diagnostics, the player in an organized form, based on programs made by club or personal experts, dedicates himself to his deficits, but also the improvement of his strengths. The goal of such programs is mainly aimed at improving strength and power and high-aerobic and anaerobic capacities (16). Such training is demanding, and the volume and intensity depend on the goals set as priorities. Preventive-corrective contents that are carried out in preparation for training or after each training also fit into such training.

The burdens of basketball training are gradually rising, and in addition to technical training, the contents of individual tactics are gradually being introduced. In this phase, it is possible to organize various competitions in standard or modified games (1: 1, 3: 3, 5: 5), but always in a serious environment with quality preparation.

For those players who have problems with excess body mass or percentage of subcutaneous fat and the need to increase muscle mass and tendon diameters, this is an ideal opportunity to conduct such programs under the supervision of experts. Of course, such programs must be accompanied by serious interventions in nutrition and supplementation.

Given that this phase is often accompanied by optimism and enthusiasm for the upcoming season, it is also an ideal opportunity for goal setting (basketball and career goal setting) and motivational check-out (review of personal needs, desires/dreams, habits, and commitments to start the season with high and stable motivation) with the help of sports psychologists. Players who are injured or have chronic health problems at this stage continue with rehabilitation activities depending on the stage at which their injury is.



The off-season period is both a great need and a great opportunity for players. This period should be used for both recovery and personal development in all fields. Thus, something is possible only with a well-designed personalized program of activities. Therefore, players are recommended to spend this period in consultation and under the supervision of club experts and/or personal trainers who should be in communication with each other.

Therefore, the players and the teams of professionals who take care of them have a good opportunity to design different activities that will fit into the basic goals of the off-season period:

  1. Complete recovery both physically, mentally, and socially.
  2. Fix previous injuries and pain.
  3. Maintain and improve health and physical condition.
  4. Maintain and improve optimal body mass and body composition.


Authors: Igor Jukic, Francesco Cuzzolin, Julio Calleja-Gonzalez, , Baris Kocaoglu, Mar Rovira, Jaime Sampaio, Sergej M. Ostojic


  1. Jukic, I., Milanovic, L., Svilar, L., Njaradi, N., Calleja, J., Castellano, J., Ostojic, S. Sport preparation system in team sports: synergy of evidence, practical experience and artistic expression. 16th International Conference “Physical Conditioning of Athletes 2018” Zagreb, 23rd & 24th February 2018. pp. 15-24.
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