Season planning is one of the most important – yet widely ignored – aspects of coaching. In fact, I think it’s the #1 rule to having a successful season with your team.
In this article, I provide some suggestions and templates for you to create your own plan for each phase of the season. These are not written in stone. Stay flexible and feel free to adjust any of these ideas to fit the needs of your own team.
As you work with your team throughout the season, keep these 4 pointers in mind:
1. Always have a plan and honor your practice schedule. If you want maximum effort, stay true to your time frames. Players get lazy when they don’t know when a drill will end. Stick to your word. If you say “we’re doing this drill for 5 minutes” end it in exactly 5 minutes.
2. Make it a team rule that when players walk in the gym, they must say hello. Use this opportunity to read their eyes and determine if they are facing some kind of emotional turbulence you’re not aware of (family issues, exams, etc).
3. Incorporate a weight lifting program (for older players) or body weight strength training program into your in-season schedule. Have your players work out twice a week, preferably on days without practice or games.
4. When selecting your team or deciding on your starters, look for players with long arms. Reach and jumping ability count first (before height).
How To Create A Season Practice Plan For Your Basketball Team
I like to break the season up to into 4 phases:
- Tryouts/Player Evaluations
- Season Preparation and First Half of Season
- Second Half of Season
- Home Stretch and Playoffs
For each one of these phases we will adjust the length of practices. The goal here is to get your players into great physical condition during the early part of the season, maintain that fitness throughout the season, then peak during the playoffs for your championship run.
During the Tryouts/Player Evaluation phase, practice should run around 2 hours for high school aged teams and 1.5 hours junior high and elementary school aged teams. During tryouts, you’ll want to select 12-15 players for your team.
Pay close attention to position. Do you have enough players with guard skills, forward skills, and center skills? When looking at size, keep in mind that arm length and reach can be more important than height alone. Focus on evaluating fundamental skills, and the ability to understand your offensive and defensive systems.
As you get into the second phase of your season, you’ll want to focus on putting in your offensive and defensive systems. I’d suggest no more one or two offenses to run against man to man, and one or two offenses to run against a zone. Practice time should still be around 1.5 to 2 hours per day.
At this time of year, I also like to spend LOTS of time on rebounding and defense. Make it clear to your kids that offense will come and go, but rebounding and defense are about effort, and should be a constant for your team every game.
In the third phase of your season, you’ll probably be playing some of the same opponents for the second or third time. Take notes the first time you meet them. Who are their biggest offensive threats? What kind of systems do they run? Are they any match-ups you can exploit. Try simulating your opponent’s plays in practice and determine the best way to attack them.
Along with reinforcing the fundamentals, you’ll also want to emphasize press break, full court pressure, and special situations, like inbounds plays, jump balls, and free throws. Practice time should be around 1.5 hours most days, and maybe even slightly shorter the day before a game.
In the fourth phase, Home Stretch and Playoffs, your practice time will be shortened down to around 1 hour. It’s been a long season, and you want to avoid burning your players out. Spend lots of practice time shooting and focus on preparing for specific opponents.
Next step: check out our guide to developing an basketball practice plan.