You don’t have to change everything about how your team practices to see better results. It may be a small tweak here or there that makes a practice go from good to great. Sometimes it’s just doing things differently that injects life into a practice and gets player going harder, with more understanding. Pick and choose from the six tips below and start to see an improvement in your practices starting today.
1. Use Defensive Breakdown To Warm-Up
Most coaches have players go through a warm-up drill before going hard in practice. Most of these warm-ups are done with offensive concepts, but how much do these repetitions help your players improve? At some point a player has performed a skill so many times they hit a plateau just going through the motions. The way they improve upon their skills is to go faster and use skills in different situations. (This isn’t exactly what is done in warm-ups.)
How about warming up using a shell drill or zig-zag dribbling? Players can still warm-up their bodies and get repetitions that players don’t perform monotonously all the time. Having players perform defensive movements, at half or three-quarter speed, like closing a gap, guarding a ball screen, or defending the zig-zag dribble reinforces the movement and mindset you want in your defense while still getting your players ready to play. You wouldn’t completely be ignoring offensive skills as most defensive drills require offensive skills as well.
2. Perform Ball Handling Drills Between Sets
What do your players do during the down time in certain drills? Instead of having players stand and wait for their turn, have your players perform ball handling drills like passing the ball around their waste, ankles, and head, or figure eight dribbling. These drills are great for less skilled players and help keep all of your players heart rates up. When are up in a the drill they will have to perform in a more game like condition instead of at a resting heart rate, which almost never happens during a game.
3. Build Skills Instead Of Doing Push-Ups
When a player doesn’t perform a closeout correctly or the miss a boxout do you have that player knock out five quick push-ups or run a quick lap? These types of consequences are quick and point out what the player did wrong. They don’t help a player improve upon a skill though. Instead of having players do push-ups, have them perform the skill at another hoop with an assistant and then hop back in the drill. Have players on the sideline ready to hop in right away so the drill or scrimmage doesn’t have to stop. You’ll still be getting your point across that a player missed an assignment and you’ll be reinforcing the skill you want them to perform.
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4. Create Competitions
Teaching kids to compete is a great way to keep their attention and get them to work hard. Whether you have players compete against a clock, each other, or a predetermined goal you are asking player to go harder and not to just go through the motions. If players see they have to play defense for thirty seconds they raise the intensity level in the drill. The same is true if they get play to five points and the only way to score is be grabbing rebounds. (Looking for competition drills for practice click here.)
5. Build Concepts and Skills Through Games
As players get older and more skilled they don’t need more repetition, they need to perform a skill in different situations. The decision making and speed in which they perform a skill has to go beyond what they have done before. If you have your team perform a passing drill in lines the players will only get better if they have never performed a pass before. If players already know how to pass the ball they need to pass against a defender in various situations.
Games set up for 2v2, 3v3, and 4v4 are great ways to get players to perform skills in different situations. You will have to give some constraints in order to get a certain skill repeated, but this isn’t hard to do. If you are working on passing, have the offense make 5 passes before they can shoot. If setting screens is what you want players to improve have players perform a screen after every pass. These skills will be performed on different parts of the court, at different angles, and at various speeds. The skill is repeated and is much more game like than a structured drill.
6. Use Basketball Drills To Condition Instead of Running Drills
Running makes you better at one thing – running. What would happen if you added a ball to every conditioning drill you did? Instead of doing a line drill under 30 seconds have players dribble one or even two basketballs and complete the line drill in 40 seconds. Even better have players make 72 lay-ups in 2 minutes as a team. The players will get plenty of running and be better at dribbling and lay-ups at the end of the drill.