Basketball Coaching » Basketball Practice Planning 101

Creating a basketball practice plan is both an art and a science. While there are some specific blocks that should be part of every practice, it’s up to you to structure the session to meet the needs of your individual team.

Below is an A-B-C formula for planning a successful basketball practice to get you started. It’s customizable for practices running 1.5 to 2 hours. Feel free to substitute in your own basketball drills, or adjust the time frames to suit your own program. I’ve also provided a basketball practice plan template for your use. Simply click on the image below, it will open up full size, and you can print it out as a reference.

basketball practice plan


I like to use 8 practice blocks, each one running around 5 to 15 minutes:

  1. Conditioning Drills
  2. Shooting Drills
  3. Defensive Drills
  4. Offense Drills
  5. Fast Break Drills
  6. Pressure Drills
  7. Special Situations
  8. Coaches Choice

Conditioning Drills

The first block, Conditioning Exercises should normally run 10 minutes. This is your opportunity to get your athletes warmed up and ready to perform at a high level. Use plyometric circuits to help build fast-twitch muscle response, "footfire" drills (which involve rapidly tapping both feet on the ground while in a defensive stance), or other activities to get the heart pumping and the limbs warm.

Shooting Drills

Princeton Shooting Drill

The second practice block, Shooting Drills, is often misused by coaches. Instead of taking shots from all over the floor, practice shooting from the locations that usually produce shots in your offense. For example, if you are running a basic 3 out 2 in motion offense, have your players in 3 lines around the perimeter with the ball in the middle. The ballhandler would pass to one of the lines on the wing, then set a screen for the first player in the opposite line. That player receives the screen, then cuts across the top of the key, receives the ball from the other line, and shoots. This mimics the type of action you would run in a typical motion offense, and the type of open shot your team would get.

Similarly, if you are running a "1-4" style offense, you may get lots of open shots in the short corner area (ie. around 8 feet from the basket along the baseline). Or, if you play against a lot of zone defenses, practice skipping the ball to an open 3-point shooter at the opposite side of the court.

You may also want to split your "bigs" (ie. your forwards and centers) and your "smalls" (ie. your guards) and have them work on the specific shots they might get inside your offense.

Defensive Drills

basketball practice plan
Shell Defense Drill

The phase of your basketball practice plan, Defensive Drills, typically runs for around 10 minutes as well. I like using 5 different drills, for 2 minutes each. Defensive drills are typically tiring, so this allows you to maintain the intensity level for each drill from start to finish.

It's important to work on both individual defense drills (which work on individual techniques like shuffling, sliding, taking charges, and blocking shots), and team defense drills (which work on playing a defensive scheme to support your teammates and keep your opponent away from high-percentage shooting areas).

Offensive Drills

The fourth practice block, Offensive Drills, also runs for around 10 minutes. This is your chance to work on your offensive sets vs zone and man. Start by breaking down the specific skills you'll be using within your offensive set - for example, screening, catching and finishing layups, shooting spot-up jumpers from the elbow etc.

Next, try running your basketball plays against a "dummy" defense. The defenders should just put up token pressure and allow the offense to run through the play without interfering. Next, you can "go live" with your defense, and have them play full speed 5 on 5 in the half court.

Fast Break Drills

4 Minute Layups - Fast Break Drill

The fifth practice block is 15 minutes long, and covers your fast break and transition game. Start with some simple 3-man weave drills. As your players master the passing and movement elements of the weave, you can increase the difficulty by going to a 5-man, 6-man, or even 7-man weave. After the weave, practice going 2 on 1, and 3 on 2 in the full court.

Work on your transition offense by putting all 5 players on the floor, inbounding the ball, and pushing it up the floor with the fewest number of dribbles possible. The most effective formation for running a fast break is typically the 4 man inbounding, the 1 receiving the ball, the 2 and 3 filling the lanes on the outside of the court, and the 5 man barreling straight down the middle. If you have an "early offense" strategy, practice the transition from your fast break into your best quick hitter play.

Pressure Drills

This 15 minute block is where you practice your own pressure defense AND also work on attacking a pressure defense. Try setting your defense up in a 2-2-1 formation, and have your offense try to break the pressure and score a layup at the other end.

The defense should be constantly trying to trap the ball in the corners of the floor, while the offense should reverse the ball patiently and try to hit a cutter in the middle of the floor at half-court.

Special Situations

Spend at least 5 minutes practicing Special Situations, including out of bounds plays, quick hitters, tip-off plays, free throw plays, and buzzer beater plays.

Coaches Choice

The previous 7 blocks add up to around 1 hour and 15 minutes. Depending on the amount of gym time you have, the final session of your basketball practice plan can be anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes long.

Use this time to work on whatever you feel your team needs at the time. Some coaches like do game preparation by simulating their opponents plays and practicing how to attack them.

Other coaches like to let the kids loose for a bit and play a full-court scrimmage. You can also work on your free throw shooting, have shooting contests, or do any fun activities you've been saving for the end of practice.

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