How to Run a Basketball Practice
Time to read 9 min
Written by: Chris Hungerford
Time to read 9 min
As our Hoopsking family expands both on our web page and on social media, we notice that there are so many young coaches who are new to the profession. One of the most common questions that are asked is the ones that are related to how to run a basketball practice at certain points in the development process, both at the start with the youth or later, as the team translates from one age category to another.
It is not easy to assemble a good basketball practice program, nor it is simple to implement it in a particular group because of its composition in terms of development. We all know that in every team we have kids that are more skilled and talented than the others, so not every drill will have the same impact on each and every one of them.
The goal of every practice, neglecting the age group, is to make a good impact on the basketball skills of a player, followed by the lecturing about basketball tactics and learning how to play the game the right way and what are those much talked about "good decisions" to make, and at the end, the scrimmage, some "free play" where your players will have a chance to put both their skills and knowledge to the test and learn from the experience.
If one possesses the ability to pass and to catch the ball, he can participate in a game of basketball. Basketball, in its primordial form, was a game where the players were supposed to pass the ball one to another until one of the players managed to be as close as possible to the basket. While you can practice the passing mechanics, and learn to scan the court and look for an open man, we lack the drills that can really improve players' ability to make good assists. The ability to see and predict the movement of players and to throw the ball in the crowd that is eventually going to put another player in a position to be alone under the rim is a mere thing of pure talent.
Dribbling the ball is the skill of freedom. If the player has good dribbling skills, he can go places, do things, make plays, crush the defenses, and open new opportunities: both for himself and the others. And the best thing of all, they can be learned. In the later parts of the article, we are going to present to you some of the best dribbling drills that you can use to teach your players to handle the ball flawlessly.
Shooting the ball was never more important. In today's basketball, if you can't shoot you have no place on the court. You can not be efficient if you can't put the ball through the rim. While everybody is talking about it like it is a thing of art and that some guys have the touch and some don't, I think it is a thing of pure training where two things are severely neglected:
No matter what, they need to shoot the ball when it's time to shoot the ball because they will learn to skip open looks. This is what happens when the coaches worry about the success more than about the development.
Do not be fooled, rebounding is not the thing of simply wanting to catch the ball! And do not be fooled, desire helps a lot, but that energy needs to have a vast amount of knowledge and skill. When everybody is talking about rebounding, I like to talk about boxing out. Why? If your players are big and tall, that will help and they are going to have many rebounds in games. But, if you put your body between those big and strong guys and the basket, and stand firm, they will not get the rebound and the ball is going to fall in your arms.
The best rebounding teams are best at boxing out and the guards are the ones to catch the ball. It is not the thing that you are going to see in stats columns, but who knows basketball will know where to look.
In my mind, the defense is more important than the offense, even though the points are the ones to decide the winner. To be a good defensive player you do not need to have much talent. All you need to do is to be in good physical shape, to be motivated, to follow some simple rules, to be brave, and to have a will not to allow the opponent to score. You can have an offensive slump now and then but there cant be times where you are not motivated to defend.
If you want to develop and run a basketball practice that is going to help your players become good basketball players, working on offense, tactics, alignments, looks, movement, ideas, is crucial to the cause. Many coaches come and give their players 5, or 6 schemes that they need to learn, without telling them what are the goals, what are the key points, which opportunities will come, and what to look for. For each and every player coaches need to explain play-by-play the meaning of the move. Why is he coming for the screen, why are you standing there and why do you need to take a step deeper and further, when does the movement start.
The whole tactics thing should start with the simple things like passing and cutting, opening a passing lane, opening a peace of the court for the drive, making better angles, using screens, and from there building up a type of offense that best suits the abilities of your players. You are not going to call a play that will put a no-shooter into position to shoot three-pointers, are you?
So, whatever you do, keep in mind what are the qualities of your players and what you can do to put them into position so those qualities can be maximized.
The part that is mostly neglected when we talk about youth basketball, is the defensive tactics. So often we can see that the majority of the players are not introduced to team defense. Coaches, it is easier to build some good habits when the players are young, than when they become teenagers and the mass media takes over in forming their view of the world.
Today, everybody wants to be Steph and nobody wants to be Draymond! Teach those kids where they need to stand, how to position themselves, when and how to help, what is the strong side and what is the weak side of the defense, what are the goals, how to analyze opponents... All those stuff matters, all these things are important and ultimately the team will be better.
For them to know just what is their stance is just not enough.
Now, after your team has done some work on their skills, and after you worked with them on some diamond offense and a bit of pick-and-roll defense, we can say that they received some of the basketball knowledge, it is time to put that knowledge to the test.
The scrimmage is the favorite part of the training and it is vital for any well-run basketball practice. That is the time that your players will use what they have learned, gain some experience and learn from it, and build up competitive spirit.
There are two ways that you can run u successful scrimmage, and both ways include that you as a coach should influence and steer it a bit. From time to time, you have to stop the game if you notice that some things are not done properly, and the situation was good to explain to your players what were you talking about.
Let's say that you have done some pick-and-roll defense in the Tactics part, and the player with the ball is a good shooter and moments ago you were telling your players that when they guard a good shooter in a pick-and-roll, that the big guy defending a screener needs to hard hedge or at least show up with the hand up, and that his direct defender has to go over the screen.
The second way that you can do the analysis is by filming the game and sitting afterward and having a discussion.
I prefer the first way because I like to forge the iron while it is hot. I believe that it will have a bigger impact if the lecture is done right after the mistake is done.
1. Basketball Skills (30 minutes): If you are running a Youth Basketball Team and you want for your players to develop into fine basketball players, half of the whole training process should be devoted to learning basketball skills. To run a basketball practice the right way, you have to be thorough with the basics. Try to combine warmups with the simple dribbling drills that will improve your player's handles and from there build up a session that is going to cover every part of basic basketball skills.
Start with some passing and dribbling drills, combine them with some obstacles, and let your players run the full court. Encourage them to finish at the rim differently every time, and make them shoot floaters, lefty layups, and corner threes. Make them play one on one, one on two, and two-on-one, explain them the decisions, and encourage them to think. Explain to them the defensive stance, make clear to them what they need to do and how to think on defense.
The real mastery lies in the capability to make every basketball drill both interesting and educative at the same time. It is proven over the years that kids better respond to programs that include fun drills with a sense of competitiveness relative to programs that are "old school", strict, and highly demanding.
2. Basketball Tactics (10 minutes): This is the tricky part. This is where you need to be very careful not to go overboard because kids are easily confused if you present them with 5 things right away and expect them to reproduce them immediately. And kids have, by nature, low self-esteem and are easily confused and disappointed.
Start with some easy stuff like passing and cutting, opening a passing lane, how to keep a good flor geometry and why, where to stand and how to correct the position both when on offense and defense, how to use screens, how to play pick and roll... but do the explaining one at the time and without pressure.
3. Scrimmage (20 minutes): Everybody loves to play basketball and this is what the main goal of everything is. When I say it is time to play, I do not mean out-of-control total basketball. This is the perfect time to actually coach your team and to try various tactics.
Stop the game every time you see a bad geometry, bad screens, slow help defense, or bad pass... as the players get to know themselves, the other players with all of their capabilities and flaws, what do you as a coach think and what are your demands off of them, the scrimmage is going to present so many opportunities for everybody to thrive as a group.
If you want to learn how coach Krzyzewski is running a Duke Basketball Program, go rent a DVD by clicking on the link below:
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