As a coach, I prefer to practice than to be involved in games. I love to bounce around and get drills from different coaches.
So the philosophy that I’m going to talk to you about today is something that I formulated over the years from as many people as I’ve been able to see at practices and hear speak at clinics.
I have some thoughts about practice itself that I think are very important.
Basketball Practice Essentials
The first thing is that you have to put it down on paper. You can’t wing it. You also have to plan your practices in advance. As I approach my high school season, I know that I’ll have 16 practices in my preseason and I’ll have six scrimmages before my first game.
So as I’m preparing, I know that I have to have certain things on certain days so that I know where I need to be. With that in mind, I’ll keep practice plans for three or four years so I can compare what I’m doing on a certain day, but also so I can compare the quality of the practice. I try to grade them as best I can.
It’s also very important to stay with a schedule. When you write your practice schedule down, don’t deviate from it. Don’t be stubborn about completing something and staying with it much longer than you originally planned–because now you’re losing other things at practice. If it didn’t work well, come back to it the next day at practice and use another fundamental drill. It’s not always the kids’ fault that the drill doesn’t go well at practice. So if you have a variety of particular drill, that’s going to help you.
It’s also very important to alternate the hard and easy segments at practice. If you do one thing and it’s going to be difficult, you want to do it for about five minutes. Longer than five minutes, and it’s going to lose its effect. At the same time, don’t follow it with another difficult thing. Don’t have a drill that’s defensive stance and follow it with five minutes of blockout. Try to separate those two and maybe put a shooting drill in between so the kids are doing something shooting after defensive stance.
You want to build your practice so that two-thirds of it is skill work and one-third is team play. I always feel that if you keep working on your skills, your team play is going to get better because of the skill level of your team.
Practice to improve your team first. Worry about the opponent second.
Do breakdown work daily. If you’re with another coach at practice, have one coach work with the big men while the other coach works with the guards. If you’re alone at practice, stay in the middle of the court, have the two groups working, and kind of go back and forth during the drill.
Allow your senior players to participate a little bit in leadership roles. If you have two assistant coaches at practice, let them each run a segment and walk back and forth instructing so that they’re getting a chance to work a practice and you’re able to oversee what’s going on.
Make sure you get in 20 minutes of shooting a day. All things being equal, if you don’t have at least 20 minutes of shooting, all of the other things you’re doing are going to get you the positions to score, but you won’t have rehearsed the actual shooting and scoring.
Shorten your practices as the season goes on, but keep the intensity up. Several years ago we played for the New Jersey State Championship. Our last practice of the season was 45 minutes long on a Saturday. My seniors basically ran the practice; I had a veteran group. We went from one thing to the other. We felt no need to keep things going. We knew by the way we left practice we were going to have a good day the next day. And we did–that next day, we won the state championship.
These are just some of the things you should keep in mind when planning your basketball practices. What other tips would you like to share with fellow coaches? Sound off in the comments below!