Practice planning is one thing I believe every coach should do before they walk in the gym.
This one thing can be the difference between a team having a winning season or a losing season and there are too many coaches walking in the gym and shooting from the hip once the balls are rolled out.
Let's briefly look at the roll of practice.
Practices are meant to:
- Build Knowledge
- Enhance Skills
- Create A Team
- Prepare For Opponents
- Get Coaches And Players On The Same Page
Now there are many ways coaches can do these five things, but without a plan in place it is hard to consistently hit each area in a manner that promotes growth over the course of the season.
I have heard coaches say that they don't like to plan practices because they want to focus on what they see in practice. If the team needs to work on a specific area they want to spend more time on that one area and not have to move to the next item on the practice plan.
My response to this is always in agreement. If a team needs to spend a few more minutes or get a few more reps in a specific area they should continue to work in this area and not move on just because a practice plan says move on.
Knowing when to move practice forward and when to allow more time is part of the art of coaching. A coach has to be able to adjust in practice just as they do in a game, if they can't adjust their team is in a lot of trouble.
Here are some simple guidelines to follow in your practices to make sure you're adjusting as you need to.
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Your Practices Should Be:
- Challenging - if players aren't challenged they aren't improving
- Competitive - teams who know how to compete in practice will compete in games
- Fun - this keeps your team together and from checking out mentally
- Organized - allows coaches to see what a team needs to work on and what new things are ready to be implemented
Your Practices Should Not Be:
- Boring - doing the same thing each day is boring and you'll lose your players focus
- Slow - basketball is a fast game full of decisions, if things are slow all the time you'll be losing your players and your games too often
- Unorganized - its hard to move your team forward if you don't have a plan for where you want your team to head
For all the same reasons you don't like to sit in meetings that are boring, slow and unorganized, players don't like to be in practices that are this way.
How exactly do you stop the mundane from happening and keep your practices lively and full of energy? I'll give you three quick ways to accomplish a practice your players will want to be a part of.
- Pace - Accomplish a quick pace with playing to a certain score, putting time on the clock, or counting reps. When players know what they are up against they tend to compete harder and stay focused for longer periods of time.
- Encouragement - Don't focus on the negative. If you've done a good job building your team and program your players know when they messed up. Point out the areas they need to correct, but build up the areas they are thriving at.
- Variety - Instead of staying on your favorite rebounding drill for 10 minutes put two minutes on the clock and have them quickly battle in a drill. Next play 3 v 3 and only rebounds count for points. Last, go 5 v5 in the half court and emphasize rebounding responsibilities. You've just taken your 10 minute drill and put it into a variety of drills and kept things interesting for your players.
I don't want to leave you hanging. You can grab a blank practice plan below. Create a practice plan for each practice and see just how much more you'll get done over the course of the 2 hour practice, the upcoming week, and throughout the whole season.